Culturally Responsive Teaching: Benefits and Implementation Strategies

Culturally responsive teaching is a relatively new approach compared to other old teaching styles and techniques. It is often used in public schools where diverse students from different cultures, races, and ethnicities are enrolled to be part of the curriculum development and classroom activities. 

The concept of “culturally responsive teaching” involves analysis of the biases in a student’s background to be aware of their limitations that may hamper their learning. Strategies that help build their cultural awareness are implemented, which helps them to be more effective learners.

Several recent studies show that culturally responsive teaching increases the achievement of diverse students. This article seeks to examine some of the best practices and implementation strategies of the same.

What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is all about acknowledging the unique, personal, and social histories of each student. It also involves tailoring instructional practices to the lives, interests, cultural experiences, and pre-existing knowledge of all students.

The goals of this form of teaching are to:

  • ensure that children of different backgrounds have equal opportunities to achieve success in education
  • make sure teachers meet children’s social and educational needs
  • ensure that teachers promote cultural exchange and meaningful relationships between the school and families
  • create a safe and supportive learning environment for all learners

It is in such a classroom that highly motivated students become successful in life, regardless of where they come from or their background.

Why is Culturally Responsive Teaching Important? 

1. It builds cultural competence

Culturally responsive teaching is about being aware of the impact that culture has on ourselves and others. It is also about understanding that cultural identity is fluid, untethered by exogenous factors. A culturally responsive classroom fosters an appreciation for differences and similarities among learners, providing rich opportunities for learning to happen.

2. Culturally responsive teaching embraces student diversity and bridges cultural gaps

Culturally responsive teachers create a classroom environment that is welcoming, respectful, and inclusive of all students. By understanding their own cultural identities and biases, teachers can promote students’ critical thinking skills. They also help to bridge cultural gaps between students and their own educational experiences.

SEE: Why is diversity important in schools?

3. It strengthens student-teacher relationships

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is about creating relationships and understanding that acknowledges the barriers that often exist for low-income, minority students. 

With CRT, educators design instruction with the cultures of students in mind, building student-teacher relationships and enhancing learning. 

As a result, teachers can build a relationship with students’ families in which they can share their successes and provide support when needed.

4. Affirmation of cultural identity

Culturally responsive teaching is a different way of approaching students and their learning based on the idea that each student has a cultural identity. Identities can be ethnic, racial, linguistic, socioeconomic, religious, or spiritual, or even sexual orientation. Each of these cultural identities influences how each student learns.

5. It creates a safe space for the expression of interest and beliefs

A key aim of culturally responsive teaching is to create a safe space for the expression of interest, curiosity, experiences, and beliefs. This can be done by working with students at the beginning of the course to identify important issues. 

Teachers should consider these different experiences, beliefs, and knowledge when planning teaching styles and curricula.

Strategies to Implement Culturally Responsive Teaching 

1. Identify students’ learning styles

The concept of culturally responsive teaching might seem complicated, but it is quite straightforward. It is important to give students an education designed to suit their learning styles and interests. By doing so, you as a teacher will ensure that you design lessons according to the needs of your students.

SEE: Types of learning

2. Be aware of your personal biases

There is no question that teacher bias influences the classroom. There is nothing wrong with bias in itself; it’s a natural behavior for all of us. In fact, our biases are often helpful and probably saved our lives at some point in time. 

Real problems arise when you act or allow them to act on our students, their performance, and their potential intentionally or unconsciously.

3. Make your classroom a judgment-free zone

Equal treatment of all students is part of culturally responsive teaching. Making sure your classroom is safe and comfortable for everyone is part of it. In this way, students can engage with the material more fully, since they are not worried about judgment or criticism. 

Giving your students permission to learn as much and be successful as they can is one of the best things you can do for them. That’s what culturally responsive teaching is all about.

4. Use cultural course content

Culturally responsive teaching is a philosophy that values student interaction and encourages understanding of different cultures and communities. By incorporating cultural content into the curriculum and lessons, educators can implement culturally responsive teaching in the classroom. Also, embracing personal experiences is an effective way to help students connect.

5. Explore resources to deepen your understanding as a teacher

Cultural responsiveness is adapting our teaching to the cultural norms of the students in our classroom. When teachers fail to take into consideration the culture of their students, they are limiting them to a certain set of behaviors and lesson approaches. 

Creating a culturally responsive classroom may seem like an overwhelming task at first glance, especially with discussing cultural conflicts, and making those adjustments may be difficult in the middle of a lesson plan, but there are ways that teachers can do this gradually.

As an educator, it’s common to come across things you don’t understand. The internet is a great resource for researching and creating your meanings for topics and issues that arise in the classroom.

6. Adapt your teaching practices

Culturally responsive teaching does not only mean making sure that students understand materials that have been presented to them. It also means making them aware of the culture around them, helping them understand the culture of their classmates and that of their teachers as well. 

It requires more effort from teachers but also forces them to consider how they can optimize their skills to better prepare their students for the real world.

7. Incorporate popular culture

As educators, you should be aware of the power that popular culture holds over young people. The lyrics in most of the top 10 songs will make little sense to you, but they may resonate with different students on different levels. Popular culture pervades everything we do, especially the classroom. 

Oftentimes when students sing a song, watch a movie, or read a book, they are trying to tell us something. This is equally true in reverse. For example, when teachers use a popular culture text or artist as structure or scaffolding for their curriculum, they can often increase student engagement because students already feel connected to the topic.

8. Teach for all cultures

As personal and cultural issues arise, it is more challenging to teach. Students and parents come into classrooms with different values. Students will have a challenge adjusting to the expectations and high standards of schools. Besides, kids are not the same as what we used to teach these all the years prior. 

They speak different languages, eat different foods, dress differently, live in a different environment, move slower or faster than us, exposed to different things that our youth did not.

Culturally responsive teaching does not focus on only one type of culture. Instead, culturally responsive teachers learn about various cultures and incorporate them into their lesson plans to help students understand a globalized world.

What Makes a Teacher Culturally Responsive?

Culture is something you must consider as a teacher. There are different types of learners with different cultures. This means you will have to adapt your methods in some way to such a wide range of cultural contexts. 

It’s not enough to just do what works for you. Through culturally responsive classes and teachers, students are more likely to experience greater academic success. A culturally responsive teacher is one who:

  • is aware of the cultural situation of their students and how it impacts their students
  • will make an effort to eliminate biases, stereotypes, and commonplace assumptions about students based on race, ethnicity, or any other reason for that matter.
  • will confront difficult conversations surrounding race and ethnicity 
  • is a skilled problem solver when it comes to cultural issues surrounding the classroom

Cultural responsiveness refers to the degree of responsiveness a teacher or educator has towards the cultural norms, beliefs, and practices of students. 

A culturally responsive person will understand the diversity within their students’ class as well as the outside influence that contributes to how students develop as people. 

Furthermore, the culturally responsive educator will be able to design materials and activities that encourage growth in this context.

SEE: Qualities of a good teacher

What Challenges Do Teachers Face When Practicing Culturally Responsive Teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching is a framework that guides teachers in understanding how their actions and decisions affect diverse student learning and experiences. Culturally responsive teachers address the needs of students from different cultural backgrounds across the curriculum in their classrooms. 

However, there are a few primary challenges that teachers face as they attempt to create an inclusive classroom. Some of them are:

  • Challenges in practice
  • Teacher mindset, attitudes, and knowledge
  • Environments that may inhibit the work of CRT
  • Resources that facilitate CRT
  • Lack of training
  • Not making sure to know each well
  • Not sure what a culturally responsive classroom looks like

Additionally, one of the biggest difficulties is building rapport with students. Since teachers operate mostly on facts and classroom rules, students may not always see their teacher as a person but rather as an authority figure. 

Therefore, teachers need to show their true selves to students so that they build a relationship based on trust and respect. Another concern for teachers involves establishing positive expectations early on in the year. 

Furthermore, culturally responsive teaching involves a sense of respect and admiration for the goals of the students. By paying attention to all aspects of diversity (culture, gender, race, ethnicity, and all other relevant aspects), teachers can make their lessons more meaningful for their students. 

Inclusivity is one way to assist in this practice. Teachers must also check the materials they use for the lesson and make sure that they do not offend any particular group of people.

SEE: Why teachers are important

FAQs

How do you make sure you are providing a culturally responsive experience for your students?

To provide a culturally responsive teaching experience for your students, you can start by creating and maintaining an inclusive classroom environment. This can be achieved through the use of native materials and by employing a student instructor from the target language. You can also use alternative assessment techniques and use authentic assessments.

Does everyone have to be a culturally responsive teacher?

No. Not everyone has to understand and be culturally responsive. However, each person who interacts with diverse student populations should understand the importance of being culturally responsive towards all students. It’s safe to say everyone cannot be culturally responsive, but every teacher does.

SEE: How to make more money as a teacher

Final Thoughts 

Teaching with cultural awareness is the ideal approach if you work in multicultural education, but it is also a smart choice for all educators. It will allow you to have a greater understanding of your students and their culture. Furthermore, you will connect with students in a way that will make learning experiences and connections meaningful. 

In general, the benefits of culturally responsive teaching outweigh any potential drawbacks. Implementing this on a large scale will require teachers with the right skills. It also requires models that are replicable across a wide variety of classroom settings. Consequently, you can increase the diversity in classrooms and help future generations have a more inclusive society.

The topic of multicultural education is closely connected to culturally responsive teaching. To learn more, read the article detailing what multicultural education is all about.

The skills and qualities you have as a teacher are crucial to your success. You must have problem-solving skills when teaching cultural topics. It’s very important since you need to know how to address any diversity or unity issues in a culturally responsive class.

Thanks for reading.