The Relevance of Culturally Based Curriculum and Instruction: The Case of Nancy Sharp

In this paper, the authors describe an ethnography of Ms. Sharp’s classroom. Ms. Sharp is the Yup’ik immersion teacher for grades K–3 in an Alaskan community almost entirely comprised of Yup’ik Eskimo. As part of her work with the authors, Ms. Sharp uses mathematics curriculum that was developed to combine community culture with school culture, allowing for greater creativity in the classroom. Through analysis of Ms. Sharp’s videotaped lessons, the authors highlight the cognitive modeling used by Ms. Sharp, in ways that are familiar and congruent to her Yup’ik students. The authors also make note of how Ms. Sharp changed the typical authority structure of the classroom to one where students were engaged in active participation. In some examples, the authors describe how Ms. Sharp drew connections between her students’ everyday experiences of pattern-making, a community activity, to academic learning. While the authors did not find the same level of cultural connections across all of Ms. Sharp’s instruction, they find this to be an illustrative catalyst for further work on defining culturally-based instruction and how it might apply to other instruction.

Content Comments 

This resource is of high quality in its detailed description of one teacher's approach to culturally relevant instructional practices. The authors communicate clearly in the standard structure of a research study. It has high utility in that it showcases a possible response to the need of increasing AI/AN academic achievement through culturally relevant pedagogy. This work has the potential to positively impact AI/AN students more broadly if the lessons learned in this study are generalized to reach more students.