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Culturally Responsive Teaching. The BIG SECRET to creating positive student outcomes.


Culturally Responsive Teaching. The BIG SECRET to creating positive student outcomes.

Article by Paulwall.

What’s the BIG SECRET?

Culture. It’s often one of the missing links to creating and sustaining positive student outcomes. What is meant by culture? Culture is much broader than the cultural differences that we can see and hear (ethnicity and language). Rather, culture can be defined as “the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, history, and material objects that are passed from one generation to another.” EVERY PERSON on the planet is a member of at least one culture. Our cultures shape who we are and even how we learn and behave. Yet, comprehensive approaches to address the role that culture plays in teaching and learning are minimal. As a result, educators continue to seek solutions to gaps in the academic achievement of students, disproportionate representation of minority students in special education programs, and unequal outcomes in discipline.

So, what’s the solution?

Leadership is the key. Most often, teachers pay attention to and value what the Principal focuses on. As an administrator, you must commit to addressing what is often a considered a taboo topic without reservations. Comprehensive reviews of teacher education programs at the University level indicate that teachers seldom acquire the skills that they need to deal with cultural differences. Given this fact, principals must ensure that development of these critical skills is a part of ongoing professional development for their staff.

What’s the overall goal?

If we are to meet the needs of ALL students, as educators, we must be Culturally Responsive. Culturally responsive teaching is intended to ensure that all groups are benefitting equally from instruction and classroom management practices. This involves a set of behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system which works for all children. At the classroom level, a culturally responsive approach to educational intervention means being aware of cultural differences, examining teaching materials and practice, and adapting programs and interventions, as appropriate, to respond to different student needs. On an institutional level, culturally responsive teaching involves monitoring the effects of programs and interventions for all students, especially those from groups that have been historically marginalized.

What might this look like?

At its heart, cultural responsive teaching involves self reflection, continuous examination of data, raising difficult and sometimes awkward questions about why some students succeed and others do not, and making adjustments that can improve the instructional/disciplinary match for all groups of students. This will require that staff address the 5 essential aspects of becoming culturally responsive.

1.Self Awareness: Awareness of one’s own cultural views and values

2.Cultural Awareness: Awareness of the cultural views and values of others

3.Cultural Knowledge: Acknowledgement of cultural commonalities and differences

4.Skill Development: Validation of students’ cultural identify in educational practices

5.Action: Including multiple perspectives in decision making; Engaging with families in culturally meaningful ways

Renae Azziz Ed.S., NCSP is CEO at Virtuoso Education Consulting LLC, a professional development firm that empowers educators on best practice in the K-12 market. Her team helps educators meet AYP goals and resolve disproportionality issues. She is author of many best-selling professional development products. Visit or contact us at ed(at) or razziz(at) .Copyright © 2011, Virtuoso Education Consulting LLC. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

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