Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 18
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enough for students in today's world, given demographic
shifts toward a more diverse society.
Paris and Alim also argue that asset-based
pedagogies, like culturally relevant teaching,
traditionally haven't paid enough attention to
young people's more fluid relationships with
Ladson-Billings has embraced the evolution of
her foundational pedagogy, writing in 2014 that
" culturally sustaining pedagogy uses culturally
relevant pedagogy as the place where the beat
drops. " She also told Education Week that she
is now paying close attention to how teenagers
shape culture, an aspect that wasn't present in
her original work.
It's important to remember that these assetbased
pedagogies-culturally responsive, culturally
relevant, and culturally sustainable, among
others-are not in conflict with each other. While
their frameworks vary, they all have the same
goal of dismantling a deficit approach to educating
students of color and focusing instead on
their strengths, assets, and communities in the
What does the research say about
the effectiveness of these teaching
A 2016 synthesis of decades of research on
culturally responsive teaching and related
frameworks found that engaging in culturally
affirming practices across subject matters, including
mathematics and science, led to positive
increases in students' understanding and
engagement with academic skills and concepts.
For instance, students in high school math class
could learn about statistics by assessing the
probabilities of racial profiling cases in various
neighborhoods or using other data applicable
to their communities that bring up questions
about justice and injustice.
Culturally responsive teaching and similar approaches
to teaching also increased students'
motivation, interest in content, and the perception
of themselves as capable students, among
other benefits, the study found. Brittany Aronson,
an associate professor in educational leadership
at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a
co-author of the study, said whenever teachers
drew direct connections between classroom lessons
and students' experiences outside of school,
students could see greater value in the academic
content as it applies to the real world. Such work
helps students see themselves as knowledge producers
Overall, teaching that makes school relevant
to students helps them succeed both in terms of
quantitative measures such as high test scores,
and more qualitative measures such as becoming
life-long learners able to ask critical questions
about the world around them, both in and out of
school, Aronson said.
What are some examples of culturally
Teachers who practice culturally responsive
teaching have a classroom full of books featuring
characters and images that represent a
variety of ages, genders, ethnicities, and other
types of diversity. They share the achievements
and expertise of people from different ethnic
groups in every subject area. They include multiple
perspectives when discussing historical and
contemporary events, including those from oppressed
groups who are often left out of the narrative.
And they encourage students to draw on
their prior knowledge and cultural experiences
to make connections to the academic content.
Culturally responsive teaching also must have
an element of critical consciousness, where students
are empowered to critique and analyze
societal inequities. For example, Teddi BeamConroy,
an associate teaching professor at the
University of Washington, was teaching the
Declaration of Independence to a class of 5th
graders. When they got to the line that said, " All
men are created equal, " Beam-Conroy asked her
students, " Who were the men who were considered
equal at that point? " To illustrate the point,
she asked everyone to stand up-and then told
them to sit down if they didn't identify as male,
if they didn't identify as white, or if their parents
rented instead of owned a home.
That exercise opened the door to a conversation
about how Americans weren't all equal in
the late 18th century. Beam-Conroy's students
discussed when women and African Americans
got the right to vote-and what implications that
has had on the composition of U.S. Congress or
the Supreme Court. The critical consciousness
piece is " examining how historically, power has
been distributed and guarded among particular
folks who make the laws, " Beam-Conroy said.
" Fifth graders can understand that. "
Culturally responsive teaching can also involve
a deeper reimagining of classroom codes
of conduct. For instance, in some students' culture,
talking while someone else talks shows how
invested and engaged they are in the conversation,
said Hollie with the Center for Culturally
Responsive Teaching and Learning. Culturally
responsive teachers find ways to incorporate that
verbal overlap into their lesson rather than seeing
it as rude or worthy of discipline.
What isn't culturally responsive
Researchers note that some educators say they're
practicing culturally responsive teaching, but it's
an overly simplified version. For example, for
some teachers, a multicultural school potluck
meal or adding diverse books to their classroom
library sufficiently counts as affirming students'
culture in education. But culturally responsive
teaching is deeper, more critical work.
" There's a tendency to truncate culturally responsive
teaching to be about a whole myriad of
things-it's about relationships, it's about antiracist
education, it's about diverse books, " said
Zaretta Hammond, the author of Culturally Responsive
Teaching and the Brain. " It's like that old
parable of the king who asks nine blind men to
describe an elephant. Each one grabs a different
part of the elephant. 'Oh, it's flat and wide'-he's
got the ear. 'No, it's like a rope'-he's got the tail.
No one has the whole picture. "
Too often, she said, white progressive educators
view culturally responsive teaching as an
add-on to their regular instruction instead of
a fundamental shift in their pedagogy. For example,
a teacher might think students of color
just need to see themselves in order to feel motivated
and do the work, so she'll incorporate diverse
books into her classroom or syllabus-but
not change anything to the content or her way of
Another common misconception is that culturally
responsive teaching is a way of addressing
student trauma, which is a deficit-based ideology
that assumes the universal experience of people
of color is one of trauma, Hammond said.
How widespread is culturally
A 2019 analysis by the think tank New America
found that all states include some combination of
culturally responsive teaching competencies into
their professional teaching standards, but some
are more widely incorporated than others. For example,
every state's standards says teachers must
work with families and develop relationships to
learn more about students' cultural background,
and 28 states say that teachers should bring realworld
issues into the classroom, but only three
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 11, 2022 | www.edweek.org
states-Alabama, Minnesota, and Washington-
advise that teachers learn how institutional racism
and other biases can hinder students.
Most teacher-preparation programs have also
incorporated culturally responsive teaching into
their courses. And some school districts, including
New York City and Baltimore City, have adopted
a culturally responsive and/or sustaining
approach to education.
Still, experts say it's difficult to pinpoint exactly
how many teachers have adopted these
asset-based pedagogies because some may use
only certain tenets. For instance, helping students
develop a critical consciousness is often
What does all of this have to do
with critical race theory?
Critical race theory, broadly speaking, is an academic
concept with the core idea that race is a
social construct, and racism is not only the product
of individual bias or prejudice but is also embedded
in policies and systems, such as a legal
system-or, as some scholars such as LadsonBillings
propose, an educational system.
Aspiring K-12 teachers in graduate level courses
may study aspects of critical race theory to better
understand how school systems are designed
in ways that don't serve the needs of students of
color. But critical race theory is not taught as a
guide for classroom instruction, nor is it typically
used as a culturally relevant or culturally responsive
lesson plan for kids and teens, said Aronson
with Miami University.
Asset-based pedagogies, like culturally relevant
or culturally responsive teaching, are not the
same thing as critical race theory. They have different
theoretical bases and different goals. However,
there might be some commonalities-for
example, the questions students are encouraged
to ask about social systems, including education,
may ring close to the consciousness critical race
theory is meant to evoke.
Because these pedagogies directly address
aspects of students' cultural identities and how
those identifiers are present in classroom conversations,
legislation against critical race theory-
or protests at school board meetings-often end
up lumping these concepts together and targeting
them in bans and investigations.
For instance, in his first executive order earlier
this year, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican,
ordered the superintendent of public
instruction to " review the department of education's
cultural competency training to determine
if it or any portion promotes inherently divisive
concepts. " Divisive concepts as defined by the
executive order includes " critical race theory and
its progeny. "
And in Florida last year, publishers of mathematics
instructional materials were told that
" in an effort to make sure Florida students have
the highest quality instructional materials, we are
advising publishers and school districts to not incorporate
unsolicited strategies, such as social
emotional learning and culturally responsive
teaching. " That memorandum led to the rejection
of more than 50 math textbooks in April
from next school year's curriculum.
In an interview with Education Week, LadsonBillings
stressed that culturally relevant teaching,
as she defined it, has nothing to do with critical
race theory. But opponents to critical race theory
have glossed over those nuances, she said, adding
that deliberative public debate is hard when
people don't know what they're talking about.
" The attack on anything that allows more participation
and moves us toward equity is going
full force, " she said.
Coverage of race, opportunity, and equity is supported
in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at
www.wallacefoundation.org. Education Week retains
sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
To better understand the dynamics
of culturally relevant teaching, browse
the terms below.
Asset-based pedagogies: teaching
methods and practices that incorporate
students' cultural identities and lived
experiences into the classroom as tools
for effective instruction. These types
of pedagogies seek to dismantle a
deficit approach to educating students
of color and instead focus on their
strengths, assets, and communities
in the classroom. Examples include
culturally relevant teaching, culturally
responsive teaching, and culturally
sustaining teaching, among others.
Critical consciousness: teaching
students how to identify, analyze, and
solve real-world problems, especially
those that result in societal inequities
against marginalized groups.
Critical race theory: an academic
concept with the core idea that race
is a social construct, and racism is
not merely the product of individual
bias or prejudice, but also something
embedded in legal systems and
Culture: the customs, languages,
values, beliefs, and achievements
of a group of people.
Cultural competence: the ability
to understand, appreciate, and interact
with people from other cultures.
Students should be taught to value
and affirm their culture of origin while
also developing fluency in at least one
Cultural identity: how an individual
or group identifies themselves
according to ties to one or more
Culturally relevant pedagogy:
a way of teaching that fosters student
achievement while helping students
to accept and affirm their cultural
identity, as well as develop critical
perspectives that challenge societal
Culturally responsive teaching:
a pedagogy that uses students'
customs, characteristics, experiences,
and perspectives as tools for better
classroom instruction. Students of color
see themselves and their communities
as belonging in academic spaces.
Culturally sustaining pedagogy: a way
of teaching that explores, honors, and
nurtures students' and communities'
cultural ways of being. This approach
considers the evolving identities and
languages of students.
Pedagogy: teaching methods and
practices; more broadly the art and
science of the teaching profession.
Racial biases: perceptions of, attitudes
toward, and treatment of a person
or group based on their race.
Education Week - May 11, 2022
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 11, 2022
Education Week - May 11, 2022
Why Misusing ‘Groomer’ as a Political Smear Is Especially Dangerous
School Sports Are Back. Where Are the Athletes?
What the Research Says
‘It Can Save Lives’: Students Testify To the Power of Poetry
Key Takeaways From Praying-Coach Case While U.S. Supreme Court Deliberates
1 in 5 Educators Say They’ve Experienced Long COVID
A Flood of Federal Cash and Then Layoffs. What Gives?
With Millions of Kids on the Line, Can Schools Make Tutoring Work?
Online Tutoring Can Be Effective, Research Shows
What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
What Should Culturally Relevant Teaching Look Like Today?
What If We Treated Public Education Like the Crisis It Is?
Why Students Can’t Tell Fact From Fiction Online
Letters to the Editor
EdWeek Top School Jobs
Hardest Year Ever? One Teacher’s View
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Education Week - May 11, 2022
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - CW2
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 1
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 3
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - School Sports Are Back. Where Are the Athletes?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - What the Research Says
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - ‘It Can Save Lives’: Students Testify To the Power of Poetry
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 7
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Key Takeaways From Praying-Coach Case While U.S. Supreme Court Deliberates
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 9
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 9A
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 1 in 5 Educators Say They’ve Experienced Long COVID
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 11
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - A Flood of Federal Cash and Then Layoffs. What Gives?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 13
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - With Millions of Kids on the Line, Can Schools Make Tutoring Work?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Online Tutoring Can Be Effective, Research Shows
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - What Should Culturally Relevant Teaching Look Like Today?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 18
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - 19
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - What If We Treated Public Education Like the Crisis It Is?
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Why Students Can’t Tell Fact From Fiction Online
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Letters to the Editor
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - Hardest Year Ever? One Teacher’s View
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - CW3
Education Week - May 11, 2022 - CW4