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4 Strategies for Educators to be Culturally Responsive

Culture plays a fundamental role in the way that we interact with one another, and it is an essential...

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4 Strategies for Educators to be Culturally Responsive 1

Culture plays a fundamental role in the way that we interact with one another, and it is an essential feature of our interactions with one another. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in the context of education as well.

Using cultural references as a means of imparting knowledge, skills, and attitudes to students is referred to as culturally responsive teaching. It is an approach aimed at empowering students in terms of their intellectual, social, emotional, and political development.

Educators can use a few strategies to make their learning environments more culturally sensitive. These are described in the following practices.

  1. Get to know your students

Teachers design curricula and deliver them based on their knowledge of individual students. As instructors, they have a duty to learn about the behaviors, backgrounds, and challenges students face so they can better address them. 

When meeting students for the first time in the classroom, one of the best ways to learn about them is to break the ice with them. The process can be accomplished by asking short survey questions, collecting student inventories, conducting interviews, or even tailoring the questions according to the student’s level of understanding. If you’re interested in mastering this skill, consider specializing in one of the online Ed.D. Programs. You can pursue leadership, curriculum and instruction, early childhood education, and even counseling psychology; pick the path that is most suitable for you. Any of these programs you take will enhance your skills and allow you to tackle the current challenges in education. 

Equipped with better knowledge, you will be able to formulate questions that will give insights into students’ preferences, personal interests, and responsibilities outside of school, as well as their opinions about courses and/or teachers they have considered effective or ineffective.

For more mature students, you may ask them about their experiences with racial incidents inside and outside of the classroom. In many cases, students will share experiences that have profoundly affected them. By obtaining this kind of information, educators can better meet the needs of their students. 

Implementing this practice is not only limited to breaking the ice at the beginning of the semester but also to checking in with classes (students) regularly. Because there may be times when situations can change for your students during a semester or school year, sudden circumstances that affect a student’s life include being homeless, dealing with a parent remarrying or divorcing, or dealing with their own life changes and relationship troubles. Understanding their circumstances will enable teachers to empathize with them and assist them.

  1. Be aware of your own biases

The manifestation of bias in our lives can come in many forms and is often the result of the worldviews we were instilled with as children. During our lifetime, we acquire beliefs and biases from our education, family, friends, and peers, which may include beliefs about religion, gender, culture, academic interests, or something less consequential, like the color of our skin, our diet, or our body size.

In educational settings, teacher bias can often be a very real problem. Students often perceive teachers as unfair in the classroom or that grading practices differ from student to student.

Depending on our biases, you may be unaware of what you are doing in terms of pedagogy, which can affect your decisions. For example, teachers in a predominantly white, middle-class community may have a tendency to lower their expectations based on the student’s culture and/or race.

Unconscious biases may also cause a flawed way of thinking. Implicit bias may cause a teacher to believe, for example, that women aren’t capable of excelling at math or that introverted, quiet, or quiet students aren’t capable of understanding the lesson due to their limited participation. 

By recognizing that we all have biases, we can make better decisions and value differences from various perspectives so we do not perpetuate injustices.

  1. Change how you teach and what you teach

Because of the critical need in changing times, teachers are now more mindful about facilitating culturally responsive lessons. Districts need to take steps towards meaningful changes, while teachers can take specific steps to transform both curriculum and pedagogy.

Course content, methodology, and assessment are all curriculum areas that different strategies can influence.

  • Content of cultural courses

The first step to ensuring diversity in the classroom is to ensure that the class materials and readings reflect the diversity of students and contributors. Additionally, teachers should recognize that their selection of reading materials, examples, analogies, videos, and other content may not reinforce stereotypes. It is also important to review the curriculum for hidden oppression forms and create classroom activities that consider their impact.

  • Methodologies with meaning

A second pedagogical principle is that coursework should be meaningful for students, engaging, effectively meeting their needs, and inviting collaboration. It is important for teachers to use active learning techniques frequently and in a variety of ways. To name a few, there are group projects, discussions, debates, presentations, and experiential learning. Providing activities and lessons in various ways is critical for addressing students’ diverse learning styles, and scaffolding or support is crucial to gradually building upon their skills. Additionally, reflecting on what students have learned can reinforce their learning, make connections to their lives, and help them identify areas for improvement.

  • Evaluation of assessments

Finally, teachers can use multiple measures to assess student learning and knowledge acquisition. There are several ways to share knowledge with students, such as traditional tests, low-stakes quizzes, homework assignments, answers to class questions, and group discussions. It also includes authentic assessments that demonstrate and personalize learning, including life stories, personal stories, autobiographical journals, and portfolios. In addition to midterms and finals, students should be able to accumulate grade points in various ways. Lastly, teachers should clearly explain the purpose of assignments and activities and what knowledge and skills students will gain from them.

  1. Respect the student culture and reinforce it

It is each student’s unique set of behaviors, beliefs, and characteristics that make them unique in classrooms. Their self-identity is also influenced by their languages, religious beliefs, value systems, and ways of life.

The value we place on each student’s culture contributes to their self-concept, influencing their academic success. A student’s culture should also be validated by relating their outside experiences, daily lives, and background knowledge to what is happening in the classroom. This is in terms of interactions and learning. In the classroom, teachers can embrace culture in a variety of ways.

A crucial part of validating culture is sharing and listening. By modeling effective listening skills, a teacher can inspire students to listen effectively. It is important to allow students to express their feelings, beliefs, values, and perspectives while respecting the differences among their classmates. Additionally, teachers should incorporate teaching methods that allow students to celebrate their own culture and those of others. 

Teaching methods and instructional practices can also support and validate a student’s culture and language. Students will see and hear people who look like them through readings, videos, poems, and songs. Teachers can also celebrate their culture and background by inviting guests to class or participating in an online event.

Understanding your students’ cultural backgrounds and interests improve the overall classroom environment. You should strive to implement universal design whenever possible to ensure that all students’ needs are met.


We often see increased effort and participation in classrooms where culturally responsive education is practiced. The most important thing is that teachers see students grow as learners. One ultimate goal that teachers should want to achieve in their classrooms is to create cultural democracies. Every student is constantly interacting with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and realities, so it is a place where every student should feel respected, significant, and proud to be part of.

Please be advised that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the author or his/her sources and do not necessarily reflect those of English Forward. This includes, but is not limited to, third-party content contained on or accessible through the English Forward websites and web pages or sites displayed as search results or contained within a directory of links on the English Forward network.
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