Banks proposed five types of knowledge and defined them and gave examples of each one.* The categories that Banks (1993) uses to define knowledge in a school sense is clearly not exhaustive. Nor are they mutually exclusive. There are some kinds of knowledge that are not defined in these ways, and an example might be what a student experiences in a math class. Let us suppose that there is a student who has struggled with mathematics learning, and is unable to make the connections that are necessary to understand mathematical concepts. But at some point, the student may have an “Ah hah!” moment when all of the relevant concepts suddenly become clear and understandable. Another example might be a student in an upper-level literature class who spontaneously understands the ways in which literary examples apply in his own life, or in the lives of others, or to the society at large. These kinds of knowledge are both spontaneous and inexplicable, and since they occur across all racial and cultural divides, they are not as easily defined from a multicultural perspective. The categories that Banks uses refer mostly to formal knowledge acquisition as opposed to informal learning or, as in the examples above, what might be termed inspirational learning.

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Note also that the work of the five researchers listed in the graphic chart do not fit neatly into exclusive categories. This is in line with what Banks asserted about the categories overlapping, rather than being mutually exclusive. It is impossible to separate personal/cultural understanding from mainstream academic learning, or from transformative academic learning, as shown in Gutstein and McCarty et al. Bresser et al also moves across categorical boundaries. Au (1980), Delpit (2006), and Goodwin (2010) are largely classified in a single category, but it is not exclusively certain that they can only be classified in this way.

None of the researches belonged primarily in the Popular category. Banks defines the Popular category as “facts, concepts, explanations, and interpretations that students derive from personal experiences in their homes, families, and community cultures” (p.7). In Figure 1 (p. 6), however, Banks equates School knowledge with a combination of Popular knowledge and Mainstream Academic knowledge. Here there is considerable overlap as well. Only Goodwin (2010), however, fits into any of these categories (Mainstream Academic knowledge).

Part II

For the most part, my own formal school experience occurred in overlapping categories as well. Certainly there was personal/cultural learning, as the classroom was composed of white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. It’s difficult to say precisely to what degree there was popular learning, but it occasionally showed up during discussions that we had in class, mostly in English classes (literature) and in history classes. There was some mainstream academic learning as well as school learning, but the primary category into which my schooling fit would be the transformative academic knowledge category.

Au’s (1980) references to stories as as “participation structures” and Delpit’s (2006) discussion of community connections and transformational classroom interactions typified my school experience mainly, and in general showed that my school/classrooms/teachers were culturally responsive to the needs of all the students.

  • Au, K. H. (1980). Participation structures in a reading lesson with Hawaiian children: Analysis of a culturally appropriate instructional event. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Vol. 11, Iss. 2. Retrieved from
  • Banks, J. A. (1993). The canon debate, knowledge construction, and multicultural education. Educational Researcher, Vol. 22, Iss. 4. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X022005004
  • Bresser, R., Melanese, K., and Sphar, C. (2009). Equity for language learners. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, October 2009. Retrieved from
  • Delpit, L. (2006). Lessons from teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 57, Iss. 220. DOI: 10.1177/0022487105285966
  • Goodwin, A. L. (2010). Curriculum as colonizer: (Asian) American education in the current US context. Teachers College Record, Vol. 112, Iss. 12.
  • Gutstein, E. (2007). “And that’s just how it starts”: Teaching mathematics and developing student agency. Teachers College Record, Vol. 109, Iss. 2.
  • McCarty, T. L., Romero-Little, M. E., and Zepeda, O. (2006). Native American youth discourses on language shift and retention: ideological crosscurrents and their implications for language planning. The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 9, Iss. 5. Doi: 10.2167/beb386.0