What is culturally responsive teaching?

Cards for Democracy
Published on
November 15, 2021
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What is culturally responsive teaching?

By Teachers’ Team at Learn to Change

At a glance

  • What is culturally responsive teaching
  • What’s included in culturally responsive teaching
  • Benefits of culturally responsive teaching
  • Who is culturally responsive teaching for

What is culturally responsive teaching?

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, pedagogical theorist and teacher trainer, introduced the concept of culturally responsive teaching.

She saw it as a way to maximize students’ academic achievement by integrating their cultural references in the classroom. Since then, a deep field of research has developed around CRT.

Aspects of Culturally Responsive Teaching include…

Positive Perspectives on parents and families

Learning within the context of culture

Culturally mediated instruction

Reshaping the curriculum

The benefits of culturally responsive teaching

More teachers are using CRT to best teach diverse student populations.

They’re also finding it’s a powerful way to reach all students. Here’s why:

1. It raises expectations for all students.

With this approach, teachers focus on identify students’ assets and use them to create rigorous, student-centered instruction.

2. It helps schools better meet students’ needs.

Underserved students may face implicit bias because of their race, culture, or language. As a result, these students are often overrepresented in special education. Other times, their needs go undetected. They’re also often underrepresented in gifted education. By using an assets mindset, schools are more likely to better identify and serve all students.

3. It builds cultural competence.

An inclusive curriculum helps teachers and students understand different perspectives, appreciate others’ strengths, and build empathy.

4. It helps students feel valued and empowered.

When students see themselves represented in the curriculum, they feel like they belong.

Who is culturally responsive teaching for?

In a culturally responsive classroom, learners’ varied identities and experiences are identified, honored, and used to bridge rigorous new learning. This type of individualized instruction benefits all students.

However, culturally responsive teaching focuses on students who do not receive a type of culturally relevant instruction.

At the same time, Ladson-Billings’ framework can be expanded to learners with varying and interesting identities (including based on social class, English proficiency, disability status, LGBTQ status) whose identities and experiences are likewise excluded from mainstream settings.

It is clear that these students can also benefit from “mirrors” that allow them to see themselves, their experiences, and their communities in school. For these and other students culturally responsive teaching also provides critical “windows” into the cultural heritage and experiences of others.

In an increasingly diverse society, all students benefit from learning to honor their own, and one another’s cultural heritage and lived realities.


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