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Culturally Responsive Teaching: Student-Centered Approach

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

“Our brains are wired to make connections”

Students in PK-12 education through higher education bring to the classroom diverse learning needs as well as cultural experiences and identities. Understanding Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is important to creating educational experiences that support success for all students across all learning formats (face-to-face, hybrid, online). CRT provides a research and student-centered approach to course design and teaching that acknowledges students’ diverse backgrounds, cultures, languages, and life experiences as strengths to be nurtured and relevant to what students learn within educational environments and their lives.

College students at graduation taking a selfie

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Dr. Geneva Gay, and Zaretta Hammond have and continue to make transformational contributions to education through their work with CRT. Ladson-Billings, a pioneer in cultural inclusion, is recognized for introducing the concept of Culturally Relevant Teaching. Ladson-Billings defined Culturally Responsive Teaching in The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, as "a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes" (1994, p. 382).

In the article “Teaching To and Through Cultural Diversity” Gay (2013) examines CRT through her own writings, including publications from 1972 and 2010. In 1972, Gay stated, “Education must be specifically designed to perpetuate and enrich the culture of the people and equip them with the tools to become functional participants in society, if they so choose” (2013, p. 50). In 2010, Gay defined CRT as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of references, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (2013, pp. 49-50).

In 2015, Hammond published Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain. In this book, Hammond states, “A systemic approach to culturally responsive teaching is the perfect catalyst to stimulate the brain’s neuroplasticity” (p. 15) and that culturally responsive pedagogy has the ability to help students build intellective capacity and intellective competence” (p. 16). Hammond’s book introduces the "Ready for Rigor Framework" that includes four core areas: (a) Awareness, (b) Learning Partnerships, (c) Information Procession, and (d) Community Building. As shared by Hammond (2015), “When the tools and strategies of each area are blended together, they create the social, emotional, and cognitive conditions that allow students to more actively engage and take ownership of their learning process” (p. 18).

CRT can be transformational for teaching and learning. There are many open-access resources available that provide strategies to support CRT and how to integrate practices into course design and instruction. There are also resources that explore the overlap between CRT and Universal Design for Learning.

CRT Resources:

Author: Dr. Kristen Betts

Learn more about how INTERACT123 can support your work with Culturally Responsive Teaching.


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