By Dr. Marquita Hockaday

For several individuals, the month of December is sometimes considered “the most wonderful time of the year.” Families and friends come together to celebrate and rejoice, spending time together when they are apart working and learning during the rest of the year. With that being said, schools and workplaces sometimes tend to struggle with understanding how they can recognize, embrace, and acknowledge the various holidays that are celebrated during this time of year. Thus, it is important to first note this holiday season is not about one specific celebration, but instead we should come to understand all of the holidays observed in December, including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, and Boxing Day (to name a few).

One way to accomplish the above task is to use James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform. These four approaches can be integrated into schools and workplaces to assist with an individual not only recognizing and celebrating various holidays, but also gaining knowledge and understanding of different cultures. Further, these approaches allow others to bring their own knowledge and expertise to the forefront.

This post will provide a brief description of each approach and an example of how schools or workplaces could use the approach to respectfully and responsibly acknowledge different celebrations this holiday season.

Integrating James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform This Holiday Season

Approach # 1: Contributions Approach

This is the easiest of the approaches and has the least amount of involvement and research. For this approach, individuals read books, watch movies, and participate in activities to gain a better understanding of different holidays. For instance, a teacher can read Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story to their students and then have them complete an activity related to the theme of the book. Additionally, a workplace might encourage their team members to read and/or watch several books and films related to Hanukkah to help them better understand the rituals and then provide a teambuilding activity after the fact. A list of some suggested Hanukkah films can be found here.

Approach # 2: Additive Approach

This approach requires more involvement, including adding content, themes, and perspectives directly into curriculum or material without changing the structure. For example, this would mean thinking about the emphasis placed on Christmas (the use of Christmas carols and Christmas paraphernalia in holiday commercials) from individuals who celebrate other holidays. In schools and workplaces, individuals can have students and team members read articles about other cultures around the world and how they celebrate other holidays (such as Boxing Day) and what these celebrations look like. They can compare and contrast these observations to what our holiday season looks like here in America.

Approach # 3: Transformation Approach

The transformation approach actually changes the structure of the materials being presented to students or individuals in the workplace. They are challenged to view problems, issues, concepts, and themes from different perspectives and several cultural points of view. Thus, for example, students and team members would be tasked to think about Hanukkah as, of course, a celebration, but also to understand that the celebration is a commemoration of how the Jewish people were able to reclaim Jerusalem and the Maccabees were victorious against the Syrian Army. The goal with this approach is to have individuals see the larger picture and question issues and problems. By doing so, they will gain an understanding of various cultures and why they engage in celebrations. Hopefully, this will lead to a larger appreciation of the holiday.

Approach # 4: Social Action Approach

The final approach, social action, asks individuals to take what they have learned from the transformation approach and engage in some kind of action that leads to social change. They are encouraged to understand and question social issues and then do something about the understanding they have gained. For instance, if students and individuals in the workplace were to think about the origin of Hanukkah and consider the social action approach, they might be tasked by their instructors and leaders to think of other groups who are often oppressed and come up with an action plan to help provide this group with equitable and just treatment.

The aforementioned are not the only ways to create an inclusive and culturally responsive school and workplace environment this (and in future) holiday season(s). However, integrating Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform might be an appropriate, responsible, and respectful place to start.

Happy holidays from Shaffer Evaluation Group!

This past week in Denver, our Research Associate, Stacy Hayden was honored at the 68th Annual National Association for Gifted Children Convention. Stacy was awarded the Carolyn Callahan Doctoral Student Award. Doctoral students are nominated by faculty members at their university. The award is presented to doctoral students who have demonstrated exemplary work in research, publications, and educational service and have a potential for future scholarship.

In one of the recommendation letters, Stacy’s professor commented:

"As I have worked so closely with Stacy, I am in an excellent position to comment on her numerous academic, as well as her many personal strengths. She is an extremely dependable person with strong character and integrity. I believe her to be a superlative doctoral student, one in whom I have great confidence for strong future productivity in our field. Stacy seeks to be a force for positive change, has outstanding interpersonal skills, and works extremely well with others. I would be remiss if I did not comment on her many and varied fine personal qualities. She is an incredibly diligent worker who is motivated to excel. She is an independent thinker who is both personable and highly respected. She has exceptional abilities to complete independent work and is committed to a future in gifted education. She will be a superb recipient of the NAGC Doctoral Student Award."

Stacy is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development. Her dissertation is on perceptions of academic risk-taking among college honors students.

Stacy and other National Association for Gifted Children awardees who are alumni of or currently at the University of Connecticut. From left to right: Stacy Hayden, Shaffer Evaluation Group; Carla Brigandi, West Virginia University; Del Siegle, University of Connecticut; E. Jean Gubbins, University of Connecticut; MaryGrace Stewart, Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education.

By Dr. Marquita Hockaday

The months of August and September are both exciting and daunting as these days mark the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year for students across the United States. With the Delta variant of Coronavirus rearing its ugly head, the back-to-school season is a bit different this year. Families and educators alike must consider what they can do to ensure a safe and productive return to learning. As an online educator for over five years, both in the university system and in the K-12 setting, I have come away with some helpful tips for families and educators as we dive into this new wave of learning due to COVID-19 and the precautions that must be taken.

The Classroom Amidst COVID-19 Restrictions

Despite several Americans receiving one of the many vaccinations offered to combat COVID-19, many states have seen a surge in Coronavirus related hospitalizations and deaths. Thus, it is important that students, educators, and families continue to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant of the virus. So, how can we make sure that students are safe in schools while continuing “business as usual?”

  • Tip # 1: PPE and Social Distance Protocols

  • Create a safe “bubble” for students, faculty, and staff. The more personal protective equipment (PPE), the better! It is important to provide students and educators with a clean and safe environment that is conducive to learning. This includes masks, social distance protocols, daily cleaning routines, and in some cases partitions.

  • Additionally, ensuring students have their own materials so they are not constantly sharing and spreading germs, may assist in slowing down and stopping the rapid growth of COVID-19.

  • Tip # 2: Make the Most of Your Time

  • Provide engaging and active learning in the classroom. Create lessons that students would not be able to do if they were attending virtual school. This includes hands-on projects, such as dissections, building sculptures and landscapes, cooperative in-person groups, etc.

  • Develop lessons and class resources that encourage active participation from students and involve families and communities (not necessarily in person). Tie lessons and content to students’ backgrounds and ensure materials are inclusive and diverse.

Successful Online Learning

The other option that many families and students are navigating this school year is virtual learning only. If this is the approach you intend to take, there are several tips that can be put in place to ensure you have a successful return to learning. I won’t spend a ton of time delving into how online learning varies from in-person learning and how virtual learning can be done to fidelity (this calls for a blog in itself) instead, I will share two quick tips to ensure coming back to the classroom via a virtual space is fruitful.

  • Tip #1: Technology

  • Make sure you have the technological materials needed to be effective in the online space. Most schools are providing 1:1 technology; however, if that is not possible, several companies provide discounts for educators and students for technology. Whether you prefer an iPad or a laptop (or maybe even a desktop), you want to ensure you are using the technology that will work best for you.

  • Further, you might want to have headphones to allow for peace and quiet when you attend your live sessions.

  • Tip #2: Planning and Organization

  • Another important aspect is to plan so that you are ready to go each week for your classes.

  • Use a daily or weekly calendar for assignment, quiz/test, and project due dates.

  • Keep track of administrative tasks, meetings, and live sessions in your calendar as well.

  • Finally, you want to make sure you are participating in “self-care.” Whether that includes exercise, gaming, binging Netflix every now and then, or just taking a moment to read a book every night, it is critical that you plan some time for yourself as you delve into organizing your virtual school year. It might get tough so take some time out for you!

I hope these tips help as you dive into another school year unlike any other. As we continue to combat COVID-19, we must stay vigilant in educating our students while also being safe and healthy. I am wishing you all a safe and conducive school year!