Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

Deliver inclusive content and instruction to ensure students from all cultures have full and equitable access to learning

About Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

Overview Description

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) is a foundational approach to instruction based on the understanding that culture is central to learning. Culture informs how students communicate, think, learn, and interact. As such, ensuring classrooms are culturally responsive is an integral part of creating learning environments that are effective for all students.

Often, CRTL is thought of as a way of being responsive to students of color and therefore only applicable to teachers working with diverse populations. While this is certainly an important aspect of CRTL, it is not the only consideration. For teachers working with mostly white or monocultural populations, adopting a culturally responsive approach enables students to build an appreciation and understanding of perspectives that are different from their own.

So, is Culturally Responsive Teaching for everyone? The answer is a resounding yes!

By laying a culturally responsive foundation that honors diverse student backgrounds and experiences, teachers create the conditions in which meaningful learning can take place.

Why it's important

Historically, the educational system has valued certain cultures over others, promoting biases in curriculum and instruction that have largely ignored and devalued the cultural identity of many students. When students feel excluded and unseen, they intuit the message that they are not valued in the learning environment, which can have negative implications on their learning, mindset, and overall success down the road.

For students who are part of the historically promoted culture, a lack of exposure to other viewpoints perpetuates and reinforces the dominance of white normativity. It is essential that teachers expose and acknowledge both the historical and ongoing implications of white privilege as a foundational step toward developing students' commitment to and ability to take action against social injustice. When teachers establish a culturally responsive classroom, they ensure that students have both the historical context and appreciation for different perspectives to empathize and engage respectfully with those from other cultures.

At BetterLesson, we believe that the best and most direct antidote to our country's current state of division and inequality  is education. By integrating topics of cultural inclusion throughout every child's K-12 experience, we can develop thoughtful and compassionate students who will graduate to become informed and empathetic citizens. We feel it is incumbent upon all educators to embrace a culturally responsive approach to teaching so that all students develop values of respect and appreciation of diversity.

What success looks like

Creating a culturally responsive classroom and addressing all elements of a curriculum are not mutually exclusive endeavors. When a classroom is truly culturally responsive, all students will be more engaged and ultimately more successful.

Naturally, the day-to-day specifics will vary across grade levels, content areas, and contexts. However, there are some common threads that exist across all culturally responsive classrooms:

  • Students feel safe and trust the individuals in the classroom community, allowing honest and open conversations to occur.

  • Students feel respected, protected, and empowered to be who they are.

  • Curriculum and content is inclusive of multiple perspectives.

  • Students have opportunities to share their opinions, values, ideas, and dreams with one another.

  • Teachers take time to understand students so that they can make connections to the world in ways that feel respectful and relevant to students.

  • Teachers thoughtfully plan content choices to engage students in relevant, deep thought.

  • Teachers reach out to families in a culturally respectful manner.

  • Community members are empowered as valued contributors to learning.

Featured Strategies

Being culturally responsive involves learning about your own perceptions of students & then creating equitable learning experiences for them
Being culturally responsive involves learning about your own perceptions of students & then creating equitable learning experiences for them
Effective classroom management creates a welcoming learning environment that supports all learners, even when they experience challenges
Effective classroom management creates a welcoming learning environment that supports all learners, even when they experience challenges
In order to enjoy truly collaborative learning communities, students need identify blind spots and develop proactive responses to bias
In order to enjoy truly collaborative learning communities, students need identify blind spots and develop proactive responses to bias

Growth Areas

BetterLesson growth areas are targeted goals for growth in a learning domain through BetterLesson Coaching. Learn more about BetterLesson Coaching.
I drive engagement by demonstrating an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of students' cultural backgrounds
I ensure that my curriculum is inclusive of diverse cultures and viewpoints
My students develop an appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures and perspectives
My students and I engage in effective partnerships with caregivers and community stakeholders
My students develop social and political awareness and take action against injustice

Additional Reading

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