The Relevance of Culturally Based Curriculum and Instruction: The Case of Nancy Sharp
In this paper, the authors describe an ethnography of Ms. Sharp’s classroom. Ms. Sharp is the Yupik immersion teacher for grades K-3 in an Alaskan community almost entirely comprised of Yupik Eskimo. As part of her work with the authors, Ms. Sharp uses mathematics curriculum that was developed to combine community culture with school culture, allowing for greater creativity in the classroom. Through analysis of Ms. Sharp’s videotaped lessons, the authors highlight the cognitive modeling used by Ms. Sharp, in ways that are familiar and congruent to her Yupik students. The authors also make note of how Ms. Sharp changed the typical authority structure of the classroom to one where students were engaged in active participation. In some examples, the authors describe how Ms. Sharp drew connections between her students’ everyday experiences of pattern-making, a community activity, to academic learning. While the authors did not find the same level of cultural connections across all of Ms. Sharp’s instruction, they find this to be an illustrative catalyst for further work on defining culturally-based instruction and how it might apply to other instruction.