Culturally Responsive Teaching

downloadCulturally responsive teaching is a new buzz word in the education industry but has been around for years. Culturally Responsive Teaching is a simple awareness of including student culture in daily instruction. One of the first vocabulary words we learn in social studies at a young age is culture. “Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a group of people” (Zimmerman, K.A. 2017). We may do a few activities and take a vocabulary test then push the word aside to learn some more. The word culture has so many aspects to it that it can’t be pushed to the side. It should be acknowledged in everything we do and the way we connect with people. Understanding how to respond and interact with others needs to begin in our education system; in the classroom at an early age.

Why Does this Matter?

The increasing diversity of our school system range from socioeconomic status to language barriers. “Research determined that 47 percent of children younger than five belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. Significantly, the report discovered that nearly 20 percent of the students aged five and older speak a language other than English at home” (Brierton, Graham, Tomal and Wilhite 2016). Although this research is fact and it is being widely communicated through the internet, books and professional development most school districts aren’t talking about it. Race and ethnicity is a sensitive topic for most people and may cause discomfort or unease for some educators. The truth of the matter is that the faces in the everyday classroom are changing. These children may fall through the cracks if educators do not adapt to this change. 

Becoming Aware

In order for an educator to make a change among their staff or in their own classroom, they have to be aware of their own stereotypes and bias. Having stereotypes and bias does not make you a bad person; it makes you human. Accepting this truth and becoming aware of the way we are thinking will help us become better teachers if not human beings. Developing an understanding of personal views and beliefs about groups of people will lead to cultural competence. Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference towards other cultures. This awareness should lead us to build on the community norms of our students and their parents. Being cultural competent means that you understand the differences within your students and the things that make them unique.  

The truth of the matter is that American classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse. Becoming aware of your own stereotypes towards others will help you construct lessons that are meaningful to your students. Simply because you would have created an awareness that you can now recognize. This will in fact make you become a better teacher, if not a better person.


Effects on Student Learning

Student engagement and motivation is directly correlated to student performance. Therefore, the teacher has to guide students and engage them in the instruction being taught. Knowing your students strengths and weaknesses isn’t enough anymore; you have to get to know your student as a whole. The first place to start is their culture. So, to build an environment that is aware of diversity and cultural differences school leaders need to follow these ethical practices:

  • Professional development-training on a consistent basis is vital. In order to meet the needs of all students staff members have to develop an understand of cultural differences. They will learn how to work with children from different backgrounds and find ways to relate to them.
  • Collaboration and team building-discussion among staff members will help strengthen relationships needed in order to share ideas and strategies ways to meet the needs of each student.
  • Building consensus-It is essential that all stakeholders have empathy towards these students as the they work with them closely. 
  • Parent support-teachers should invest their time in getting to know the parents of their students. Developing a healthy relationship will foster the success of the child and enhance the learning environment.

With the increasing requirements of state and federal standards it is imperative that districts gain an understanding of cultural effects on student learning. It is the school leaders responsibility to create a school environment that will foster student achievement and success.

What experiences do you have with learning about Cultural Responsive Teaching? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!



References for this article:
Brierton, Graham, Tomal &Withite 2016). Ethics and politics in school leadership.  Laham. MD: Rowman and Littlefield
Zimmerman, K.A.. “What Is Culture?” Live Science Contributor. July 12, 2017.