Diversity is present in every modern-day classroom, and it is overdue for teaching methods to catch up with the times. A pedagogy called culturally responsive teaching can particularly aid with reaching all students by connecting students’ cultural references to what they are learning. A supporter of this teaching approach, Brain Power Wellness, reviews and breaks down culturally responsive teaching according to expert and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond.
What is culturally responsive teaching?
Culturally responsive teaching, also referred to as culturally relevant teaching, is a research-based approach that strives to bridge the gap between teacher and student by connecting students’ cultural backgrounds and life experiences to what they are learning. To better understand culturally responsive teaching’s objective for students, Hammond says it is best to compare and distinguish these three: multicultural education, social justice education, and culturally responsive education.
While multicultural education focuses on celebrating diversity and social harmony, social justice education helps students develop critical consciousness and reflect on what goes on in the world around them. Both are useful in education to contribute to the learning environments schools want, but they still lack opportunities for students to accelerate their learning.
As Hammond explains, “These first two things—multicultural education and social justice education—don’t focus on learning. It is culturally responsive education that really has that focus on accelerating learning so that students have independent agency. And this is more than just choice. This is really that I have the cognitive capacity to take in information and learn at the highest levels.”
Why is culturally responsive teaching important?
Hammond points out that culturally responsive teaching helps instill equity at the core by focusing on enhancing the learning capacity of educationally marginalized diverse students. Teaching and learning are viewed from their most affective and cognitive aspects to elevate efforts to accelerate learning, ultimately targeting independent learning for agency.
When students’ cultures, languages, and life experiences are infused into what they are learning in school, it is easier for the brain to make connections, learn, and store information. The human brain is wired for connections, and a student’s background knowledge further fuels learning links.
How can educators incorporate culturally responsive teaching into their classrooms?
Brain Power Wellness incorporates culturally responsive teaching strategies into its programs and teaches these strategies to teachers who participate in the Brain Power Wellness retreat. Some of these strategies Brain Power Wellness encourages teachers to use in their classrooms include:
- Utilize diverse experiences
Students come to the classroom with prior knowledge based on their diverse experiences, which teachers can activate and utilize to provide an anchor to learning.
- Tie in communities
Teachers can make learning contextual by tying in community relevancy into learning. Drawing parallels between what is learned in the classroom and what students experience outside of classroom walls creates further cognitive connections, boosting how much knowledge a student retains.
- Build relationships with students
When teachers go the extra mile to build relationships with students, students are more willing to learn from that teacher who shows that level of individual care. Getting to know students also helps them feel seen, respected, and valued.
About Brain Power Wellness
Brain Power Wellness is a school-based wellness company that supports healthier school environments. Transforming partner schools through self-development, mindfulness, community building, retreats, SEL, holistic wellness, and brain training, Brain Power Wellness helps teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Since 2007, it has impacted more than 25,000 teachers and half a million students in 500 schools worldwide.