Educators today are working in an increasingly diverse world, which translates to an equally diverse classroom. Just look at the statistics: the 2020 U.S. Census found that the population of all minorities in the United States increased from 2010, and the multiracial population specifically grew 276% over a 10-year period. When you consider a previous Census Bureau report that forecasted that half of all U.S. students in public schools would be minority students by 2020, it becomes clear why culturally responsive teaching is becoming increasingly important.
However, knowing how to implement a culturally relevant pedagogy isn’t inherently easy, and requires a balancing act on the part of you, the educator. To help you start to introduce these concepts and tactics into your classroom, here is a breakdown of culturally responsive teaching and 10 examples of CRT being implemented in schools.
What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
According to Edutopia, culturally responsive teaching “attempts to bridge the gap between teacher and student by helping the teacher understand the cultural nuances that may cause a relationship to break down — which ultimately causes student achievement to break down as well.”
When put into practice, teachers can develop culturally responsive pedagogies which are “student-centered approaches to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.”
Why Use Culturally Responsive Teaching?
There are numerous studies that point to the benefits of culturally responsive teaching (CRT). CRT has been shown to increase student engagement, cultivate critical thinking and problem solving skills, and ultimately improve a students’ sense of belonging in the classroom. For educators, culturally responsive pedagogy has been critical for improving their ability to reach students, especially in the time of remote teaching and COVID-19. Reports show that teachers who use this teaching style are better able to respond to student needs, and is an effective way to combat educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From an overall educational perspective, the biggest benefits of culturally relevant teaching include:
- Teachers and students are more actively contributing to the classroom environment and culture.
- Students get to learn from more interactive, collaborative and culturally conscious activities.
- This teaching style helps foster a sense of belonging for students of all backgrounds.
- It has been proven to improve brain processing and student engagement.
10 Examples of Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Classroom
There is no one way to implement elements of culturally responsive teaching into your classroom. There are countless different tactics to try that align with your style — here are 10 of the most common:
1. Learn About Your Students: Kick the school year off with exercises that help you get to know your students. Distribute surveys or questionnaires that allow your students to share a bit more about their backgrounds, and their learning styles. With these responses you can go into the year with a complete picture of your classroom makeup.
2. Interview Students: This is a more personal approach to getting to know your students better. Face-to-face communication will help create an open dialogue between you and your pupils, and will encourage them to open up about things like their hobbies, favorite subjects and their preferred in-class exercises.
3. Integrate Relevant World Issues: There are many different ways to do this. Consider implementing a current events roundup into your morning meetings or classroom routine. You can also use culturally relevant terms in word problems that relate back to student interests and cultures.
4. Leverage the Power of Story: Many cultures have oral traditions, myths and stories that are passed down through the generations. These stories can be used as teaching tools about manners, morality and more. Use your students’ diverse cultural stories to teach valuable lessons to your classroom, while also sharing some unique history of other groups.
5. Gamify Lessons: Gaming is hugely popular amongst school-aged children. Consider “gamifying” your lessons — popular tactics include offering reward badges or setting standards for new “levels” students can move up to for certain projects or proficiencies.
6. Use Media that Positively Depict a Range of Cultures: Find age-appropriate media outlets from different cultures and languages to use in your curriculum. These outlets can be used to teach a differing perspective on a current or historical event.
7. Encourage Students to Propose Ideas for Projects: Turning the tables and letting students propose ideas for projects is a great way to let students play to their strengths and get creative. Encourage them to use their cultural heritages or backgrounds as an inspiration, and support them in taking projects from concept to completion.
8. Experiment with Peer Teaching: It is suggested that teachers try allowing students to participate in peer-to-peer teaching. In this exercise, students are able to use their own vocabulary and cultural references to teach each other about a topic or subject.
9. Encourage Students to Leverage Cultural Capital: Empower your students that come from varying backgrounds to use their voices and speak about their diverse backgrounds. For example, if you teach an English class that includes ESL students, try to find ways to include them in lessons and allow them to share experiences they have had.
10. Involve Parents by Using Take-Home Letters: Open the door to parent participation at the start of the school year, when starting a new unit or trying an education tool for the first time. Parents can provide cultural context and support, and will appreciate being kept in the loop regarding their child’s education.
How to Implement Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Classroom
There isn’t a step-by-step process that every teacher must follow to introduce culturally relevant teaching into their classroom. Instead, here are some elements of a culturally inclusive classroom, and some choices you can make to begin this exciting process:
- Gather demographic information on students such as background, languages spoken, etc.
- Identify students’ assets and their cultural capital.
- Create a welcoming classroom environment and develop authentic, caring relationships with your students.
- Examine the curriculum to identify where you can tie in cultural elements.
- Explore CRT resources to deepen your own understanding of the concept.
- Share your own background and experiences with students to open lines of communication.
- Encourage students to talk in pairs or small groups before sharing their own experiences with the whole class.
- Learn about your students’ traditions, holidays and family or other cultural activities, and try incorporating some of these traditions or activities into classroom activities.
- Choose media, like stories or poems or video, that reflects the culture of the students so they can relate to the topic or characters, and teach their classmates about their heritage.
How Does Culturally Responsive Teaching Apply to Parents & Families?
Students’ parents and guardians can be one of your most valuable resources when it comes to building a culturally relevant pedagogy. Because they are your students’ resource when it comes to learning about their own cultural backgrounds. As such, you should be sure to engage with families from the beginning, inviting parents and guardians into the classroom community. They can share books from their native cultures or country, or participate as a guest speaker to tell their own stories. This helps them actively participate in their child’s learning and share a bit about what makes them unique.
Resources for Culturally Responsive Teaching
Some easily accessible CRT resources available to teachers include:
Inclusive Schools Network
Professional Development for Culturally Responsive Teaching
There are a number of introductory resources available online for educators interested in culturally responsive teaching. However, these articles and eBooks provide a surface-level overview of CRT. While this information is hugely valuable, for educators who seek to have a more comprehensive understanding of this practice, there are other options.
Consider the Teaching for Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity in the Classroom Series offered by the University of San Diego. This program is available through the school’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education, meaning each course in this series is available completely online. Through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity program, learners will learn how to celebrate diversity, and also strategize how to promote inclusivity, equity and anti-racism in the classroom. To learn more about this program, please contact us.
Q: What is culturally responsive teaching?
A: Culturally responsive teaching is “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.”
Q: What are the benefits of culturally responsive teaching?
A: There are numerous benefits of culturally responsive teaching, but the four biggest takeaways teachers should have are, teachers and students are more actively contributing to the classroom environment and culture, students get to learn from more interactive, collaborative and culturally conscious activities, this teaching style helps foster a sense of belonging for students of all backgrounds, and it has been proven to improve brain processing and student engagement.
Q: How can I implement CRT in my classroom?
A: There are many tools you as a teacher can use to implement CRT in your classroom, but a few easy tactics to try early in the classroom include gathering demographic information on students such as background, languages spoken, etc., identifying students’ assets and their cultural capital, and examining the curriculum to identify where you can tie in cultural elements.