NBCT Standard 3: Knowledge of Culture

The third National Board Standard for World Language teachers focuses on Knowledge of Culture (pages 25-27 here). (Psst- if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check on my primer on National Boards here). First, the standard statement:

As an integral part of effective instruction in world languages,
accomplished teachers know and understand the practices,
products, and perspectives of target cultures and understand how
languages and cultures are intimately linked.

If Standard 2 is where the National Board holds us accountable to practice what we preach in terms of our own language learning, Standard 3 is where we’re held accountable for knowledge of culture. Primarily, there are two parts of this standard; first, we need to have a wide depth of knowledge about our target language’s culture, and second, we need to be able to give our students opportunities to develop that same appreciation.

In terms of teacher knowledge, the standard focuses in on the products, practices, and perspectives that ACTFL loves to champion, and demands that we stay up to date on how those cultural commodities change year to year, in every country and community where our language is spoken. This aspect of language teaching can get overwhelming because the term “culture” within a language can vary wildly. As a Spanish teacher, you would have to know the revolutionary history of Uruguay, what people like to eat for breakfast in Puerto Rico, the most important works of art at the Prado, and what music people are listening to in San Antonio these days. A French teacher would need to be able to discuss creole culture of Louisiana and the history of Parisian haute couture. It is a lot, and the National Board Standard includes all of it.

Of course, it’s not enough to know about all of these aspects of our target culture; we have to know how to provide opportunities for our students to know about them as well. We have to be able to instruct student learning on contemporary target culture societies and their histories; we have to give students an opportunity to interact with these cultures in an authentic way, and, perhaps most importantly, we have to give students the tools and abilities to appreciate cultures that are different from their own.

Instead of writing a two thousand word post, I’m going to write two more posts on Standard 3. In the first, I’ll give you my tips for staying up to date on target culture, much as I did in my post about teacher language proficiency for Standard 2. In the second, I’ll try to give a bird’s eye view on giving students opportunities to appreciate this culture, and what that has looked like in my classroom. Looking forward to making this cultural dive with you.


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