In her writing, Zaretta Hammond challenges her audiences’ thinking by showing how culture influences peoples’ thoughts and actions. She asserts that “we have the power to penalize those students who seem to be acting in ways that are inconsistent with our cultural view” (Hammond, 2014, p. 56). Nevertheless, these behaviors may not be inappropriate in some cultures. In the teaching experience, learners are often mistakenly treated alike despite the obvious cultural differences among them. Some students get into elementary school not knowing how to relate with the teachers. This is due to the fact that their social interactions with adults at home are ineffective or damaging. For instance, some children are raised believing that they should not talk but be seen. In addition, making eye contact with other people may also seem peculiar, and they rarely participate in class discussions because they tend to be quiet. These behaviors are often perceived as students’ reluctance to learn.
The author reminds educators that what they sometimes view as inappropriate behavior is the contrast between the culture at school and at home. In this case, the discussion about how the brain works (in part one) helps readers understand the significance of improving these students’ neuroplasticity by training their minds on new habits. The knowledge also provides educators with information about biases or stereotypes, which are inherently part of their culture (Abacioglu et al., 2020). Thus, they can examine their complex, rooted beliefs that influence how they interact with their audience. This information helps them to be sensitive to what may contribute to students’ public embarrassment and possibly trigger their brains’ fright, freeze, flight, or fight response.
The discussion on cultural archetypes provides insights about “triggers” that result in specific students’ behaviors that further reinforce their dependence on teachers. Parts two and three of the text highlight the practical tools that teachers can use to avoid these “triggers” and create culturally responsive classrooms. Therefore, educators cannot downplay learners’ desire to feel safe and welcomed in the learning environment. Thus, examining how culture influences the brain can help understand who learners are or emotional and socioeconomic inequities that impact their achievement gap (Chuang et al., 2020). Techniques such as chunking information into understandable bits and cuing the brain to pay attention can help build dependent students’ intellectual capacities.
The book falls within the field of education and is a non-fiction academic text. The intended audience includes classroom teachers, instructional coaches, and leaders. Hammond argues that educational inequities greatly limit the cognitive capacities of culturally and linguistically diverse students, making them dependent learners. The solution needed to assist such students in stepping out of the achievement gap is implementing culturally responsive teaching/CRT. CRT is fundamental in helping students connect their culture and new concepts to enhance effective information processing. This pedagogy stimulates the brain’s neuroplasticity and assists students in developing intellectual capacity. Part one of the book discusses creating awareness as the first step towards establishing an operational CRT. It highlights the need for teachers to be culturally competent and identify the political, social, and economic conditions that result in an inequitable education system (Hammond, 2014). Cultural relevance promotes cognitive processing, which is essential for learning to unleash the intellectual potential of students of color.
Part two emphasizes the significance of learning partnerships between teachers and their students. Teachers are advised to build trust and rapport with all students to keep them active and engaged. These alliances create social-emotional bonds, which assist students in cultivating a positive mentality. It also allows the instructors to challenge students to reach their highest potential. The author recommends that a mixture of personal warmth and active demandingness from teachers may help students move out of their comfort zones, enabling them to shift from dependent to independent learners (Hammond, 2014). A good student-teacher relationship offers a peaceful education environment which stimulates better understanding.
Part three provides techniques vital in building a high psychological capacity. Hammond describes how the neuroscience of information processing aids teachers in identifying the culturally responsive tactics that inspire deeper learning. Culturally oriented methods, such as storytelling, music, and provocation, may enlighten students and help them comprehend new content compared to the standard teaching styles. For students to develop a high thinking capacity, teachers should devise ways to attract their attention, present information into manageable bits, and give them time to process the content (Hammond, 2014). Additionally, teachers have a mandate to create a culturally diverse learning environment that is safe for all students. The book is divided into three parts; part one covers chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. Part two includes chapters 5, 6, and 7, while part three covers chapters 8 and 9.
Hammond’s book stands out as a unique masterpiece grounded in in-depth research. The main strength is that it achieves the purpose for which it is aimed. According to the book’s title, the author intends to discuss CRT and its connection to the brain to encourage engagement and objectivity among linguistically and culturally diverse learners. This has been effectively achieved through the author’s detailed discussion on CRT, its link to neuroscience, and how teachers can implement this pedagogy to enhance deeper learning for students of color. The author combines exclusive research from cognitive science and CRT with great prowess to support her main points. Another strength is that the book’s contribution is of utmost significance to the field of education. It provides insights to teachers and instructor leaders on implementing culturally responsive pedagogy to promote equal learning opportunities for all students. The book’s weakness is that the author emphasizes CRT and its efficacy in learning while failing to acknowledge other factors that may hinder this process. For example, cognitive impairment, school absence, and parental disharmony may also hinder students from improving their intellectual aptitude.
The author’s arguments are clearly outlined and are grounded in extensive studies, which makes them credible. The viewpoints are also supported by self-reflections and examples showing the author’s efficacy in presenting the primary ideas. Regarding the sources, Hammond extensively uses old research, some from 1991. This implies that some information may have been altered, outdated, or disputed over the years. Therefore, the author should have used more recent references to support her claims.
The book is well organized into three sections, each with its heading to guide the readers. It is also divided into nine chapters to break the content into manageable bits and allow for better understanding. Each chapter is subdivided into smaller paragraphs with headings to direct the readers on the content. Hammond also provides a brief summary and a set of questions at the end of every chapter to allow the audience to reflect on what they have read. The writing style is clear and concise because she uses simple language to communicate her arguments. It is also engaging to the readers due to the use of examples and models to elaborate on the main points.
Based on the Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain, it is recommended that educators embrace CRT instead of contemporary teaching methods. Educators should also be culturally competent and overcome their biases to equally provide for the learning requirements of all their students, despite their cultural backgrounds. It is also imperative for the instructors to create positive relationships with the learners to promote better understanding and positive learning outcomes.
Abacioglu, C. S., Volman, M., & Fischer, A. H. (2020). Teachers’ multicultural attitudes and perspective taking abilities as factors in culturally responsive teaching. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 736–752.
Chuang, H., Shih, C., & Cheng, M. (2020). Teachers’ perceptions of culturally responsive teaching in technology‐supported learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(6), 2442-2460.
Hammond, Z. L. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Corwin.