The main objective of culturally responsive teaching is to engage learners in a way that considers their identity and experiences — that is, their culture. The goal is to create a more effective connection between teacher and student and enrich the learning experience.
American pedagogical theorist and teacher educator Gloria Ladson-Billings offers this definition for culturally responsive teaching: “It is an approach that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills and attitudes.”
During the last decade, culturally responsive teaching and similar pedagogies have increased in the education field. With an online Master of Arts in Urban Education – English from Norfolk State University (NSU), graduates will be armed with the knowledge base and understanding of interrelationships among language, perception and culture required to teach students effectively.
The diversity of cultural ethnicities in urban schools brings a large spectrum of languages. Teachers in urban settings will encounter many different approaches to the English language in their classes, from English as a second language to African American Vernacular English.
To that end, one of the most important benefits of culturally responsive teaching is engagement. Making an effort to speak everyone’s language — sometimes literally — helps ensure all students feel included and understand the requirements. Moreover, as noted in a post by the think tank New America, research has shown that cultural affirmation in courses improved attendance and GPAs.
Another benefit to culturally responsive teaching is its ability to link lessons with information that students already know: “In other words, using texts, materials, and examples that draw from students’ cultural schemas and background knowledge makes learning easier because it leverages students’ existing neural pathways,” according to the same New America post. By learning more about students’ cultural differences and constructively applying those takeaways to lessons, teachers are more likely to connect with learners in memorable ways.
Culturally responsive teaching methods help account for the elasticity of language and the evolution of modern communication. This is a basic benefit, but it’s fundamental for a strong learning dynamic. In an English class with a diverse group of speakers, these methods can only help to engage and support more students when executed correctly.
Additional Student Benefits From Culturally Responsive Teaching
Strengthens the relationship between teacher and student: Culturally responsive teaching can help prevent “unintentional, unconscious attitudes” that can exist in unaware teachers, according to the Lucas Foundation for Education, thus cultivating a better understanding of their students. When students feel understood and included, learning outcomes improve.
Fosters a sense of security and belonging: According to New America, a key distinction of culturally responsive teaching is its promotion of “asset-based approaches,” instead of “deficit-oriented teaching methods.” In this model, every student is seen as equally valuable and able to contribute, providing a baseline for creating inclusive and engaging learning environments.
Bolsters students’ racial and ethnic identities: An asset-based environment that treats all students as if their experiences are valid and have something to offer helps strengthen their self-esteem, particularly along racial and ethnic lines that can often suffer in less diverse settings. Taking an asset-based attitude helps students see themselves in a positive light.
Graduates of NSU’s online M.A. in Urban Education – English will develop a solid knowledge base to teach and lead in an urban school environment. Applying culturally appropriate strategies will positively impact diverse P-12 student populations. Coursework in the online program helps develop skills for applying for research grants for relevant education issues while outlining the function of American English grammar in modern communication. These educators will examine the interrelationships among language, perception and culture through key authors.