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Culturally responsive teaching

Beginning teachers are starting their careers at a time in which the students they teach are becoming increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. Currently, children and youth of color represent 40% of the students who attend public schools, and this percentage is expected to increase over the next decade. In addition, students are more likely to be multiracial or multiethnic, and they are also more likely to be diverse in terms of language, religion, social class and family structure.

A growing body of research documents how culturally responsive teaching contributes to the academic achievement of students of culturally diverse backgrounds. Geneva Gay (2002, p. 106) defines culturally responsive teaching as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively.” Culturally responsive teaching is difficult and demanding work. It requires that teachers:

  • develop a knowledge base that includes understanding the cultural characteristics and contributions of different ethnic and social groups to the broader society and the academic disciplines;
  • analyze and correct curricular and instructional materials for bias, misrepresentations, stereotyping and silencing;
  • create classroom environments characterized by caring and high expectations;
  • understand students’ different communicative styles and foster multicultural competencies.

Principals play a critical role in creating the conditions that foster culturally responsive teaching. The following tools are intended to assist beginning teachers in developing the knowledge, commitments and practices of culturally responsive teaching. You can use them individually with beginning teachers. They will be more powerful, however, if you use them to facilitate learning across your faculty. Many of the tools can be used in teacher study groups (Professional learning communities) and faculty meetings as resources for on-going professional development:

Developing the knowledge base and understandings of culturally responsive teachers

Enacting culturally relevant teaching

How principals can support culturally responsive teaching


National Center for Education Statistics (2005). The condition of education, 2005. Washington, D.C.

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (2) 106-116.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2001). Crossing over to Canaan: The journey of new teachers in diverse classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Villegas, A.M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Preparing culturally responsive teachers: Rethinking the curriculum. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(1), 20-32.