Cultivating Critical Consciousness by Exploring and Reflecting on a Lesson or Unit

Prior to developing a lesson or unit, reflect using questions that support drafting culturally responsive & culturally relevant instruction
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About This Strategy

The purpose of this strategy is to coach educators through the process of examining and rewriting lessons or units that promote authentic student representation, increase student engagement, and incorporate multiple perspectives through the lens of racial, cultural, gender, physical, and learning differences. Teachers will use an action plan to guide the process in constructing lessons and units.    

Implementation Steps

  1. Establish a working definition of critical consciousness by listening to the following podcast and reading the following article: 

  2. Use a concept map to identify examples and non-examples of critical consciousness in instructional practice.

    • Critical Consciousness - An active state of seeking to identify the beliefs and language that obscure systemic inequities (Great Lakes Equity, 2013)

    • The ability to identify, critique, and challenge the social forces that produce inequity and oppression (Sanford Inspire, 2017)

  3. Examine an upcoming unit or lesson, and ask yourself the following questions:  

    • What percent of the current lesson/unit is teacher-directed? How can the current lesson/unit design shift toward a student-centered approach, i.e., student choice to communicate and demonstrate mastery of the concept or skill?

    • How can situational tasks be used to reflect information that is relevant to students and increase student learning?

    • How can a curriculum integrate the humanity of racial, cultural, gender and learning/physical differences in your content area, i.e. contributors to science? What "below the surface" information can we research to learn more about contributors to science, math, technology, fine arts, education?

    • How does the subject matter impact culture and how does culture impact the subject matter (e.g., climate, habitat, education, art, social justice, environmental justice)?

    • Whose voices and cultural perspectives are missing from the text (e.g., U.S. historical events)?

    • To what extent do I make the content and instruction relevant to all students' multiple identities, lived experiences, and cultural practices? 

    • In what ways do I encourage and cultivate all students' sense of agency to use the content as a tool to understand and shape their worlds (i.e., not just facts?)

    • How do I encourage students to use the content as a tool to disrupt issues of power and privilege in their communities? 

    • How does my lesson distribute content knowledge authority, value student contributions, and address status differences among students? 

    • How are your current curriculum and your instructional practice accelerating the learning for all students?

    • How are you assessing and refining your practice to cultivate the unique gifts and talents of every student?

  4. Use an action planning guide (such as the one included in the resource section below) to develop a plan for an upcoming lesson/unit.

  5. Discuss the action plan with other colleagues to include multiple perspectives.

  6. Revise the action plan as needed.

  7. Implement the action plan and invite a colleague to observe you teaching the lesson or unit for additional support. 

  8. Acquire student and teacher feedback on the lesson or unit and reflect on those with the questions in step 3 in mind.

  9. Reflect on the planning process and implementation of the strategy with the questions in step 3 in mind.

  10. Discuss reflection with other colleagues for support and to establish goals and next steps for future lesson and unit planning.

Cultivating Critical Consciousness in Distance Learning

In a traditional school setting, it is essential that all students feel seen, heard, treated fairly, and protected in order to thrive. In a distance learning setting, this is all the more important. Creating an inclusive curriculum is a crucial component of a supportive online learning environment. 

  1. The following tech tools can support making a lesson or unit more student-centered:
    • Khan Academy

      •  This supports differentiated content by providing videos that students can watch and re-watch independently

    • Quizizz

      • This is a quiz game that students complete at the speed that works best for them. You can write the quiz, or use one that has been written already.

    • Flipgrid

      • This site allows teachers to create prompts. Students respond by video. It is a great reflection tool.

    • Padlet

      • This tool allows students to share their thinking without having to raise their hand.  It allows students to process at their own speed.

    • Seesaw

      • This app is very versatile and simple to use.  Students can create videos, drawings, images, writing entries all in one app. It takes app complexity away and allows students to just show what they know at the level that works for them. It allows them to re-record or edit, so time is not an issue.

    • Educreations

      • Educreations provides a unique way for students to show what they know about a topic. They can draw on the whiteboard and record their voices to share their knowledge. This is especially great for multi-step processes.

  2. The following resources can support making a lesson or unit more inclusive and relevant:
    • Teaching Tolerance: Social Justice Standards

      • The Social Justice Standards support educators to explore how stereotypes affect us, how systemic discrimination influences our world, and how privilege influences justice. Applying and reflecting on learnings will deepen educators' anti-bias teaching practice.

    • NewsELA

      • This site has a lot of current events articles that have adjustable reading levels. It allows all students to get the content, just at their own reading levels.

    • Inclusive History Lessons and Resources