Culturally Responsive Teaching traces its origin to the early 90s and was written passionately by people who believed in equality in the classroom. It was written by people who sought to be the change they desired to see. This paper discusses the early days of the Culturally Responsive Framework and presents the people that worked best to promote it to teachers and the public as a whole up to the point where now the government pushes for school districts to maintain relevancy in education by blending education with culture. The paper goes further to identify some of the definitions of the framework mostly from the people that wrote expertly about it. A discovery of a competing theory namely Critical Responsive Teaching is made and some light shed on how it is different from the Culturally Responsive Teaching. Finally the paper explains how the framework came into existence and the pressing reason why a solution was needed fast to save students. This paper is proof that Culturally Responsive Teaching is truly responsive in the education of our young generation.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Geneva Gay defined culturally responsive teaching as “Cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more responsive and effective for them.” (Gay, 2010) In her view, a classroom whose culture was maintained in the learning process was a class that emphasized on the strength of its students. Culture is not a weakness as many view it but richness in identity that is supposed to improve confidence in all areas of life including education. The utilization and the incorporation of culture by a teacher mean that they respect the diversity of the classroom that they teach and set aside differences. They encourage students to care for each other because they understand each other’s culture. A teacher is defined by their achievement and a teacher that is culturally responsive is bound to be more fulfilled in their career and push themselves to be better.
As defined by Gloria Ladson-Billings, Culturally responsive teaching is “that which empowers students to maintain cultural integrity, while succeeding academically.” (Castagano & Brayboy, 2008)
A competing theory for culturally responsive teaching is called the Critical Responsive Pedagogy. It is not concerned with people’s experiences or ways of the world which are what culture is comprised of. It is just education that does not put emphasis on the inclusion of culture in the teaching process and is what was mainly used by teachers who taught in the past.
The Supporters of Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally responsive teaching first traces its roots to a passionate woman known as Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. She was a strong believer in teaching being ‘culturally appropriate, congruent, responsive and compatible.’ (Castagano & Brayboy, 2008) She saw no reason in students being affected culturally just because they were learning something new. Her influence on the topic was so big that she even influenced the U.S Department of Education to consider her views and finally implement them in Equity Assistance Centers to help schools be culturally responsive.
Another big contribution into Culturally Responsive Teaching was made by James Banks, famously known for his writings on the five dimensions of multicultural education (Flinders, D.J., & Thorton, S.J, 2009). He may not have written directly to the topic at hand, but his five dimensions shed more light on what culturally responsive teaching should look like. He emphasized on teachers being aware of their culturally different students and accommodating them in the curriculum. He focused on students and believed that they had a right to question anything that they felt uncomfortable with in the teachings. Teachings were supposed to be culture considerate and empower schools around the world.
James Scheurich’s contribution was that any successful nation is represented by the equality in education background for all students regardless of race or background. Through this admission, Scheurich definitely supported the idea of teaching incorporating the different cultures of the students in the classroom.
These three authors are the major contributors to education that strives to preserve the culture of students because their culture is part of who they are. They may have made different contributions but none is irresponsive.
Cultural responsive teaching is most responsive in schools. These schools include kindergarten, elementary school, highs school and higher institutions of learning like colleges. The framework is not only responsive in schools but in any institution that has any kind of student and a teacher to instruct them on any form of formal education.
The framework is so important that it has also been used by scholars who are not necessarily teaching but talking about English as an International Language (EIL). According to Principles and practices of teaching English as an International Language, a teacher needs to consider how their teaching will match with the locals. In making a pedagogical decision, a teacher is required to consider the features of the local culture (Alsagoff, McKay, Hu & Renandya, 2012). This shows for a fact how important culture is in any form of education.
In EIL, considering culture means that a teacher is able to understand their student and tailor the lessons to their needs. In EIL, culturally responsive teaching is very effective in helping communities of the expanding and outer circles to be able to embrace the language in their own terms. Incorporating culture means that they will not be influenced by inner circle English beliefs which make English too complex for some communities. Culture in the instruction of EIL ensures the survival of other English’s in the rest of the world that serve their function of communication and trade.
A teacher that is sensitive to culture is a leader for their students who will go on to improve their school and community (Hastings, Jacob & Norton, n.d.) Valuing the local culture as the teacher helps students value it too and not view it as primitive but as strength they need to build upon and be proud of. It ensures the bonding of students over shared community values.
The development of Culturally Responsive Teaching can be traced to the 1990s because the ‘mother’ of the framework, Dr.Gloria, published her work around that time. Most of the articles and works about the framework have dates in the 90s and the years following this era. Most of the early contributors of the culturally responsive teaching wrote it at a time where they were speaking on behalf of the black students mainly because it was an era that the black community was fighting for fairness in America.
The authors badly wanted to bridge the gap between students in the US. The development of Culturally Responsive Teaching was the one way to help students embrace what they are and not what people told them they were. This embrace of culture led to a rise in students that were proud of their communities and wanted to change the story of other students and improve their neighborhoods. Today’s writers however have expanded the conversation to include other disadvantaged groups such as Latin Americans and African students. Every child deserves an equal chance as the next child to receive quality education and get a fair chance at competing in life.
The Why-culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally Responsive Teaching sought to solve the issues of traditional teaching methods that were not effective for most of the students they were used on. Teachers needed help and this framework became a dream come true, as they sought to understand the lives of their students. The framework wanted to encourage every teacher to take it upon themselves to be culturally competent. Most teachers in the past taught all students the same regardless of their cultural background. This led to a disadvantaged group of students. First, some students could not connect class teachings because they did not apply the same in their cultures. Second, students were not able to support each other because they came from different cultures and they did not have a glimpse into each other’s backgrounds.
The introduction of this framework was to open the eyes of teachers to the possibility of having better teaching sessions and being better at their work. Today, one can comfortably say that Culturally Responsive Teaching is increasingly solving the problems it was created to solve. It is doing even better by going above the expected and finding its way in classrooms outside the United States and although it first addressed problems majorly faced by African American students, today, it helps more students whose native language is not automatically English.
Culturally Responsive Teaching is providing every learner a chance to dream bigger and better for their respective communities as they hold high the culture of their people. Education is no longer preserved for a select few cultures, but is now for everyone that desires to be educated. Teachers are doing a better job at raising well equipped students that are more confident about whom they are.
Alsagoff, L., McKay, S., Hu, G., & Renandya, W. (2012). Principles and practices of teaching English as an international language (2nd ed., p. 37). Newyork and London: ROUTLEDGE.
Castagno, A., & Brayboy, B. (2008). Culturally Responsive Schooling for Indigenous Youth: A Review of the Literature. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654308323036
Flinders, D.J., & Thornton, S.J. (2009). The curriculum studies reader, 3rd Ed. New York: Routledge.
Gay, G. (2010). Culturally Responsive Teaching. Second Edition. Multicultural Education Series. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED510010
Hastings, C., Jacob, L., & Norton, B. Social justice (1st ed., p. 26). Alexandria: TESOL International Association.