Perspectives for a Diverse America, Teaching Tolerance’s K-12 anti-bias, literacy-based curriculum, is the culmination of three years of hard work—including the curation of nearly 300 readings covering a variety of social justice topics. Needless to say, we’re proud to have it in the hands of educators around the country, but we’re not stopping there. In addition to continually adding new texts, we strive to improve the usability of the curriculum so educators and students can get the most out of it. We started with a pilot study to determine its impact in classrooms.
During the 2013-2014 school year, 74 teachers across five sites (Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico and Wisconsin) participated the Perspectives pilot study. The group represented a tremendous range of educators: They taught grades K through 12 in urban, rural and suburban settings, and worked in dual-language, special education and gifted classrooms. The task? Use two Perspectives texts in the classroom and complete an integrated learning plan (more on that next week!).
Here’s just a snippet of what we learned.
Did the scope and nature of the Perspectives curriculum meet teachers’ needs?
In a word, yes. Perspectives’ strategies and tasks were grade-appropriate, challenging and useful. Teachers found a sufficient array of strategies and favorably cited the accompanying rubrics and guides. The curriculum met teachers’ needs for challenging texts, vocabulary instruction, oral language development and challenging writing assignments. Here are some key findings:
- Almost all teachers (99 percent) agreed that the texts they chose allowed them to introduce important topics into conversations with their students.
- Almost all teachers (97 percent) agreed that Perspectives strategies engaged their students.
- Almost all teachers (95 percent) agreed that Perspectives strategies helped students build reading comprehension skills.
Did Perspectives improve teacher capacity in implementing the Common Core State Standards and the goals of anti-bias education?
The study shows that Perspectives has the potential to significantly improve teacher capacity in implementing the Common Core. Almost all of the teachers (97 percent) said the strategies helped their students make progress toward mastery of the CCSS, and 90 percent said the strategies helped the teachers themselves to understand and apply the CCSS.
Perspectives is a promising vehicle for encouraging the wider adoption of high-quality anti-bias education. Pilot teachers reported that the curriculum allowed them to have new and meaningful discussions about identity, diversity, justice and action in their classrooms. Plus, the curriculum made teachers feel comfortable and confident discussing issues relevant to their students’ lives and communities, even when those issues were controversial. Teachers’ experiences with Perspectives were so meaningful that many encouraged colleagues in their buildings or professional networks to use the curriculum.
What effects of using Perspectives did teachers see in their classrooms?
Pilot teachers reported substantial effects in five major areas: literacy development, student engagement, empathy, classroom culture and student behavior. All the teachers said the curriculum built students’ literacy skills in all of the dimensions measured, and the evaluation found that teachers were pleased with students’ high levels of engagement. This engagement contributed to productive discussions and student enthusiasm for subject material and culminating tasks. Key findings included:
- Almost all teachers (97 percent) said Perspectives texts engaged their students.
- Almost all teachers (98 percent) said that Perspectives texts helped make classroom discussions more productive.
- Almost all teachers (97 percent) said the culminating task brought their students closer together.
Teachers also reported that the curriculum helped them build classroom community and engaged students with their communities in new ways. Teachers saw connections between the use of Perspectives and fewer student conflicts as well as greater tolerance for differences.
How did findings relate to the research informing the Perspectives design?
One of the major theories underlying Perspectives is the idea that texts can generate empathy in readers, building understanding and awareness of diverse experiences. Pilot teachers observed this in their classrooms across grade levels and subject material, whether they were in diverse or relatively homogenous classrooms. Two other concepts were robustly supported by the findings:
- Complex and relevant texts can increase student engagement.
- Appropriate curricular design can promote collective action.
This evaluation shows that exposure to Perspectives’ central texts created motivated learners. This is in line with research demonstrating that text selection matters tremendously for academic, social and emotional outcomes. Longitudinal use of Perspectives materials may help educators see real results in improved school and community climates. Finally, Perspectives shows promise for promoting an integrated instructional approach that moves teaching and learning from prejudice reduction to collective action.
Read the full report on the pilot study here.
Find additional blogs, articles and professional development resources on Perspectives here.
- Five Things to Know About ‘Perspectives’
- What If?
- Perspectives for a Diverse Hawai'i
- Teach with 'Perspectives for a Diverse America'
- A Formative Evaluation of Perspectives for a Diverse America: Final Report 2013-2014
- Agree to (Respectfully) Disagree
- Toolkit for 3-2-1-LAUNCH!
- New Webinar: 'Perspectives' Goes to Hawai’i
- Perspectives for a Diverse Hawai'i - July 2015