Sunday, 29 January 2017

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

In 1994, Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the term “Culturally Relevant Teaching” (CRT) to describe "teaching that integrates a student’s background knowledge and prior home and community experiences into the curriculum and the teaching and learning experiences that take place in the classroom".  Essentially, she stated that every student is unique and his/her uniqueness needs to be honoured in the classroom to maximize engagement and in turn learning.  

In an attempt to ensure CRT, teachers are encouraged to use inquiry-based approaches.  Inquiry-based approaches could include project- or problem-based learning (including activities like 20 time and project based learning; more about IBL can be found here).  While some teacher may shy away from these practices, there is evidence that suggests that they are beneficial for all learners, not only those who play the game of school well.  Moreover, as stated in the Ministry of Education's Capacity Building series, "the core of these strategies.. a) hold[s] high expectations for learning while b) recogniz[e] and honour the strengths that a student’s lived experiences and/or home culture bring to the learning environment of the classroom".  So, as practitioners, we need to evaluate what it is that prevents us from implementing these strategies in our classroom.

What I see as one of the biggest challenges lies in having teachers "expand upon what is considered as the “curriculum” – recognizing both the informal and the subtle ways in which the curriculum defines what is and what is not valued in our schools and society".  These sorts of projects allow students to guide a lot of their learning which can be viewed by stakeholders as risky.  However, it is exactly this kind of learning that can empower and ready students for what they will face beyond the walls of our schools. 

Furthermore, we often align our teaching with what has been "effective" (or perhaps more accurately, modelled) for us as learners, and many teachers succeeded in (or experienced) a sit and get model of education wherein facts were regurgitated and self-directed learning was not modeled.  We need to break down this paradigm so all learners can experience success.  

By allowing students to explore their own passions by probing into deep, multi-layered questions, we "lessen dominant perspectives in our curriculum so that contributions from different backgrounds can be better understood and integrated into learning".

Work Cited
Dufour, Eve. "Learning Disabilities and Diversity: A Culturally Responsive Approach."LD@school. LD @ School, 22 May 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. <>.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013).  Capacity Building Series K-12: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools ). Retrieved from

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