Philosophy of Teaching and Learning

CCA instructors and faculty are committed to humanizing, valuing, and “empowering our students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically” (Ladson-Billings) and to teaching and supporting the whole student: heart, mind, and spirit, as we support them in developing the 4 C’s: Cultural Competence, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Career & Transfer Readiness. We support students in developing critical consciousness in equity and social justice and in becoming agents of change by developing for ourselves this same critical consciousness and by being agents of change. To accomplish this, CCA educators are committed to engaging in a journey of professional development and teaching and learning trainings that culminates in a culture of instructional excellence and cultivates the following tenets:

Student-Centered Learning 

“Student-centered learning is an approach to learning in which learners choose not only what to study but also how and why. At the heart of the learning environment are learner responsibility and activity, in contrast to the emphasis on instructor control and coverage of academic content found in conventional, didactic teaching.” (Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Center) 

CCA instructors and faculty focus on and center students in the learning process by building community in the classroom and drawing on student assets and experience, giving students voice in the development of curriculum and resources, addressing the distinct strengths of the students, and allowing students to own their knowledge and positionality in the class.

Inclusive Pedagogy 

“A high-quality, practical liberal education should be the standard of excellence for all students. The action of making excellence inclusive requires that we uncover inequities in student success, identify effective educational practices, and build such practices organically for sustained institutional change” (AAC&U). Inclusive pedagogy asks instructors to focus “on understanding how our students experience different pedagogical techniques. As educators, we need to recognize that many biases, some unintended or unrecognized, can shape the way we share knowledge in the classroom, some of which may actually impede student achievement” (Associated Colleges of the South). “The term ‘Equity-Mindedness’ refers to the perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes. These practitioners are willing to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students, and critically reassess their own practices. It also requires that practitioners are race-conscious and aware of the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in American Higher Education” (Center for Urban Education). 

CCA instructors and faculty develop a learning environment that fosters equity and Social Justice. CCA instructors and faculty develop curriculum, materials, and instructional practices where student cultural identities, lived experiences, and worldviews are foundational and that challenge and support students in their academic work. CCA instructors and faculty connect learning to students’ lives through awareness of the individual, institutional, and societal cultural and political factors that shape our disciplines, and by helping our students understand, question, and challenge these factors.

Culturally Responsive and Culturally Relevant Teaching 

“Culturally responsive teaching connects students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to academic knowledge and intellectual tools in ways that legitimize what students already know” (Equity Alliance). Culturally Relevant Teaching (CRT) is “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Ladson-Billings 1994). “Culturally Relevant pedagogy rests on three criteria or propositions: (a) Students must experience academic success; (b) students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence; and (c) students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order” (Ladson-Billings 1995). 

CCA instructors and faculty acknowledge that we develop people, and not just skills. We support students in developing a critical awareness of dominant narratives, becoming agents to counter those narratives, and becoming critically conscious leaders. We recognize these counter-narratives (narratives that resist traditional sense-making and represent and empower marginalized perspectives) to help us understand and value our students’ whole and intersecting identities, lived experiences, voices, cultures, and perspectives and the strengths and cultural capital they provide. CCA instructors and faculty develop curriculum and resources that allow students’ identities and experiences to be represented in their learning. CCA instructors empower their students in developing cultural competence and critical consciousness through challenging curriculum and high expectations balanced with caring support to create a classroom space where each student can and does succeed. 

Being Reflexive Practitioners 

Reflexivity involves coming as close as possible to an awareness of the way one is experienced and perceived by others (Bolton) and is linked to action (Duarte and Fitzgerald). It is an ongoing practice, not a technique or curriculum element, but a pedagogical approach with should “pervade the curriculum” (Fanghanel). Being reflexive involves thinking from within experiences and focusing close attention upon one’s own actions, thoughts, feelings, values, identity, and their effect upon others. It requires that one looks with fresh eyes at our routines and assumptions and biases (Cunliffe). 

CCA instructors and faculty develop equity-minded habits and view our teaching practices through a critical lens. We develop and maintain a constant feedback loop between ourselves and our students, valuing student feedback and student self-assessment and reflection. We self-evaluate and self-observe as a continuous process, leading to consistent praxis of self-reflective and self-awareness loops. CCA instructors notice our students and know our students. CCA instructors and faculty use disaggregated data and continued learning through professional development and training opportunities to inform self-reflection leading to deconstruction and revision of our instructional practices and curriculum.  

Student Empowering Practices

“[C]urricular programs . . .have the goal of empowering students by fostering high expectations and habits for independent and progressive learning” (Morehouse College). To engage students in deep learning, pedagogy is “cooperative, collaborative, and community-oriented. Students are encouraged to direct their own learning and to work with other students on research projects and assignments that are both culturally and socially relevant to them. Students become self-confident, self-directed, and proactive” (The Education Alliance; Brown University).  Holistic education looks at the learning as a whole person. This approach tries to engage all aspects of the learner: spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental – and their interconnectedness with others and the world. Learning is active and reflective, and creates meaning in the context of people’s lives (Bow Valley College). 

CCA instructors and faculty support equitable access to high impact learning by designing curriculum and instructional practices that engage students and that value holistic student growth (mind, body, and spirit). We create an environment where students want to learn by focusing on student agency and by co-constructing knowledge. CCA instructors and faculty invite students into the learning process by engaging active, experiential, problem/project-based, constructivist, and collaborative teaching strategies to promote meaningful discovery and deep learning. 

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