Dr. Lotte Henrichs

Assistant Professor

Moving beyond effective instruction? Exploring how cultural responsivity extends effective instruction in heterogeneous primary school classrooms.

Across the globe, schools are becoming more diverse than ever before.  Recently, a record 65.3 million people have been forced from their homes—21.3 million of these are refugees and nearly half are under the age of 18 (UNHCR, 2015).  In the Netherlands, many elementary school classrooms – especially in urban areas – have a highly diverse student population as a result of recent migration and of migration streams of the 1970’s (CBS [Statistics Netherlands], 2015). And in the United States, there are 43.2 million immigrants—a fourfold increase since the 1960’s (López & Radford, 2017), and minority students are now the majority in K-12 enrollment (NCES, 2017).
Emerging research (e.g., Gutiérrez, 2002; Loeb, Soland, & Fox, 2014) and theory (e.g., Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2006) suggest that diverse youth may benefit from teachers who possess a specialized set of skills, experiences, and practices. However, teacher education programs have struggled to transform this knowledge into meaningful practice (Warren, 2017) resulting in a teacher workforce that is not prepared well to teach a diverse student body (Siwatu, 2007).  This is exacerbated by the scarcity of research examining the effect of culturally responsive instruction on student outcomes, and the value of culturally responsive instruction, above and beyond, evidence-based teaching practices. Thus, the goal of this study is to assess if culturally responsive instruction is just good teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1995) in classrooms that serve students from multiple cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 

The paper was published in 2022 in Teaching and Teacher Education

The Utrecht Educational Research Lab - practice oriented research in partership 
In Utrecht (The Netherlands), 15 schools for primary education and 5 institutes for higher education (2 universities, 1 teacher training institution, 2 universities of applied sciences)work together in the Utrecht Educational Research Lab (ERL) to create a sustainable ‘knowledge infrastructure’. An effective knowledge infrastructure works two-ways: it supports primary school teachers and school leaders in developing a scholarly or ‘research-minded’ attitude, in order to tackle issues that teachers experience in their daily work. On the other hand, educational researchers are able to incorporate concerns of teachers into the research questions they address in their own work. In the ERL, researchers from the participating institutes support teachers to conduct their own research, within the setting of their own educational practice and extend their networks into practice while doing so.

The Utrecht ERL takes a bottom-up approach. The schools articulate questions that should be addressed in order to strengthen their educational practice. Next, the researchers support the schools into turning these questions into research questions. They subsequently help to design a feasible study, and supervise the research that will be conducted. As a result of the bottom-up approach, a variety of topics is studied within the ERL. A couple of examples are studies concerning the support of 21st century skills; increasing parental involvement; supporting socio-emotional development; attitudes towards inclusive education; self-regulatory learning; and inquiry-based learning. The overarching goal of all studies, however, is attaining the above-mentioned scholarly attitude of teachers and school leaders in primary education.

This scholarly attitude that the ERL aims for, is expected to be a promising tool for holding on to ambitious teachers within the teaching profession. Being able to extend their daily work of teaching a classroom with conducting research that is directly relevant to their own and to their colleagues’ practice, is expected to add to a more positive view of the teaching profession.

In 2020, the above-described ERL was extended with a second ERL. This ERL will be focusing on fostering equitable educational opportunities for children from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.