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An inquirED Blog

Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Social Studies

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

inquirED: States Go All in For Inquiry

Culturally and linguistically responsive instruction develops students' personal agency and grounds learning in the rich context of their language and lived experiences. We were joined on our webinar by Ashley McCall (8th-grade Bilingual Educator, Chicago Public Schools) and LaKethia White (Implementation Coach, inquirED) to dig into this important practice. Read below for the highlights.


Key Components

culturally responsive instruction in social studies

To begin the webinar, LaKethia White, an Implementation Coach at inquirED, shared the key components that inquirED has identified as integral to culturally responsive instruction. For more background on Culturally Responsive Social Studies explore our previous post on the subject.

Learning through authentic content

This kind of content builds on children's existing funds of knowledge, challenges dominant narratives, and elevates counter-narratives from diverse sources and unheard voices.

Focusing on instructional strategies and cognitive routines

Zaretta Hammond talks about “gamifying” instruction, making learning social, adding storytelling, and practicing thinking routines that teachers scaffold for students.

Building relationships

Relationships connect instruction to families, students, and the community to foster a sense of belonging and connectedness.

Engaging in personal reflection

When teachers consciously and constantly reflect on where their practice stands and where they want to grow, meaningful shifts in instruction occur.

Asset-Based Perspectives

According to Ashely McCall, an 8th-grade bilingual educator at Chicago Public Schools, those same components apply to instruction that is linguistically responsive. McCall shared that shifting to this type of instruction requires “viewing students, their language, access, and opportunity from an asset-based place.” When students enter McCall’s classroom, she starts with an asset-based framework. “It’s about asking what are the abilities that these students have,” she shared, “as opposed to seeing English-specific gaps as a deficit.”

As our conversation shifted to asset-based vs deficit-based practices, McCall and White reflected on the fundamental differences between the practices - and shared stories of their own experiences. Read through some of the quotes below from our conversation.

“So when we ask a question like, What's wrong with this child? How can I fix her? Instead of: How can I change my learning environment to empower this child? That's when we're engaging in deficit ideologies” - LaKethia White

“In Cornelius Minor’s words: to be asset-based is just to be radically pro-kid – to walk into every classroom, every arena, and think about how to disrupt anything that's abridging opportunity, harming kids, and placing the blame on the child.” -LaKethia White

“What that might mean for us – to be pro-kid – is that we might need to go against some of our own thoughts, automatic reactions, and ways of thinking.” -Ashley McCall

"I have a new student from Veracruz…Now, if I were to immediately assess this student on exactly what everyone else has been doing, then he’s going to fail. He hasn't had the same access to the content and he’s been working on different skills with different texts. But when I am able to sit down with that student one-on-one…It is amazing how much he reveals about his ability and interest and engagement in seven minutes. That just would not be possible to see if I was at the front of the room.” -Ashley McCall


Watch the Webinar Below

About inquirED

inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.

Panelist Bios

Ashley McCall serves as an 8th-grade bilingual English/Language Arts teacher at César Chávez Multicultural Arts Center on the southwest side of Chicago. She serves as a teacher representative on the Chávez Local School Council and mentors resident teachers as a Clinical Instructor for The University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program. As a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow from fall 2016 to summer 2017, Ashley worked with Illinois teachers to elevate teacher voice in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), advocate for an equitable state funding formula (SB1947), and evaluate year one implementation of Senate Bill 1 (which eliminated zero tolerance policies in Illinois schools). Ashley was a lead author of the policy brief “From Zero to SB100: Teachers’ Views on Implementation of School Discipline Reform." She now sits on the Teach Plus board. (social: @ashlm_12)

LaKethia White is an Implementation Coach at inquirED. She began her journey as an educator as a Teach for America corps member in Brooklyn, NY. Later, she was a founding teacher of three schools before becoming a Teacher Leadership Coach for the New York City Department of Education, where she led teacher teams through rounds of inquiry and action research. To grow her skills as a leader, she earned an M.Ed in Educational Leadership. LaKethia's enthusiasm for inquiry as a vehicle for learning grew as a finalist in the New Venture Fund and XQ new school competitions. She joined inquirED team in 2021 to marry her passions for coaching and inquiry.


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