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Community can signal a sense of collective identity/responsibility; engagement with community has shown increases in student achievement. Teachers are encouraged to visit homes, spend time at community events, observe and ask questions, working with students on community-based research projects, incorporating local events into the curriculum, tapping community resources like elders. Parents and other community members can reiterate the importance of school and can provide input on refining curricula and on teacher training. 

Student to Community & Family Relationship

  • To what extent do I incorporate  family involvement in my classroom? In my assignments? 

  • How are students interacting with community members and solving problems in my classroom that relate to an identified community need?

  • Do I invite people into my classroom explicitly and specifically?

  • How do I incorporate local knowledge?

Guiding Teacher Reflection Questions

Students must recognize themselves as part of a larger community. Oftentimes, if they do not feel like they belong, they will opt for alternative forms of belonging like gangs or unhealthy interactions. Historically, tribal communities have helped members find the 'role' that person can play in the larger group.

Student to Student Relationship


When teachers partner with community and families, they are able to enlist support for student learning outside of the school day and year. Teachers are more likely to stay in schools where there are high levels of trust with parents which increases teachers' feelings of support and respect.  When school staff demonstrates that they value parents and honor the various roles that families play in students' lives, they contribute to a positive school climate that supports student learning. 

  • Caspe, M., Lopez, M.E., Chu, A., & Weiss, H.B. (2011). Teaching the teachers: Preparing educators to engage families for student achievement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project and Alexandria, VA: National PTA. Retrieved from

  • Dobia, B. & O’Rourke, V. G. (2011). Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous children in Australian primary schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia

  • Henderson, Anne T. and K.L. Mapp. 2002. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Austin, TX: National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. 

  • Skinner, R., & Chapman, C. (1999). Service-learning and community service in K–12 public schools. Retrieved from the National Center for Education Statistics website: /index.asp

  • Sparks, S. (2000, May). Classroom and curriculum accommodations for Native American students. Intervention In School And Clinic, 35(5), 259-263.

  • Klug, B.J. & Whitfield, P.T., (2003). Widening the circle: Culturally relevant pedagogy for American Indian children. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

  • Yazzie, T. (1999). Culturally appropriate curriculum: A research-based rationale. In K. Swisher & J. Tippeconnic (Eds.), Next steps: Research and practice to advance Indian education (pp. 83–106). Charleston, NC: Appalachia Educational Laboratory.


Teacher attitudes about students, knowledge of the subject matter, and understanding of students' cultures are all shown to promote improved academic performance and student behavior. Studies indicate that teachers who serve Native students effectively are caring & warm, give up authority, and have & show respect for students. Native students may mistrust schooling as a reaction to negative stereotypes perpetuated by teachers. Conversely, Native students demonstrated increased enthusiasm for learning under the instruction of approachable and caring teachers.  These dispositions inform other elements of teaching: sociocultural consciousness, affirmative attitude regarding differences, constructivist approach, instruction from funds of knowledge, urgency around being culturally responsive, and identity development. 

Student to Teacher Relationship

  • How do I demonstrate to students that I respect them, care about them?

  • How do I 'give up my authority' while maintaining high expectations?

  • Do I understand the history of colonization, oppression, schooling, and stereotypes and how these impact how students view school and interact in my classroom?

  • Do I use language in my classroom that encourages sociocultural consciousness, affirmative attitudes?

  • Do I believe students come to school with a lot of knowledge (versus, that it is my job to 'fill the empty vessels)?

  • Is the 'stuff' that students come to school with viewed as an asset and not a deficit?

  • Do I understand how my identity and life experiences impact how I approach teaching, how students view my teaching, and how I could change or rely on any of those aspects?

  • Do I provide space either through content or other practices to help students think about their own identities? 

Guiding Teacher Questions


Coladarci, T. (1983). High-school dropouts among Native Americans. Journal of American Indian Education, 23 (1), 15-22.

Deyhle, Donna. (1992). Constructing failure and maintaining cultural identity: Navajo and Ute school leavers. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(2), 24-47. 

Gay, G. (2002). Culturally responsive teaching in special education for ethnically diverse students: setting the stage

Castango & Brayboy (2008) draw attention to the importance of teacher attitudes and values in culturally responsive teaching. Castagno, E. & Brayboy, B.M.C. (2008). Culturally Responsive Schooling for Indigenous Youth: A review of the Literature. American Educational Research Association.

Pewewardy, C.,& Hammer, P. (2003). Culturally responsive teaching for American Indian students. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Yagi, K. (1985). Indian education act project in the Portlandpublic schools. 1984-85 evaluation report. Oregon: Portland Public Schools. Evaluation Department.

Yazzie, T. (1999). Culturally appropriate curriculum: A research-based rationale. In K. G. Swisher & J. W. Tippeconnic III, Next steps: Research and practice to advance Indian education. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

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