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Published April 9, 2024


Propelling equity leadership forward: GSE researcher’s new book equips educators with culturally responsive instructional leadership framework

How can instructional leaders contribute to creating a more progressive, equitable and inclusive society?

Ian Mette.

Ian Mette
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy

A University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education researcher set out to answer that question in the recently published book, “Making a Difference: Instructional Leadership That Drives Self-Reflection and Values the Expertise of Teachers.”

Co-authored by Ian Mette, associate professor of educational leadership and policy, along with researcher and entrepreneur Dwayne Ray Cormier and Yanira Oliveras, associate professor of education at the University of Texas at Tyler, the publication introduces a transformative framework for instructional leadership, aiming to equip educators with the tools to provide culturally responsive instruction. It was released in October 2023.

“When you look at all the traditional teacher supervision models, they center their ideas on these clinical objective practices, and we know that in schools, that's not really true,” Mette said. “When we were writing this book, we wanted to remind people that instructional leaders are equity leaders, first and foremost. And so, when considering how to give feedback to people, we need to stop thinking of things as objective and clinical because that is not the way that kids interpret instruction. They bring with them their own cultural identities.”

The authors assert that the book challenges traditional, deficit-oriented perspectives on learning and underscores the importance of recognizing and leveraging students' sociocultural identities, including race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, orientation and class. “These are all things that kids bring with them to the classroom, and instructional leaders need to help give feedback—feedback that helps people in a non-evaluative way consider how they're constructing lessons—and not centering themselves as teachers in those lesson plans but centering their students,” said Mette.

Teachers also must be aware of their students’ identities and strengths by taking a more asset-based approach, he explained. In doing so, “we would see much better outcomes, much higher levels of student engagement, much higher levels of rigor and application,” Mette said. “And then, frankly, we know that we will see higher student achievement as well. If the students see themselves in the curriculum, they are going to engage with that learning material in a much deeper way.”

"So much of what educators use is prepackaged curriculum, and inherently, we know that that's not culturally responsive," he added.

The book calls for a return to empowering teachers and leveraging their expertise to modify lesson plans in meaningful and culturally responsive ways, meeting all students' needs.

Building on the success of “Making a Difference,” Mette, Cormier and Oliveras are set to release their forthcoming book, “Culturally Responsive Instructional Supervision: Leadership for Equitable and Emancipatory Outcomes,” in April 2024. The publication will address the urgent need for instructional practices recognizing student diversity and cultural backgrounds as valuable assets.

"This book is targeting teacher leaders, instructional coaches, assistant principals and principals. Everybody is responsible for ensuring that culturally responsive instructional practices are occurring throughout the school," Mette said.

It will offer a comprehensive developmental framework for implementing culturally responsive instructional supervision, fostering an educational environment that disrupts the culture of white supremacy, promotes a sense of belonging and achieves culturally appropriate instructional outcomes for all learners.

Sharing his research findings outside of the pages of his publications is also important to Mette.

Alongside Terri Watson, associate professor of educational leadership at The City College of New York, and Curtis Brewer, associate professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio, he hosts the JCEL Jabber podcast. Supported by the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, the podcast highlights case studies that are published in the journal and directly applicable to educators in the field.

He will also present his research at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Philadelphia this year in a Presidential Session, “Culturally Responsive Instructional Leadership: Disrupting Traditional Paradigms by Centering Race to Construct New Futures in P-20 Education.” AERA Presidential Sessions are highly competitive, and in this session, he will present with other leaders in the field, including Terri Watson; Linda Tillman, professor emerita of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Noelle Arnold, professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University; and Mariela Rodríguez, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

More than anything else, he feels optimistic about the potential impact of his research: “We're excited to see where the work goes… Hopefully it will encourage other people, researchers and scholars to engage in culturally responsive instructional supervision as well." Mette is currently examining these practices through the development of the Culturally Responsive Instructional Supervision Practices (CRISP) Lab, which will be housed in GSE.

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