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Cultural Vibrancy: Exploring the Preferences of African American Children Toward Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant Lessons


Despite the laudable intent of various educational initiatives in raising the achievement level of all children, limited progress has been made. In an effort to diminish the achievement gap of students of color, some researchers have examined the cultural relevancy of the curriculum in promoting student achievement. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to explore the preferences of African American children toward culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons, through a six-week series of lessons in an American History classroom. Critical Race Theory and Racial Identity Development provided the theoretical underpinnings of this study. This study takes place in an ethnically diverse high school in Colorado. Culturally relevant lessons were rich in oral traditions, music, historical connections, and a structured culturally relevant field trip. Non-culturally relevant lessons were administered devoid of cultural referents, and utilized the existing curriculum guide. Study results revealed statistically significant findings for African American children’s preferences for culturally relevant lessons. These lessons were found relevant to their culture when administered by a culturally responsive and caring teacher. Recommendations are made for educators and administrators in promoting achievement through culturally relevant lessons and curriculum.

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Correspondence to Dorothy F. Garrison-Wade.


Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3: Focus group guide

Protocol and questions

Moderator introduction, thank you, and purpose (2 minutes) Hello. My name is Darlene Sampson. I will be moderating our discussion today. I would like to begin by thanking each of you for taking time to help me with our study. Your voice really does matter. We will be here for about an hour or no longer than an hour and a half. The reason we are here is to get your opinions on culturally and non-culturally relevant lessons.
(Provide definitions)
I am not here to convince you of anything or try to sway your opinions. My job is just to ask you questions and then encourage and moderate your discussion.
Consent (3 minutes) Before we begin with introductions of participants and guidelines, I want to go over a few things on how this session will be conducted and what we need from you.
First of all, we will be tape recording our discussion to make sure we document all of the valuable information you will be sharing. However, no names are attached to any report.
Also, if at any time you are uncomfortable to continue to participate, you are free to leave.
Finally, to participate in this focus group, we need to make sure we have a signed consent form from each of you.
Guidelines (3 minutes) To allow this sharing process to flow more freely, I would like to go over some guidelines.
1. Please only talk one at a time and avoid side conversations.
2. Everyone does not have to answer every question. On the other hand, I would like to hear from each of you today as the discussion progresses. I will call on you to break the silence. You are not forced to answer, but your feedback is valuable.
3. This will be an open discussion. Feel free to comment on each other’s remarks.
4. There are no “right or wrong answers,” just different opinions.
5. Say what is true for you, even if you are the only one who feels that way. Do not let others students change your opinion if that is the way you feel. However, if you do find yourself having a changing viewpoint, please let me know.
Any questions regarding the guidelines?
Questions Why?
1. Tell me how you rated the lessons?
2. What was your most favorite lesson? Why?
3. What was your least favorite lesson? Why?
4. How did the lessons relate to you as an African American student? In what specific ways?


  1. 1.

    Last minute questions/clarifications

  2. 2.

    Summarize the major areas

  3. 3.

    Next steps explained (data will be transcribed and analyzed for meaning to help inform other educators)

  4. 4.

    Thank you

  5. 5.


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Sampson, D., Garrison-Wade, D.F. Cultural Vibrancy: Exploring the Preferences of African American Children Toward Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant Lessons. Urban Rev 43, 279–309 (2011).

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  • Cultural vibrancy
  • Culturally relevant
  • African American high school students
  • Critical race theory
  • Racial identity development
  • Curriculum