Preparing for culturally responsive teaching (2001 AACTE Outstanding Writing Award Recipient)

In this article, a case is made for improving the school success of ethnically diverse students through culturally responsive teaching and for preparing teachers in preservice education programs with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to do this. The ideas presented here are brief sketches of more thorough explanations included in my recent book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (2000). The specific components of this approach to teaching are based on research findings, theoretical claims, practical experiences, and personal stories of educators researching and working with underachieving African, Asian, Latino, and Native American students. These data were produced by individuals from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds including anthropology, sociology, psychology, sociolinguistics, communications, multicultural education, K-college classroom teaching, and teacher education. Five essential elements of culturally responsive teaching are examined: developing a knowledge base about cultural diversity, including ethnic and cultural diversity content in the curriculum, demonstrating caring and building learning communities, communicating with ethnically diverse students, and responding to ethnic diversity in the delivery of instruction. Culturally responsive teaching is defined as using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively. It is based on the assumption that when academic knowledge and skills are situated within the lived experiences and frames of reference of students, they are more personally meaningful, have higher interest appeal, and are learned more easily and thoroughly (Gay, 2000). As a result, the academic achievement of ethnically diverse students will improve when they are taught through their own cultural and experiential filters (Au & Kawakami, 1994; Foster, 1995; Gay, 2000; Hollins, 1996; Kleinfeld, 1975; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995).