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What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?

classroom management mindset teacher life Apr 12, 2022

Today’s classroom looks very different than it did 10 years ago. Current students have been through more in the last few years than most students did in their whole educational career. This has created a need for teachers to ensure that their classrooms are safe, accepting, and engaging. There are many things that teachers have to evaluate and identify about each student to ensure that students' needs are being met. Doing this creates a Culturally Responsive Classroom that helps students learn. 


Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is a teaching strategy that connects students’ cultures, life experiences, and languages with the content that they are learning at school. This connection makes learning more relevant and effective for students. 


There are a few main aspects of Culturally Responsive teaching that cannot be overlooked. 

  1. Creating a classroom where students of all backgrounds and cultures feel empowered to share their thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism.
  2. Using diversity across the curriculum in all work and study practices. 
  3. Building Relationships

In order to do this, it is important that the teacher in the classroom does their work ahead of time to set a clear and strong foundation for culturally responsive teaching. Educators need to identify their own biases and cultures appropriately in order to be open to fully embracing a culturally responsive strategy in their classroom. 

Here are some starting points for developing a culturally responsive classroom:


Evaluate Yourself

What biases are you bringing to your classroom? Can you change your outlook on certain topics to help your students learn better? How can you use your background and experiences to help enrich your classroom? Students in your class will come from many different backgrounds and students learn best when they feel comfortable and safe. 


Commit to It

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not implemented in one lesson and then forgotten about. It is a systemic change in the way you run your classroom and how you approach teaching. Doing research and implementing new strategies will keep your students engaged and empower them to take an active role in their learning. It is also imperative that you evaluate the strategies consistently to adjust as needed. Not every strategy is going to work as well as the others and strategy effectiveness will vary depending on the students you have in your classroom. Being in tune with what your students need will help develop a positive classroom culture. 


Gain Knowledge of Your Student’s Lives

One great strategy for culturally responsive teaching is to build relationships with the students in your class. Learn about their likes and dislikes, home life and family make-up, goals and aspirations, etc. This will help you build productive relationships with your students and in return, they will feel safe in your classroom. When students feel safe, they learn better. It is also important to let the students learn about you as well. It should be a two-way relationship, that will also build trust and security.


Implement culturally responsive teaching strategies

There are many culturally responsive teaching strategies that can be implemented in the classroom to help students learn. Here are some that you can try to implement in your classroom:

  • Learn about your students (for a great way to do this, check out the Student Interest Survey linked here)
  • Use relevant world problems and examples
  • Bring in Guest Speakers with diverse backgrounds and stories
  • Use media that positively depict a range of cultures
  • Use Cooperative learning with diverse groups of students
  • Involve the parents in the classroom and learning


Evaluate and Improve

As with any teaching strategy, it is important to evaluate the effectiveness of any strategy that you implement and adjust accordingly. Strategies are going to work differently with each class, so you need to decide which is the best strategy and that may take some trial and error. 


Students in today’s world have been through a lot of challenges, changes, and unrest in the past few years. When a child is stressed or feels unsafe, quality learning and retention are not possible. We need to adapt and allow students every opportunity to be successful and help them through that process. These strategies as well as a mind shift for teachers is a great starting point for building Culturally Responsive Classrooms for all students. 


If you are interested in learning more about culturally responsive teaching, listen to our Teaching from the Couch episode #27 “Culturally Responsive Teaching with Dr. Shaun Woodly."

All content in this post is directly based on that podcast episode and conversation with Dr. Shaun Woodly. Dr. Woodly shares a lot of experience and knowledge on culturally responsive teaching. 

Dr. Shaun Woodly is a sought after speaker & professional development expert whose highly engaging, fun, yet thought-provoking messages inspire guests for action and change. Dr. Woodly works with educators at all levels, specializing in helping those that serve in urban and culturally diverse communities. You can find more information from him on his Instagram page @teachhustleinspire or at his website