Bringing Culture to the Early Childhood Classroom

CITC Partners with UAA to Publish Guide to Reflective, Culturally-Responsive Practice for Early Childhood Educators

Through a partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage, CITC has published Guidelines for Culturally-Responsive Reflective Practice in Birth – Five Settings.

Aimed at improving culturally-responsive practices in early education settings in Alaska, the guide is a product from the Improving Childcare Outcomes Research (ICOR) project, a collaboration between CITC’s Employment and Training Department and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). The goal of the new guide is to help early childhood educators use and be guided by culturally-responsive practices as they interact with children and their families in early learning environments.

Rather than providing a culturally-responsive curriculum, or acting as an assessment tool, Guidelines for Culturally-Responsive Reflective Practice asks early childhood educators to reflect on how they embed cultural values and knowledge in their curriculum planning. The guide helps teachers and other educators consider how culture and tradition influence their teaching and to more consciously allow themselves to be guided by culturally-responsive practices in the classroom and when working with families.

Staff at CITC’s Clare Swan Early Learning Center (CSELC) will actively use the guide to improve culturally responsive practices as they work with children and their families.

When the center first opened, it became clear there was a lack of local caregivers who had experience working from a culturally responsive point of view, said Connie Wirz, CSELC senior director.

“We quickly realized we had to grow our own well trained teachers,” she said. With input from the Guidelines, though, “We’ve been able to meld traditional knowledge and best practices. We are giving our youngest children greater access to high quality care and learning experiences with teachers who understand their families and culture.”

In addition to providing self-reflection guidance, Guidelines for Culturally-Responsive Reflective Practice is built upon and complements other foundational practices and resources for working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

The ICOR project was developed in response to the need for research and policies that could improve the quality of child care and the early childhood workforce in Anchorage. The project aims to improve culturally responsive practices by supporting professional development that is informed by the needs of early childhood caregivers and teachers and desired outcomes for their students.

The new guide was funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and represents the first major product created from the ICOR effort. Ongoing research is expected to inform future professional development and training around culturally responsive practice. The guide and other resources will be shared outside of Anchorage and across the nation, in the hopes of improving culturally responsive early learning environments in Alaska and beyond.

Early childhood educators and others can download the document here.