Cultural Responsiveness

Ladson-Billings (1994) defines culturally responsive pedagogy as “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically (p. 17-18)”. Pedagogy of this type builds upon students’ cultural and linguistic resources through various methods such as high standards, restructured student-teacher relationships, community involvement, culturally mediated instruction, culturally congruent curriculum, and cultural sensitivity (Powell, 1997; Tatum, 2000).

Richards, Brown, and Forde (2007) give a more comprehensive description:

Culturally responsive pedagogy facilitates and supports the achievement of all students. In a culturally responsive classroom, effective teaching and learning occur in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement. Culturally responsive pedagogy comprises three dimensions: (a) institutional, (b) personal, and (c) instructional. The institutional dimension reflects the administration and its policies and values. The personal dimension refers to the cognitive and emotional processes teachers must engage in to become culturally responsive. The instructional dimension includes materials, strategies, and activities that form the basis of instruction. All three dimensions significantly interact in the teaching and learning process and are critical to understanding the effectiveness of culturally responsive pedagogy (p.64).

To do this kind of teaching well requires tapping into a wide range of cultural knowledge, experiences, contributions, and perspectives. Emotions, beliefs, values, ethos, opinions, and feelings are scrutinized along with factual information to make curriculum and instruction more reflective of and responsive to ethnic diversity. However, every conceivable aspect of an ethnic group’s culture is not replicated in the classroom. Nor are the cultures included in the curriculum used only with students from that ethnic group. Cultural responsive pedagogy focuses on those elements of cultural socialization that most directly affect learning (Gay, 2000, pp. 31-32).


Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: successful teachers of African American children (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Powell, Gary C. (1997). On being a culturally sensitive instructional designed and educator. Educational Technology, 37(2), 6-14.

Richards, H., Brown, A., Forde, T. (2007). Addressing diversity in schools: Culturally responsive pedagogy. Teaching Exceptional Children, 23 (3), 64-68.

Tatum, B. D. (2000). Examining racial and cultural thinking. Educational Leadership, 57(8), 54-57.

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