Culturally Responsive Teaching

Teachers today are faced with challenges in terms of effectively meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. Differentiated instruction is effective in supporting students at all levels of achievement, but what can teachers do to actively engage and communicate with students of diverse cultural backgrounds? A pedagogy known as culturally responsive teaching can help.


Culturally responsive teaching is based on the idea that an individual’s culture is central to her learning. Teachers understand and use students’ cultural backgrounds to create meaningful, effective learning environments.

Culturally responsive teachers employ practices that respect and celebrate the cultural backgrounds of their students. They modify their curriculum and shape their classroom environment to capitalize on shared understandings.

Practices of culturally responsive teachers include:

  • Positive perspectives on parents and familiesTeachers believe that parents and families are critical partners in students’ education. Teachers communicate early and often with parents and families and invite them to participate in their students’ education in specific ways.
  • Communication of high expectations
    Everyone involved in students’ academic lives delivers the same message: all students are expected to achieve high standards. Teachers understand student behavior in light of the culture’s and community’s norms. Teachers view all students as possessing important knowledge and experience.
  • Learning within the context of culture/Reshaping the curriculumTeachers adapt lessons and their classroom environments to reflect styles of learning and communicating that are familiar to students and consistent with their culture. Teachers plan interdisciplinary lessons and units and help students make connections between their lives and what they are learning in school.
  • Teacher as facilitatorThe teacher guides, mentors, and mediates within the classroom environment.
  • Student-centered instructionLearning is cooperative and collaborative. Students have opportunities to direct their own learning and choose projects that are relevant to their own situations.
  • Culturally mediated instructionLessons and instruction integrate diverse ways of knowing. Multicultural viewpoints and contributions are included at appropriate times throughout the year.


Principles for Culturally Responsive Teaching
Provides research-based explanations, rationale, and strategies for implementing seven characteristics of culturally responsive teaching.

Culturally Responsive Teaching
Includes research, case studies, and resources that support principles of culturally responsive teaching.

Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Teaching
An example of a standards-based, culturally relevant curriculum published by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. This science curriculum integrates indigenous and Western knowledge around science topics, and is a useful resource for those interested in Native Ways of Knowing or developing similar work for other populations.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright October 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

One thought on “Culturally Responsive Teaching

  1. The Upcoming book “The Unfinished Business of The Civil Rights Movement:Failure of America’s Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations” will be available on, in December,2012..Culturally relevant curriculum and teaching methods are crucial if America is to begin what is imperatively necessary toward properly educating its Arican American inner-city students..

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