Culturally Responsive Teaching

What is Culturally Responsive Teaching? 

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is not merely an educational strategy; it is a profound commitment to respond to each learner with a view of wholeness, ability, and care. This teaching philosophy, which has also evolved into Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, is deeply rooted in the work of scholars such as Zaretta Hammond, Bettina Love, Goldie Muhammad, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Mary Stone Hanley. It calls for a radical relearning and reimagining of how education can be delivered to meet the diverse needs of learners.  

At its core, education often relies on traditional methods and ideas that may be outdated and come from a narrow philosophical perspective. Traditionally, teaching has followed a one-way approach based on specific beliefs and ideas from a dominant culture. This dominant culture has typically prioritized the experiences and needs of white individuals even though most people in the world are not white. As teachers, we must adopt a more holistic and inclusive approach to teaching and learning to serve all students better. Culturally responsive teaching frameworks provide a more holistic approach that prioritizes our classrooms' diverse range of students and how they acquire and retain knowledge. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching is the activation of Equity in Education!

Defining Culturally Responsive Teaching

Zaretta Hammond, in her seminal work "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain," illuminates the neuroscience behind effective learning. Hammond argues that a student's cultural context is crucial for cognitive development and engagement. She emphasizes culture's role as a learning vehicle, suggesting that teachers must become culturally responsive to "ignite" students' brains in ways deeply rooted in their lived experiences (Hammond, 2015). This approach encourages educators to see cultural diversity not as a barrier to overcome but as a rich resource to be tapped into for enhancing student learning.

Bettina Love takes this concept further in her advocacy for an "Abolitionist Teaching" model. Love's work calls for educators to recognize and dismantle the systemic barriers that inhibit the educational success of marginalized students. She urges teachers to adopt a pedagogy of resistance that fights against injustices and cultivates a sense of agency in students (Love, 2019). Love's perspective is vital in understanding that culturally responsive teaching is about adapting to students' cultural needs and actively working to change the oppressive structures that affect their lives.

Goldie Muhammad builds on this foundation by highlighting the importance of a historically responsive literacy framework that connects students with their cultural and historical identities. Muhammad advocates for a pedagogy prioritizing students' intellectual growth, identity development, criticality, and joy. By doing so, she underscores the necessity of recognizing and nurturing the inherent strengths and talents of each student, grounding education in a context that is meaningful and affirming to them. (Muhammad, 2020).

Gloria Ladson-Billings' "Culturally Relevant Pedagogy" concept emphasizes that effective teaching must be student-centered, intellectually challenging, and socially relevant. Ladson-Billings argues that educators must maintain high expectations for all students while deeply committing to their cultural affirmation. This pedagogy involves teachers acting as facilitators who help students make connections between their cultural background and the curriculum, thereby fostering a learning environment that is both uplifting and transformative (Ladson-Billings, 1995).

Finally, Mary Stone Hanley and others advocate for a transformative approach to arts education that integrates cultural responsiveness into the creative process. Hanley suggests that the arts provide a unique avenue for exploring and expressing cultural identities, advocating for social justice, and engaging in critical reflection. By incorporating culturally responsive arts education, teachers can offer students opportunities to explore complex issues through creative expression, thus fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their world (Hanley et al., 2009).

In synthesizing the contributions of these scholars, it becomes evident that Culturally Responsive Teaching is a holistic approach that goes beyond the mere inclusion of diverse cultural contexts. Culturally responsive teaching is a frame for belonging that expands the circle of human concern. It is a methodology and philosophy that orients teacher practice from a broader perspective of how humans learn best: through their culture and the arts.   

How Culturally Responsive Teaching Works

"The brain will encode new learnings through our emotional response to the learning. 'What we retain depends on our emotional response to an experience, how novel it is, where and when the event occurred, and our level of attention and motivation during the event, and we process these thoughts and feelings while asleep'" (Scientific American, "The Brain Learns in Unexpected Ways," 1 Mar. 2020).

Our students' academic and social-emotional development accelerates when learning is centered in approaches that spark emotional responses. These responses vary depending on the cultural context in which we live. Methodologies that spark emotionally resonant responses, not merely through the intellect but through the whole body system, are found in and through the visual and performing arts. This includes media arts, gaming, music, etc.  

But building a culturally responsive classroom is more work than it may appear. It means having a studied lens on power analysis of social dynamics (found in the design of dynamic systems between individual and collective people). It also requires a nuanced understanding of the narratives that build or generate these systems (and their designs, including our interactions within their designs) with the ability to assess exclusionary and divisive narratives. Inherent in narrative work is the desire to change them into ones that create belonging and reckon with failed ideas of humanity.  

A culturally responsive approach tends to the knowledge that each learner has a set or series of lineages that compose how they perceive and engage in the world. Knowledge of lineage shows up when we make choices regarding a student's well-being, design our lessons and units of instruction, and curate the learning landscape. For example, suppose one has a new group of students from Syria. In that case, one would need to understand the context of their lineages and the narratives they have experienced and lived through to navigate better and curate learning that will be responsive to their social-emotional needs and support their learning in a new environment. It would serve to know that a Syrian child has likely experienced trauma from a civil war. It is essential to know that gesture and movement are central in Syrian culture as a way to communicate. Knowing that speaking loudly is also a cultural norm would serve one. Rather than enforcing acculturation, creating experiences that use gesture and movement in teaching and learning and adjusting one's comfort around noise in the classroom may support the learning modalities of the new set of children. Expanding our abilities to center norms and needs rather than enforce and regulate someone's cultural orientation serves us all at the end of the day.  

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Arts

The arts profoundly open the channels to acquire and encode new information. When a child learns about a math equation through a story, it builds an emotional response (interest, curiosity, fascination) that connects the learner to the idea. The brain perceives the new information as relevant and helpful and stores it for later retrieval.  

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) has the power to be a dynamic, creative, and transformative pedagogy that positions the arts at the heart of learning, where it can accelerate cognitive development, cultural affirmation, and equitable teaching practices. The arts become integral to a collective redesign of school practice in enhancing cognitive capacity, nurturing students' independent learning, and fostering collective wisdom. This model of education is deeply rooted in love, justice, and the belief in the transformative power of the arts to heal and bridge cultural divides.

Educators who understand how culture shapes perception and learning are better positioned to design relevant and challenging instructional strategies. By doing so, they can facilitate the growth of critical and creative thinking skills, nurture social-emotional development, and prepare students to navigate the complexities of a multicultural world.

The desired outcomes of culturally responsive teaching‚ÄĒdeveloping critical and creative thinkers who are emotionally intelligent and culturally competent‚ÄĒis the goal. The arts, therefore, are not just a tool for engagement but a foundational element for building the holistic, responsive learning environments that today's students deserve.

The movement toward culturally responsive teaching, as championed by Studio Pathways and leading educational scholars, underscores the indispensable role of the arts in education. By embracing the arts as a central pillar of CRT, educators can be liberatory facilitators of their student's growth, facilitating not just academic excellence but a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the diverse world they inhabit. In this light, the arts emerge not just as a subject to be taught but as a vital force for cultural understanding, critical thinking, and social-emotional development. Through this lens, the future of education looks bright, vibrant, inclusive, and infinitely creative.

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The Culturally Responsive and Creative Teacher!

Congratulations on Taking the First Step! You're on the brink of redefining your teaching experience and making an indelible impact in your classroom. By choosing "Do Your Lessons Love Your Students? Creative Education for Social Change," you've shown a commitment to excellence and innovation in education that sets you apart. Before You Go, A Gentle Reminder... Your Guidebook and Consultancy Session: Upon purchase, you'll receive your guidebook, an indispensable tool for each episode, designed to enhance your understanding and application of Culturally Responsive Teaching. Remember, your personalized 45-minute consultancy session is a golden opportunity to discuss your unique context and gain insights tailored to your educational environment. Once purchased you will be sent a link to sign up for your session.  Continuing Education Credit: For those eager to further their professional growth, don't forget that Continuing Education Credit is available for an additional fee. This is an excellent way to continue your journey of lifelong learning and professional development. Ready to Complete Your Purchase? Click here to finalize your purchase and embark on a journey that promises to transform your teaching approach, engage your students on a deeper level, and integrate creative education for social change into your classroom. Still Have Questions? If you're still on the fence or have any questions, remember, this is more than a course; it's a movement towards creating a more equitable, responsive, and creative educational landscape. Don't let hesitation hold you back from making a difference. Contact Us- We're here to answer any questions and help you make the best decision for your educational journey: [email protected] Thank you for your dedication to fostering an inclusive and dynamic learning environment. We can't wait to see how you transform your classroom with "Do Your Lessons Love Your Students?"        

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