Three Steps to Culturally Responsive Teaching

Author: Essie Childers Education Professor at Blinn college – Texas
Let’s step back from facts about student retention, building facilities and growing partnerships, and increasing enrollment numbers. These topics are important and should be on every university’s agenda. How about adding classroom experiences that promote student learning to the agenda? The secret is out: Instructors are the “front door” to student learning. They also help with retention and building enrollment. How? This is possible when teachers are culturally sensitive.
What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
“Culturally responsive teaching is when students are treated with respect, regardless of their backgrounds and power, and when learning is designed to accommodate a variety of needs, interests and orientations in a classroom.” (Ginsberg & Wlodkowski 2009). Students and teachers have the opportunity to have courageous conversations about different cultures in their classrooms. This creates an environment where students can be confident and competent learners.
Get started on your journey to cultural responsiveness
There is no magic bullet that will make instructors culturally sensitive. I would like to recommend a few things from Gingsberg’s and Wlodkowskis model: “The Motivational Framework For Culturally Responsive teaching.”
1.) Establish inclusion. Establish an environment where learners and teachers feel connected, respected, and comfortable. This can be achieved by correcting the pronunciation of a student’s name. If you misspell a student’s name, apologize and seek assistance.
It is also a good idea to arrive early to greet students as they enter the classroom. Before you jump into the topic of today, take a moment to talk about the weekend, the culture event coming up, or how their classes are doing. These conversations give students a sense of belonging in the class.
2.) 2.) Show your personality. Instructors create practices that are personal and relevant, which emphasize volition and choice. In the 70’s, when I was in college, I searched for people in my books and readings that I could relate with. Needless to say, there weren’t many people I could relate to. Give students the option of choosing the source material for their assignments. I ask students to select a music video that motivates and inspires them to do well in school. Students post the link to their chosen video to the discussion board. They then write a journal detailing their reflections and inviting their classmates to respond. This gives instructors insight into students’ values and goals, and allows students to share a portion of their cultural beliefs.
3.) Engender competence. Instructors create learning experiences that make the student feel valued and help them to grow. Culturally sensitive teaching encourages small-group participation. Allowing each group to teach a lesson is one of my favorite assignments. Students learn to appreciate the value of interdependence and that each member of the group has unique skills and talents. The groups often meet for coffee or other activities outside of class.
What to Expect
We recognize that students bring a variety of perspectives and identities to our classrooms. This cannot be controlled at the door. Culturally sensitive teachers must find ways to make students feel at ease in the classroom. Everyone will want to be in your class if you are welcoming, inclusive, and respectful of other cultures. It is a wonderful opportunity for educators to appreciate and celebrate a diverse group of competent learners.
Ginsberg, M. B., & Wlodkowski, R. J. (2009). Second Edition: Diversity and motivation: Culturally responsive teaching in college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This video is from the 17th Annual Economics Teaching Conference and focuses on creating an inclusive and diverse classroom environment.