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Education Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
Susan C. Faircloth
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0010


Historically, the academic performance of many culturally and linguistically diverse students has tended to lag behind that of their peers. This has been attributed by some as a failure of the educational system to meet these students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. Increasing diversity within the school-aged population demands that schools respond to the needs and abilities of these students. Central to these efforts is a commitment to the preparation, recruitment, and retention of a teaching force capable of acknowledging and respecting the unique learning abilities and needs of their students. Emerging in the1990s, the term “culturally responsive pedagogies” (CRP), often interchanged with the term “culturally relevant pedagogies,” has been used to describe the knowledge, skills, and dispositions characteristic of teachers who embrace the role of cultural and linguistic diversity within the teaching and learning environment. Teachers who engage in culturally responsive practices view their students’ cultural and linguistic diversity as strengths rather than deficits. Culturally responsive teachers build on their students’, and their families’/communities’ unique strengths as they work to develop effective educational practices for students from diverse backgrounds. Although hailed as a marker of effective teaching for culturally and linguistically diverse students, there is limited large-scale empirical evidence documenting the actual impact of CRP on students’ academic performance, leading some to question the utility of such practices. Given the highly contentious nature of the early-21st-century educational system it is imperative that increased research be conducted to document the impact of CRP on students’ academic experiences and subsequent outcomes.

General Overviews

In Ladson-Billings 1995a, the author, a leading proponent of culturally relevant or responsive pedagogies (CRP), articulated the theoretical underpinnings of CRP. This article is viewed as one of the seminal publications in the field of culturally responsive pedagogies. Since then, Ladson-Billings has continued to refine the theoretical underpinning and argument for the enactment of such teaching practices. This is best noted in Ladson-Billings 1995b, Ladson-Billings 2005 (originally published in 2002), and a decade later in Ladson-Billings 2007 which identified the essential elements of culturally responsive teaching. Although Ladson-Billings has been instrumental in the development and expansion of the field of CRP, it is important to note that a number of other scholars and practitioners have also written on this topic. For example, Morrison, et al. 2008 reviews the literature published since the formal emergence of CRP in the mid-1990s. The authors note both the strengths and limitations of the extant research based on CRPs.

  • Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 1995a. Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal 47:465–491.

    DOI: 10.3102/00028312032003465Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Represents the author’s attempt to articulate a “theoretical model of culturally relevant pedagogy” (p. 469). She argues that the articulation of such a theory is an ethical and professional imperative for both researchers and teacher educators. This article builds on the author’s work with successful teachers of African American students.

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  • Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 1995b. But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice 34.3: 159–165.

    DOI: 10.1080/00405849509543675Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Identifies three essential characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogy. These include: emphasis on academic success, ability and willingness to support and include students’ culture and cultural knowledge in the classroom, and fostering of critical consciousness (i.e., ongoing critique of societal conditions that serve to promote and sustain inequalities) among students.

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  • Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 2005. Culturally relevant teaching: The key to making multicultural education work. In Research and multi-cultural education: From the margins to the mainstream. Edited by Carl A. Grant, 102–118. Bristol, PA: Falmer.

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    Originally published in 2002. Ladson-Billings argues that multicultural education alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. Instead, she argues that teachers must continue to examine their personal and professional beliefs and practices as they relate to the teaching of diverse students. In doing so, teachers can teach all students more effectively.

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  • Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 2007. Culturally relevant teaching: Theory and practice. In Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. 6th ed. Edited by James A. Banks and Cherry A. McGee Banks, 221–245. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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    Identifies three elements of culturally relevant teaching: emphasis on student achievement; cultural competence (i.e., awareness and understanding of the cultural nuances of students); and the teacher’s ability and willingness to engage students in analyzing and responding to social issues that impact them, their communities, and their schools.

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  • Morrison, Kristan A., Holly H. Robbins, and Dana Gregory Rose. 2008. Operationalizing culturally relevant pedagogy: A synthesis of classroom-based research. Equity and Excellence in Education 41:433–435.

    DOI: 10.1080/10665680802400006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a review of the literature (since 1995) published on the implementation of culturally relevant teaching practices. As the authors point out, a limitation of these studies is their focus on homogenous groupings of students within the classroom.

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The Importance of CRP

Historically, students from racial, ethnic, and linguistic minority groups have been marginalized by the educational system. In fact, education has often been used as a means of acculturating and assimilating students into the mainstream dominant culture. As outlined in Freire 2000, the design and delivery of culturally responsive teaching and learning practices offers a way in which to better meet the educational and cultural needs of students, while empowering them to fight back against oppressive forces within their schools and communities.

  • Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

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    Offers a critique of the dominant forces that have served to oppress and marginalize the masses. Through this book, Freire charges historically marginalized groups to rise up against these oppressive forces and to envision and enact a new and self-determined existence for themselves and their communities. Through this process, individuals and groups become more involved, active and meaningful co-constructors of their own educational experiences.

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Globalization and CRP

Since its emergence, the adoption and use of Culturally Responsive Pedagogies has experienced a widespread appeal across the globe. At least two national reports, one in New Zealand (Bishop, et al. 2007) and another in the United States (Villegas 1991), have addressed emergent trends in the implementation of such teaching practices. For example, Bishop, et al. 2007 seeks to identify examples of the pedagogy of relationship in practice within the secondary school classroom in New Zealand. This report was specifically interested in Māori (Indigenous) students. In contrast, Villegas 1991 focuses on African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians within the United States. While broad in scope, this report failed to specifically address Asian/Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students.

Students and Teachers

There is an extensive body of qualitative and quantitative research, reports, and opinion pieces on the topic of culturally responsive/relevant pedagogies. Although a review of each of these publications is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note that the bulk of publications focused on students and teachers at the elementary and secondary school level can be grouped into a number of categories including: Power Dynamics, African American Students, Indigenous Students, Hispanic and Latino/a Students, Students Identified as English Language Learners, Exceptional Children, and Teacher Preparation and Professional Development.

Power Dynamics

Gay 2010 and Howard 1999 underscore the power dynamics that often exist not only in the relationship between students and teachers but also between teachers and school/district/state and national school leadership. Gay 2010 underscores the potential for CRP to counterbalance such power differentials so that students (and their families and communities) have more say in the overall shape, form, and delivery of their education. Howard describes the ways in which teachers’ ability to engage in culturally responsive practices is hindered by their own lack of knowledge and understanding of the students with whom they work or plan to work.

  • Gay, Geneva. 2010. Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College.

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    A seminal work in the field of culturally responsive teaching practices. This book offers insights into the power of culturally responsive teaching to transform the educational experiences of students from traditionally underserved groups.

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  • Howard, Gary R. 1999. We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multicultural schools. New York: Teachers College.

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    A practitioner-oriented book, written in response to the author’s experiences with a predominantly white teaching force that he describes as disconnected from their students due to differences in race/ethnicity, as well as of knowledge and understanding of who their students are and what they bring to the teaching and learning process.

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African American Students

Although the largest minority group in the United States, many African American students continue to lag behind their peers in terms of academic achievement. Allen and Boykin 1992, Foster 1995, Howard 2001, Howard and Terry 2011, and Lee 1998 discuss the role of culturally responsive pedagogies in helping to improve the academic experiences and outcomes for African American students.

  • Allen, Brenda A., and Wade A. Boykin. 1992. African-American children and the educational process: Alleviating cultural discontinuity through prescriptive pedagogy. School Psychology Review 21.4: 586–596.

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    Provides an overview of literature pertaining to the role of culture in helping to shape the educational experiences of African American students.

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  • Foster, Michelle. 1995. African American teachers and culturally relevant pedagogy. In Handbook of research on multicultural education. Edited by James A. Banks and Cherry A. M. Banks, 570–581. New York: Macmillan.

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    Foster reviews the literature on the characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogy among African American teachers. Characteristics include a strong sense of cultural understanding and relationship between the teacher and African American communities. Points out the lack of research on this topic.

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  • Howard, Tyrone C. 2001. Telling their side of the story: African American students’ perceptions of culturally relevant teaching. Urban Review 33.2: 131–149.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1010393224120Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents the results of a qualitative study of African American elementary students’ perceptions of educational practices within four inner-city schools. The author found that these students preferred caring teachers, teachers who created warm and welcoming classroom environments, and teachers who were able to make learning fun.

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  • Howard, Tyrone C., and Clarence L. Terry Sr. 2011. Culturally responsive pedagogy for African American Students: Promising programs and practices for enhanced academic performance. Teaching Education 22.4: 345–362.

    DOI: 10.1080/10476210.2011.608424Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Howard and Terry present the results of a three-year study of an intervention (GEAR UP: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) aimed at improving college attendance among African American students. Data indicated an increase in the number of participants accepted into colleges and universities.

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  • Lee, Carol D. 1988. Culturally responsive pedagogy and performance-based assessment. Journal of Negro Education 67.3: 268–279.

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    Lee addresses the use of performance-based assessment as a more culturally responsive means of assessment for use with African American students. This study involved the teaching of English as a an academic course.

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Indigenous Students

Representing less than 2 percent of the population in the United States, American Indian and Alaska Native students represent a wide array of tribal, cultural, and linguistic diversity, with more than six hundred different tribes and Alaska Native groups, and more than two hundred tribal languages spoken with varying degrees of fluency. Such diversity renders it nearly impossible to craft a one-size-fits-all approach to education appropriate for all of these students. Similar issues are evidenced in other parts of the world where Indigenous peoples continue to struggle to gain parity and equity within the educational arena. In response, Brayboy and Castagno 2009; Castagno and Brayboy 2008; Lipka, et al. 2005; Phillips, et al. 2004; and Watahomigie and McCarty 1994 discuss the role of culturally responsive pedagogies for Indigenous students (i.e., American Indian, Alaska Native, and Māori).

  • Brayboy, Bryan McKinley Jones, and Angela E. Castagno. 2009. Self-determination through Self-education: Culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous students in the U.S.A. Teaching Education 20.1: 31–53.

    DOI: 10.1080/10476210802681709Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the education of American Indian students in the United States can be improved by infusing Indigenous cultures and languages into the teaching and learning process. In doing so, students are better equipped to live and learn in both Indigenous and Western-dominated environments.

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  • Castagno, Angelina E., and Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy. 2008. Culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous youth: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research 78.4: 941–993.

    DOI: 10.3102/0034654308323036Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Reviews the literature on culturally responsive schooling (CRS) as it applies to American Indian youth in the United States. In doing so, they argue for a more Indigenous-oriented approach to CRS as a means of effecting more meaningful and lasting change in the education of Indigenous youth.

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  • Lipka, Jerry, Maureen P. Hogan, Joan Parker Webster, et al. 2005. Math in a cultural context: Two case studies of a successful culturally-based math project. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 36:367–385.

    DOI: 10.1525/aeq.2005.36.4.367Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the results of a mixed methods study involving two novice teachers (one who is originally from Alaska and one who is relatively new to Alaska) as they work to implement a culturally relevant math curriculum developed by Yup’ik elders and teachers. Similarities between the two teachers included the development of a strong sense of community.

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  • Phillips, Gwenneth, Stuart McNaughton, and Shelley MacDonald. 2004. Managing the mismatch: Enhancing early literacy progress for children with diverse language and cultural identities in mainstream urban schools in New Zealand. Journal of Educational Psychology 96:309–323.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.96.2.309Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Describes a study conducted in New Zealand, with Māori and Pacifika students. The authors identified ways in which teaching practices could be improved, thus resulting in improved academic performance for traditionally marginalized student groups.

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  • Watahomigie, Lucille J., and Teresa L. McCarty. 1994. Bilingual/bicultural education at Peach Springs: A Hualapai way of schooling. Peabody Journal of Education 69.2: 26–42.

    DOI: 10.1080/01619569409538763Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Details the development and implementation of a locally designed program aimed at improving the educational performance of Hualapai (American Indian) students, located in a reservation-based area in Arizona. The authors discuss a number of opportunities and challenges encountered in implementing and sustaining this program.

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Hispanic and Latino/a Students

As the fastest growing minority group in the United States, Hispanic and Latino/a students also represent a wide array of cultural and linguistic diversity. Gutiérrez 2002 and Irizarry 2007 discuss the role of culturally responsive pedagogies for Hispanic and Latino/a students.

  • Gutiérrez, Rochelle. 2002. Beyond essentialism: The complexity of language in teaching mathematics to Latina/o students. American Educational Research Journal 39:1047–1088.

    DOI: 10.3102/000283120390041047Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gutiérrez presents the results of a qualitative study of three secondary school calculus teachers and their work with Latino/a students. The author emphasizes the importance of recognizing the linguistic and cultural diversity present among Latino/a students and the role that such diversity may play in designing and delivering effective mathematics courses. Characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogies include: relevant teaching practices; emphasis on healthy student-teacher relationships; and care-oriented interactions with students, coupled with high academic standards.

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  • Irizarry, Jason G. 2007. Ethnic and urban intersections in the classroom: Latino students, hybrid identities, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Multicultural Perspectives 9.3: 21–28.

    DOI: 10.1080/15210960701443599Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Building on the results of his dissertation research, Irizarry attempts to expand the traditional conception of culturally responsive pedagogies to better meet the needs and abilities of students from multiethnic/racial/cultural backgrounds, as well as those whose sense of identity has been shaped in large part by their place of residence (i.e., rural, urban). In doing so, he introduces the term culturally connected teacher to describe those teachers who are able to connect with their students using their own lived experiences.

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Students Identified as English Language Learners

Each year, more and more students are identified as “English language learners,” or those who are not proficient in the English language. The lack of educators who are fluent, or even marginally proficient in a language other than English, makes it difficult for teachers and their students to communicate effectively. This has potentially negative ramifications for these students’ academic and social experiences within schools, as well as their subsequent academic achievement. Leonard, et al. 2009 and Sheets 1995 discuss the role of culturally relevant pedagogies for students identified as English language learners.

  • Leonard, Jacqueline, Caroline Nap, and Shade Adeleke. 2009. The complexities of culturally relevant pedagogy: A case study of two secondary mathematics teachers and their ESOL students. High School Journal 93.1: 3–22.

    DOI: 10.1353/hsj.0.0038Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this qualitative study, the authors illustrate challenges teachers may encounter when attempting to implement culturally responsive pedagogies (CRP) in the mathematics classroom, with students whose first language is not English and whose first culture differs from that of mainstream, Westernized culture(s). In spite of these challenges, the authors point out the utility of well-thought-out, planned, and implemented CRP-based practices.

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  • Sheets, Rosa H. 1995. From remedial to gifted: Effects of culturally centered pedagogy. Theory into Practice 34:186–193.

    DOI: 10.1080/00405849509543678Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sheets details the author’s experiences, over a three-year period, working with Latino students whose first language was Spanish. The author contends that the use of culturally appropriate teaching practices can result in students who have originally been identified as needing remedial education services due to language deficits being more accurately labeled as “gifted.”

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Exceptional Children

Historically, racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse children and youth have been among those most likely to be identified as exceptional children, also commonly referred to as students with disabilities and students with special educational needs. As Gay 2002 and Richards, et al. 2007 point out, educators have a legal and (some might argue) moral and ethical imperative to design and deliver interventions that are academically, as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate.

  • Gay, Geneva. 2002. Culturally responsive teaching in special education for ethnically diverse students: Setting the stage. Qualitative Studies in Education 15.6: 613–629.

    DOI: 10.1080/0951839022000014349Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Cites the need for culturally responsive pedagogies for all students, including those who receive special education supports and services. The author identifies facets of culturally responsive pedagogy, including “critical cultural consciousness of teachers [awareness of teachers]; culturally pluralistic classroom climates; diverse communities of learners; and multicultural curriculum and instruction” (p. 613).

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  • Richards, Heraldo V., Ayanna E. Brown, and Timothy B. Forde. 2007. Addressing diversity in schools: Culturally responsive pedagogy. Teaching Exceptional Children 39.3: 64–68.

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    Discusses the importance of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) for students with special educational needs. Outlines ways teachers can become more culturally responsive and identify relevant resources. According to this study, CRP can be divided into three components: institutional (policies guiding philosophies), personal (teachers’ feelings and thoughts regarding CRP) and instructional (resources necessary to teach).

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Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

Although an increasing number of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds attend schools, the teaching ranks often fail to mirror the diversity represented among the student population. This has implications for these teachers’ ability to successfully engage their students in ways that are culturally relevant and appropriate. As outlined below, Gay 2002; Penetito, et al. 2011; Sleeter 2011; Villegas and Lucas 2002a; and Villegas and Lucas 2002b discuss the role of teacher preparation and professional development in the preparation of more culturally responsive teachers.

  • Gay, Geneva. 2002. Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education 53.2: 106–116.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022487102053002003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gay draws on work originally published in the book, Culturally Responsive Teaching. She describes the essential steps for preparing culturally responsive teachers: learning about cultural diversity; using one’s knowledge of cultural diversity to design culturally relevant and appropriate curricula; demonstrating an ethic of care and establishing a welcoming learning environment; learning to communicate with those from other cultures; and designing and modifying teaching practices to better meet students’ learning styles and needs.

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  • Penetito, Wally, Rawiri Hindle, Anne Hynds, Catherine Savage, and Larissa Kus. 2011. The impact of culturally responsive pedagogies on students and families. In Professional development for culturally responsive and relationship-based pedagogy. Edited by Christine E. Sleeter, 139–162. New York: Peter Lang.

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    Presents lessons learned from a large-scale professional development initiative in New Zealand. Findings have implications for the training and professional development of teachers working with Indigenous students at the secondary level in New Zealand and elsewhere around the world.

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  • Sleeter, Christine E., ed. 2011. Professional development for culturally responsive and relationship-based pedagogy. New York: Peter Lang.

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    Sleeter describes the results of an evaluation of a government-sponsored professional development initiative to improve the cultural proficiency and responsiveness of secondary teachers in schools serving Māori (Indigenous) students in New Zealand.

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  • Villegas, Ana María, and Tamara Lucas. 2002a. Preparing culturally responsive teachers: Rethinking the curriculum. Journal of Teacher Education 53.13: 20–32.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022487102053001003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Outlines a proposal for redesigning teacher preparation curricula to move beyond what has been traditionally offered. The goal was to develop curricula through which teacher candidates might be better prepared to engage in culturally responsive teaching and learning practices.

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  • Villegas, Ana María, and Tamara Lucas. 2002b. Educating culturally responsive teachers: A coherent approach. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    Villegas and Lucas describe, in detail, their proposal for a redesigned curriculum for the preparation of aspiring teachers, focusing on necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions for culturally responsive teaching. This model builds on the principle of social justice.

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Teaching Resources

As noted in Richards, et al. 2007 (cited under Exceptional Children), in addition to peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and book chapters, a number of organizations have been developed to address the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. Although these sites are focused more broadly on multicultural education and issues of diversity within schools, they offer recommendations for designing and implementing culturally responsive teaching and learning practices within the K–12 arena. The Alaska Native Knowledge Network provides resources for individuals and organizations involved in the education of Alaska Native students. Although no longer funded, the Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, served as a clearinghouse for resources on diversity and education. Materials are still available on the center’s website. Originally funded by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Denver and Arizona State University, the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST) focused specifically on the education of diverse students with special educational needs. The Northwest Regional Education Laboratory offers technical assistance and other resources for educators working with American Indian and Alaska Native students. The remaining resources, Rethinking Schools and Culturally Responsive Teaching offer resources specifically related to culturally responsive teaching. Finally Teaching Tolerance offers resources aimed at promoting issues of social justice and equity for students from racially, ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds. Each of these resources is described in brief below.


Although hailed by many as a means of achieving more equitable education for culturally and linguistically diverse students, culturally responsive pedagogies have encountered a number of challenges. As outlined below, these challenges are often socio-political in nature.

Social and Political Nature of Teaching in Today’s Schools

The politically volatile nature of schooling often makes it difficult to successfully design and implement culturally responsive teaching and learning practices in public schools. In spite of the impact of culturally responsive pedagogies on diverse students, the use of such practices is increasingly encountering opposition from those who would argue that such practices run counter to the accountability efforts embodied by current legislation and policy. This tension is addressed in Sleeter 2005. Gutiérrez, et al. 2002 also speaks to the potential “backlash” encountered by educators who seek to engage in teaching practices that go counter to efforts to standardize the curriculum without regard to students’ cultural, linguistic, or learning differences. Additional challenges to CRP are discussed in Sleeter 2012 and Young 2010.

  • Gutiérrez, Kris, Jolynn Asato, Maria Santos, and Neil Gotanda. 2002. Backlash pedagogy: Language and culture and the politics of reform. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 24:335–351.

    DOI: 10.1080/10714410214744Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the social and political forces that serve to undermine the development and use of culturally responsive pedagogies in schools, particularly in the areas of language and literacy. In doing so, these social and political forces serve to reinforce the status quo and to further privilege those already in power, to the detriment of those who have historically been marginalized.

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  • Sleeter, Christine E. 2005. Un-standardizing multicultural teaching in standards-based classrooms. New York: Teachers College.

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    Sleeter argues for the continued enactment of culturally responsive pedagogies and curriculum in the face of increasing calls for standardization of teaching and assessment practices. When developing curriculum. Sleeter urges educators to ask the following questions: (1) What purpose does curriculum serve? (2) What constitutes knowledge and whose knowledge should be taught? (3) How should the learning environment be organized? and (4) How should curriculum be evaluated?

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  • Sleeter, C. E. May. 2012. Confronting the marginalization of culturally responsive pedagogy. Urban Education 47.3: 562–584.

    DOI: 10.1177/0042085911431472Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sleeter discusses three challenges to culturally responsive pedagogies (CRP). Challenges include: (1) oversimplification, (2) lack of research citing the relationship between CRP and improved student outcomes, and (3) “political backlash” against the use of CRP. She calls for increased research, improved understanding of what CRP is and how it operates within the contexts of schools, and a movement away from political backlash against CRP.

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  • Young, Evelyn. 2010. Challenges to conceptualizing and actualizing culturally relevant pedagogy: How viable is the theory in classroom practice? Journal of Teacher Education 61:248–260.

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    Young describes the results of a qualitative study, conducted in collaboration with an urban school, to identify ways in which the theory underpinning culturally responsive teaching practices, is actually assumed and implemented at the school level. Identifies a number of ongoing challenges in the successful implementation of culturally relevant pedagogies.

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Counterargument from the Field

Culturally responsive pedagogies have also come under fire from those who study the relationship between race/ethnicity and schooling. Ogbu and Simons 1998 is among the earliest detractors of CRP. The authors argue that the extent to which one views the dominant society as being oppressive is more instrumental than culture in shaping one’s life experiences.

  • Ogbu, John U., and Herbert D. Simons. 1998. Voluntary and involuntary minorities: A cultural-ecological theory of school performance with some implications for education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 29.2: 155–188.

    DOI: 10.1525/aeq.1998.29.2.155Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ogbu and Simons argue that gaps in educational achievement can be lessened by increasing the level of trust between students and teachers rather than decreasing the cultural gap between these two groups. The authors base this argument on the belief that there are two types of minority groups: voluntary (those who choose to live as minorities, i.e., immigrants) and involuntary (those who are co-opted into minority status).

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Persisting in the Face of Challenges

As previously referenced, the field of culturally responsive pedagogies was born out of the need to address the unique cultural, linguistic, social, emotional, and academic needs of students in elementary and secondary schools. As reiterated in Delpit 1988, Delpit 1986, and Moll and González 2004, culturally responsive pedagogies are unique in that they embrace the notion of caring and respectful relationships between teachers and students. CRP also recognizes and values the wealth of knowledge and experiences students, their families and communities offer to the teaching and learning process. While some would argue that this approach has been successful, others would argue that there is an ongoing need for diversity in both the teacher ranks and the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and practices teachers embody as they strive to work with an increasingly diverse student population. As the authors below point out this can be difficult, and at times, potentially risky work. This work becomes even more difficult in the face of increasing pressures to standardize the curriculum and respond to local, state, and national accountability efforts that are often devoid of culturally responsive philosophies or practices. As indicated in the introduction, increased empirical research is needed to document the impact of CRP on student academic achievement. An example of such research is presented in Howard and Terry 2011. This study found that African American students who received culturally relevant instruction had high rates of graduation and college attendance. An earlier publication by Ladson-Billings 2009 also found that teachers who engaged in culturally relevant teaching practices contributed to the academic success of their students. For these teachers, “cultural competence was an important source of connection between the teachers and their students. They believed it was important that the students were well grounded in their own culture as a prerequisite to becoming versed in what might be considered mainstream culture” (p. xi).

  • Delpit, Lisa D. 1986. Skills and other dilemmas of a progressive black educator. Harvard Educational Review 56.4: 379–385.

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    Delpit offers a personal account of dilemmas she encountered as an African American teacher. She focuses on the distinction between process and skills-oriented instructional practices and the dilemmas encountered when teachers are encouraged to embrace teaching practices that run counter to their own personal beliefs about “good” or effective teaching.

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  • Delpit, Lisa D. 1988. The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review 59.3: 280–298.

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    Written in response to an earlier article (Delpit 1986), Delpit 1988 addresses the implicit and explicit roles of power in helping to shape relationships and interactions between students and teachers. Delpit argues that educational decisions and the power to make these decisions rarely rests in the hands of individuals from racially, culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse groups.

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  • Howard, Tyrone C., and Clarence L. Terry Sr. 2011. Culturally responsive pedagogy for African American students: Promising programs and practices for enhanced academic performance. Teaching Education 22.4: 345–362.

    DOI: 10.1080/10476210.2011.608424Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on the results of a multi-year study, Howard and Terry offer empirical evidence of the impact of culturally responsive practices on the academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance of African American students.

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  • Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 2009. The dream-keepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Wiley.

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    Utilizing the stories of eight “exemplar” teachers, Ladson-Billings describes characteristics of effective teachers of African American students. Foremost among these characteristics is cultural competence. While presenting these exemplars, Ladson-Bilings also cautions the reader against the notion of a quick fix or one-size-fits-all model of effective teaching for African American students.

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  • Moll, Luis C., and Norma González. 2004. Engaging life: A funds-of-knowledge approach to multicultural education. In Handbook of research on multicultural education. 2d ed. Edited by James A. Banks and Cherry A. M. Banks, 699–715. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    Moll and González expound upon the funds-of-knowledge approach, through which students’ cultural knowledge and experiences are viewed as strengths rather than deficits. They identify two ways in which this approach can be used to foster culturally responsive teaching and learning practices: (1) incorporating children’s and families cultural and experiential knowledge into the teaching and learning process and (2) increasing teachers’ understanding and appreciation of diversity.

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