Bridging Cultures Project

The Bridging Cultures Project was created to support teachers to use cultural knowledge to increase the educational success of their students. To achieve this goal, a group of professional researchers collaborated with a group of teacher-researchers beginning in Fall 1996 in an action research project. Teachers participated in a series of three workshops orchestrated by staff researchers and then began the process of becoming researchers in their own classrooms and schools where immigrant Latino students constitute the majority.

A cultural framework based on the values associated with the dimensions of individualism (the orientation of the dominant U.S. culture) and collectivism (the orientation of most immigrant cultures, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and others) guided teachers’ explorations in their classrooms.

The group made numerous presentations to teachers, administrators, teacher educators, researchers, paraprofessionals, and parents.

Bridging Cultures Project Strands

Over the years, the Bridging Cultures founders created several strands of work:

  • developed workshops for a core group of teachers on individualism and collectivism and their implications for child-rearing and schooling;
  • documented changes in thinking and instructional practice of these teachers;
  • supported core teachers to develop their own skills as researchers;
  • taught core teachers how to use ethnography to learn about cultures;
  • collaborated with core teachers to design and provide professional development for other educators;
  • taught preservice teachers, new teachers, and school counselors about the Bridging Cultures framework; and
  • published and disseminated materials based on what has been learned.

Bridging Cultures Founders

For several years Bridging Cultures research was conducted under the auspices of WestEd. The project was founded by:

Patricia Greenfield, Distinguished Professor
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

Elise Trumbull, Independent Consultant and Adjunct Staff
Rockman et al

Carrie Rothstein-Fisch, Professor
Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, California State University, Northridge

Blanca Quiroz, Researcher
SEDL, Austin, TX

Original Teacher Researchers

The original team of teacher-researchers included:

Marie Altchech
Stoner Avenue School, Los Angeles, CA

Catherine Daley
Magnolia Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA

Kathryn Eyler
Hoover Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA

Elvia Hernandez
Griffin Avenue Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA

Giancarlo Mercado
Westminster Avenue School, Venice, CA

Amada Pérez
Mar Vista Elementary School, Oxnard, CA

Pearl Saitzyk
Westminster Avenue School, Venice, CA

Resources Created by the Project

The Bridging Cultures publications show how the framework can be a useful tool in understanding and preventing conflicts experienced by many students, which are often invisible to teachers. Materials produced through the project’s research are not “prescriptive.” That is, there are no recommended strategies that must be implemented. Rather, the framework and teacher examples cited in the publications are meant to stimulate questions and support an ethnographic approach to cross-cultural understanding and schooling. The project founders believe that when cultural values are in conflict with school values, students can still succeed without giving up their cultural values or becoming alienated from their families — if schools meet students halfway.

Bridging Cultures materials have been used by professional developers and teacher leaders throughout the country, from California to Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as well as Micronesia. In combination with other readings that explain the original theory and research behind the project, they provide the essential background material an experienced professional developer or teacher educator would need to develop a workshop or a course session.

The project, which originally focused on professional development for in-service teachers, has since spread to the realm of pre-service education. Bridging Cultures concepts and examples have been integrated into courses on multicultural education, child development, educational psychology, counseling psychology, and Chicano studies, among others. Carrie Rothstein-Fisch, expert on pre-service education, may be contacted directly at: carrie.rothstein-fisch@csun.edu.

Trumbull, E., Diaz-Meza, R., Hasan, A., & Rothstein-Fisch, C. (2001). The Bridging Cultures Project Five-Year Report, 1996-2000 (PDF)

Quiroz, B., Greenfield, P.M., & Altchech, M. (1999). Bridging cultures with a parent-teacher conference. Educational Leadership, 56(7), 68-70.

Rothstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P.M., & Trumbull, E. (1999). Bridging cultures with classroom strategies. Educational Leadership, 56(7), 64-67.

Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., & Greenfield, P.M. (2000). Bridging Cultures in Our Schools: New Approaches that Work. Knowledge Brief. San Francisco: WestEd.

Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P.M., & Quiroz, B. (2001). Bridging Cultures Between Home and School: A Guide for Teachers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates and San Francisco: WestEd.

Rothstein-Fisch, C. (2003). Bridging Cultures Teacher Preparation Module. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates and San Francisco: WestEd.

Rothstein-Fisch, C., & Trumbull, E. (2009). Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students’ Cultural Strengths. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Rothstein-Fisch, C., Trumbull, E., Isaac, A., Daley, C., & Pérez, A. (2003). When “helping someone else” is the right answer: Teachers bridge cultures in assessment. Journal of Latinos and Education, 2(3), 123-140.

Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., & Hernandez, E. (2003). Parent involvement — According to whose values? School Community Journal, 13(2), 45-72.

Trumbull, E., & Rothstein-Fisch, C. (2008). Cultures in harmony. Educational Leadership, 66(1), 63-66.

Zepeda, M., Rothstein-Fisch, C., Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Trumbull, E. (2006). Bridging Cultures in Early Care and Education: A Training Module. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates and San Francisco: WestEd.

Additional Background Resources

Greenfield, P.M., & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (1994). Cross-cultural Roots of Minority Child Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Greenfield, P.M., Quiroz, B., & Raeff, C. (2000). Cross-cultural conflict and harmony in the social construction of the child. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, No. 87, 93-108.

Raeff, C., Greenfield, P.M., & Quiroz, B. (2000). Conceptualizing interpersonal relationships in the cultural contexts of individualism and collectivism. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, No. 87, 59-74.