Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education - EJ-ROC Policy Hub (2024)

Pamela D’Andrea Martínez
NYU Metro Center


When students, educators, and families, walk through the doors of a school, they bring with them their many cultures. Those cultures are sometimes different from the cultural perspectives that inform the ways schools are run, what teaching and learning is like, the books that students read, and the ideas they engage with. Schools are not just cultural meeting points, but also have a “cultural fabric” (Boykin, 1994) of their own that informs everything that happens within them. Culture is not only about the celebration, dress, and food traditions of different groups; it is a complex set of values, worldviews, ways of thinking, knowing, expressing oneself, communicating, and relating to others.1 Most often, the cultural norms on which schools are built are not everybody’s cultural norms; they are those of the most powerful groups in our society which have had the most say in what students learn, how they learn, and the purpose of school. Culturally responsive-sustaining education1 (CR-S education) calls to question which cultures get to inform the content and structure of schools, how and why that is happening, and pushes for cultural diversity to be seen as a strength.2

When unequal educational outcomes occur, many in education look to students’ cultural, racial, gender, or socioeconomic backgrounds for answers. This type of perspective is often referred to as a “deficit perspective” because it treats some students’ cultures and backgrounds as the standard, and other students’ cultures as something to overcome in order to succeed in school.3 4 Deficit perspectives have resulted in educational policies and practices that ultimately ask students to relinquish their cultures in favor of academic achievement. For example, if achievement gaps in testing results occur between Black and White students, instead of asking what Black students can do to catch up to their White peers, a CR-S educator might ask: What is it about the way we are teaching, learning, and assessing students that is making Black students vulnerable and privileging White students? CR-S educators deeply study the ways school and classroom policies and practices produce and reproduce racial, ethnic, gender, and ability inequities that impact groups such as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and poor students and make them vulnerable. CR-S education disrupts White supremacy by meaningfully embedding into the many cultures students represent. CR-S education fosters cultural pluralism – the co-existence of many cultures on equal footing within a school - and humanizes education for vulnerable students, and ultimately, for all students.


Recognizing the pervasive damage that deficit perspectives can have in the education of vulnerable students, many education scholars have focused on studying the language, literacy, and culture of vulnerable groups and capturing what “good teaching” means for these students. 5

The decades of research tells us that teachers who practice CR-S teaching:

  1. Expect, demand, and thoroughly support the academic success of each student in preparing them to take ownership of their learning. 6 They are passionate educators that strongly value their professions, believe that their vulnerable students can succeed, and feel accountable to drive that success.
  2. Are culturally competent 7 . They analyze their own cultures to learn how that informs their teaching and the expectations they have about how learning happens.8 They embrace and continuously learn about their students’ cultures, languages, and discourses, recognizing that culture is dynamic, complex, and in constant change. They embed students’ cultures into all aspects of teaching and curriculum, making their cultures both objects and “vehicles for learning”. This approach is not only about cultural relevance, CR-S teachers seek to nourish students’ cultures for them to thrive.9
  3. Make the classroom a place for students to become teachers and teachers to become students and, together, foster a critical consciousness to examine and critique the ways that schools and other social institutions maintain social inequities. Part of this process is drawing connections between themselves and community-level, national-level, and global-level issues. Even within their schools, CR-S teachers are aware of and advocate for the needs and rights of their most vulnerable students.

CR-S education is applicable to all aspects of school and across all subject areas. In math, for example, CR-S education correlates with successful engagement of students, increased math skills, increased interest in math, and because CR-S education contextualizes math within out-of-school issues like examining inequities, increased sociopolitical awareness. In science, English language arts, social studies, and English as a new language, CR-S education contributes to students feeling represented and able to express themselves more freely, experiencing increased enjoyment of learning in school, positive self-perception and confidence, political empowerment, problem-solving skills, and attainment of a breadth of knowledge of issues of race, politics, and power in each subject.

Despite these benefits, Gay cautions that teaching alone cannot be solely responsible for improving educational conditions for vulnerable students; instead, CR-S education must be structured at all levels of schooling. CR-S school leadership includes how school leaders support the development of CR-S teachers, school environments, school communities, and how to specifically focus on the most vulnerable student groups. CR-S in teacher preparation focuses on how pre-service teachers can enter schools already knowing what it takes to create effective classroom environments for vulnerable students.10

Bottom Line

Culturally responsive-sustaining education is not a set of teaching strategies and it is not simply sprinkling student culture into the classroom; it is an education philosophy that calls for deliberately embedding students’ cultures into the very processes, inputs, and outputs of school. Not all cultures have been treated equitably within and outside the walls of schools, thus embracing cultural diversity means not just adding in student cultures, but contending with and remedying historical inequities. CR-S education makes schools and classrooms sites of critical examination of inequities, reframes the relationship between students and schools, and contributes meaningfully to students’ sense of dignity in supporting them to achieve academically.

Related Research

Culturally Responsive Mastery-Based Education Research Project.

Johnston, E., D’Andrea Martínez, P., & Kirkland, D.E. (2017, August 17).Culturally responsive education: A primer for policy and practice.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy 2.0: a.k.a. the Remix.Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74–84.

Lim, L., Tan, M., & Saito, E. (2019).Culturally relevant pedagogy: Developing principles of description and analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 77, pp. 43-53.

Michener, C., Sengupta-Irving, T., Patrick Proctor, C., & Silverman, R. (2015).Culturallysustaining pedagogy within monolingual language policy: variability in instruction.Language Policy, 14(3), 199-220.

Paris D., &; Alim H. S. (Eds.). (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learningfor justice in a changing world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Wynter-Hoyte, K., Braden, E. G., Rodriguez, S., & Thornton, N. (2019) Disrupting the status quo: exploring culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies for young diverse learners.Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(3), 428-447, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2017.1382465

Examples of Best Policy/Practice

CR-S Education Framework

Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard

Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute.

NYC Coalition for Educational Justice


Our Culture Our Schools Culturally Responsive Education in New York City– NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

5-minute film festival: Culturally Responsive Teaching– Edutopia


Pamela D’Andrea Martínez, Graduate Assistant
NYU Metro Center


  1. Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College.

  2. Ibid

  3. Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97.

  4. Aronson, B. & Laughter, J. (2016). The theory and practice of culturally relevant education: A synthesis of research across content areas. Review of Educational Research, 86(1), 163-206.

  5. Paris, D., & Alim, H.S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85-100.

  6. Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed.). San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  7. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165.

  8. Lucas, T., & Villegas, A.M. (2013). Preparing linguistically responsive teachers: Laying the foundation in preservice education. Theory into Practice, 52(2), 98-109.

  9. Khalifa, M.A., Gooden, M.A., & Davis, J.E. (2016). Culturally Responsive School Leadership: A Synthesis of the Literature. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1272-1311. https//

  10. Lucas, T., & Villegas, A.M. (2013). Preparing linguistically responsive teachers: Laying the foundation in preservice education. Theory into practice, 52(2), 98-109.

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education - EJ-ROC Policy Hub (2024)


What is culturally responsive teaching the education hub? ›

Definition. Culturally responsive teaching is about making school learning relevant and effective for learners by drawing on students' cultural knowledge, life experiences, frames of reference, languages, and performance and communication styles.

What is culturally responsive-sustaining education? ›

We call it “culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE).” It is a way of seeing diversity as a source of knowledge. With CR-SE, students use their own identity to get education. They learn using aspects of their race, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or ability.

What are culturally responsive education policies? ›

Five Essential Strategies to Embrace Culturally Responsive...
  • Know your students. ...
  • Be aware of your own personal biases. ...
  • Transform your pedagogy and curriculum. ...
  • Respect and reinforce student culture. ...
  • Involve family and community.
Aug 31, 2020

What are the 7 principles of culturally responsive teaching? ›

7 Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
  • Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
  • Make learning contextual. ...
  • Consider your classroom setup. ...
  • Form relationships. ...
  • Discuss social and political issues. ...
  • Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
  • Incorporate popular culture.
Nov 19, 2020

What are the 6 themes of culturally responsive education? ›

The six themes of CRE from Stembridge include engagement, cultural identity, relationships, vulnerability, assets, and rigor. These six themes overlap but are listed separately to elucidate the connections with classroom assessment.

How to use culturally responsive teaching in the classroom? ›

4 ways to practice culturally responsive teaching
  1. Build a positive classroom culture. ...
  2. Get to know your students and families. ...
  3. Provide opportunities for students to see themselves in the learning. ...
  4. Set high expectations for all students.
Mar 17, 2022

What does culturally responsive teaching look like in the classroom? ›

In the classroom, this involves inclusivity, curiosity, recognition, and dignity. Cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of one's own culture as well as those from other cultures.

What key elements would a culturally sustaining teacher bring into a classroom? ›

We need to co-create classroom norms, routines, and physical space to represent the diverse interests and needs of all students. We must also build authentic social relationships within and beyond our classrooms.

What are the 8 elements of culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching
  • Reflect on one's cultural lens. ...
  • Recognize and redress bias in the system. ...
  • Draw on students' culture to shape curriculum and instruction. ...
  • Bring real-world issues into the classroom. ...
  • Model high expectations for all students. ...
  • Promote respect for student differences.
Mar 9, 2023

What are the 3 levels of culture culturally responsive teaching? ›

In her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Zaretta Hammond defines culture on three levels: surface culture, shallow culture, and deep culture.

What strategies do you have for culturally responsive teaching? ›

15 Culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples
  • Learn about your students. ...
  • Interview students. ...
  • Integrate relevant word problems. ...
  • Present new concepts by using student vocabulary. ...
  • Bring in guest speakers. ...
  • Deliver different forms of content through learning stations. ...
  • Gamify lessons. ...
  • Call on each student.
Oct 6, 2021

What are examples of culturally responsive care? ›

Examples of culturally appropriate care
  • ask the person or their representatives what they prefer and then to meet their preferences wherever possible.
  • try to understand a person's history by talking to them and their family.
  • ask questions if you are unsure.
May 12, 2022

How does CRT benefit students? ›

CRT seeks to empower students educationally and to expand their capabilities in other spheres including social, emotional, and political arenas by making students' own skills, languages, and attitudes meaningful in the classroom.

What are the 4 characteristics of culturally responsive teaching? ›

These four practices are: (1) that teachers are empathetic and caring; (2) that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures; (3) that they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference; and (4) that they are knowledgeable about other cultures.

What are the four 4 domains of the responsive classroom? ›

This approach to teaching and discipline creates the conditions for social, emotional, and academic learning using practical strategies in four domains: positive community, effective management, engaging academics, and developmentally responsive teaching.

What are the 3 main components of cultural responsiveness? ›

Culturally responsive pedagogy is often divided into three functional dimensions: the institutional, focusing on the cultural factors that impact the organizational structures of schools; the personal, focusing on awareness of personal biases of the instructor; and the instructional, which refers to the instructional ...

What is the most important element in culturally responsive teaching? ›

Ladson-Billings (1995) notes that a key criterion for culturally relevant teaching is nurturing and supporting competence in both home and school cultures. Teachers should use the students' home cultural experiences as a foundation upon which to develop knowledge and skills.

What are the key concepts in culturally responsive practice? ›

It means being respectful of everyone's backgrounds, beliefs, values, customs, knowledge, lifestyle and social behaviours. It helps you provide culturally appropriate care and support, so people are empowered to manage their own health.

What is a culturally responsive lesson plan? ›

Culturally responsive teaching is “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.”

What are the 10 high impact teaching strategies? ›

The 10 strategies are:
  • Setting goals.
  • Structuring lessons.
  • Explicit teaching.
  • Worked examples.
  • Collaborative learning.
  • Multiple exposures.
  • Questioning.
  • Feedback.

What are the four to five core values that should permeate the culture of the school? ›

Here are five characteristics of an effective, healthy school culture:
  • #1 Attention to culture is everywhere. ...
  • #2 A nurturing environment with high expectations. ...
  • #3 Engaged staff, engaged students. ...
  • #4 A commitment to lifelong learning. ...
  • #5 Holistic sense of responsibility.
Sep 18, 2019

What does culturally responsive curriculum look like? ›

A curriculum that respects learners' cultures and prior experiences. It acknowledges and values the legitimacy of different cultures, not just the dominant culture of a society, and encourages intercultural understanding.

What does a culturally inclusive classroom look like? ›

An inclusive classroom climate refers to an environment where all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom regardless of identity, learning preferences, or education.

How can schools be more culturally responsive? ›

Ensure that principals and teachers have professional development opportunities to help them assess their own cultural viewpoints and biases, set high expectations for all students, acknowledge diverse learning styles, use culturally responsive pedagogy, and effectively engage diverse families and community members.

Why should teachers use culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally responsive teaching strategies can build trust; encourage collaboration; improve communication; and create a supportive, respectful atmosphere where every student can thrive.

What questions should I ask about culturally responsive teaching? ›

How will you incorporate your students' life experiences into the lesson? How will you foster/encourage critical discussion during your lesson? What authentic learning tasks have you developed for this lesson? How do the learning tasks relate to your students' lives outside of school?

How do you create a responsive learning environment? ›

Try This!
  1. Ask families how to make your learning spaces feel welcoming, calm, and soothing to their child. ...
  2. Respect and incorporate families' cultures into the systems and services provided. ...
  3. Cruise around at the eye level of the children you work with.
Dec 9, 2021

Which of the following skills are needed to be a culturally responsive teacher? ›

According to the results, being a culturally responsive teacher requires having certain personal and professional competencies, such as avoiding discrimination, respecting cultural differences, being a role model, having an empathic tendency, and having good communication skills as well as a pedagogical background.

Why is it important to create a culturally responsive classroom? ›

It builds cultural competence.

An inclusive curriculum helps teachers and students understand different perspectives, appreciate others' strengths, and build empathy. Culturally responsive teaching can also help teachers reflect on how their own identity and experiences impact their attitudes and teaching practices.

What are 4 key areas one must recognize in order to ensure cultural competence? ›

Cultural competence has four major components: awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills.

What are the five 5 key building blocks of cultural competence? ›

Contained within this guide is a walkthrough of the five building blocks of cultural competence: open attitude, self-awareness, awareness of others, cultural knowledge, and cultural skills.

What are the 5 principles of classroom culture? ›

The five elements of classroom culture, discipline, management, control, influence and engagement, provide a deeper way to look at what's goes on in classrooms as both leaders and teachers.

What are two 2 components of culturally responsive instruction? ›

Culturally Responsive Instruction
  • High expectations.
  • Positive relationships with families and community.
  • Cultural sensitivity.
  • Active teaching methods.
  • Teacher as facilitator.
  • Student control of portions of the lesson.
  • Instruction around group and pairs.
Aug 2, 2022

What are the 3 C's of culture? ›

Review these three Cs of culture: Communication, Core Values, and Commitment to Excellence, and this will help you pinpoint an area or two that you can improve on with the tips above.

What are the 3 R's of cultural awareness? ›

When writing your journal, you will be engaging with a development tool (the 3R tool) which guides you with prompts to Report, Reflect and Re-evaluate your experiences. This 3- step tool should help structure your thinking on your experience(s) and help you deepen your intercultural sensitivity and competence.

What is CRP in the classroom? ›

Definition. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP) recognizes the importance of centering students' cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings,1994), a.k.a. culturally relevant teaching/pedagogy, or culturally sustaining teaching/pedagogy. Some characteristics of CRP are: Active teaching methods.

What are the 7 principles of culturally responsive practices? ›

Culturally Responsive Practices
  • Communication of High Expectations.
  • Active Learning and Teaching Methods.
  • Student strengths are Identified and Nurtured.
  • Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse teaching strategies.
  • Cultural Sensitivity.
  • Supportive Learning Environment Reflecting the Cultures of all Children.

What are non examples of culturally responsive teaching? ›

  • Teacher does not always model, explain and demonstrate new skills and concepts prior to asking students to apply them.
  • Teacher does not use visuals, comprehensible input etc. to facilitate understanding.
  • Teacher does not build upon students' home languages to teach terms, skills and concepts in English.

What are 3 examples of strategies to help improve culturally competent care? ›

  • Provide interpreter services.
  • Recruit and retain minority staff.
  • Provide training to increase cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills.
  • Coordinate with traditional healers.
  • Use community health workers.
  • Incorporate culture-specific attitudes and values into health promotion tools.

What are the barriers to culturally responsive teaching? ›

Bias, fear, lack of cultural awareness, the absence of professional strategies and adequate support structures impede the ability of some educators to develop culturally responsive learning environments.

What does it mean to be culturally responsive as a teacher? ›

Culturally responsive teaching incorporates a student's cultural identity into classroom learning, which can promote academic success. Laura Bengs.

Who created culturally responsive teaching? ›

What is Culturally Responsive Teaching? Over two decades ago, Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the term culturally relevant pedagogy to describe a form of teaching that calls for engaging learners whose experiences and cultures are traditionally excluded from mainstream settings.

What is culturally responsive teaching in the classroom? ›

4 ways to practice culturally responsive teaching
  • Build a positive classroom culture. ...
  • Get to know your students and families. ...
  • Provide opportunities for students to see themselves in the learning. ...
  • Set high expectations for all students.
Mar 17, 2022

What does it mean to be culturally responsive in the classroom? ›

Cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of one's own culture as well as those from other cultures. Culturally responsive schools offer a learning environment where every student's cultures, languages, and life experiences are acknowledged, validated, and celebrated.

What does being culturally responsive mean? ›

Being culturally responsive requires having the ability to understand cultural differences, recognize potential biases, and look beyond differences to work productively with children, families, and communities whose cultural contexts are different from one's own.

What is the role of the teacher in a culturally responsive teaching? ›

In culturally responsive classrooms, teachers provide opportunities for choice in classroom activities, encourage child-directed learning, and assist students as they engage in these activities.

How can teachers be more culturally responsive in the classroom? ›

using students' cultural experiences in daily instruction. embracing native language and students' families as assets. creating a classroom environment that represents and respects all students. communicating clear high expectations for everyone.

What is culturally responsive teaching and why is it important? ›

Culturally responsive teaching is a research-based approach to teaching. It connects students' cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school. These connections help students access rigorous curriculum and develop higher-level academic skills. Our brains are wired to make connections.

How do you create a culturally inclusive classroom? ›

Treat diversity positively

Don't expect any individual student to speak as a representative of his / her culture. Utilise diverse experiences and perspectives as a resource. Plan opportunities for all students to contribute input related to their own culture (but avoid making any student a cultural representative).

What does a responsive classroom look like? ›

In the Responsive Classroom approach, teachers organize the classroom in ways that are inclusive and representative of all members of the class. In doing so, they demonstrate empathy and consideration of the individual, cultural, and developmental needs of all students.

What are 3 characteristics of culturally responsive teaching? ›

These four practices are: (1) that teachers are empathetic and caring; (2) that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures; (3) that they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference; and (4) that they are knowledgeable about other cultures.

What are the three main components of cultural responsiveness? ›

Culturally responsive pedagogy is often divided into three functional dimensions: the institutional, focusing on the cultural factors that impact the organizational structures of schools; the personal, focusing on awareness of personal biases of the instructor; and the instructional, which refers to the instructional ...

What is an example of cultural responsiveness? ›

For example, many societies and cultures have fireworks festivals. While such a festival runs, you could teach how to calculate speed using fireworks in sample questions. Establishing inclusion also involves regularly grouping students with different classmates, encouraging discussion to solve problems.

How can you promote cultural awareness in the classroom? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.


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