The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the idea that CRT isn’t a static definition; rather it must be an ever evolving practice of awareness of self and others, with the goal of building a community of learners. In reading through Stevenson’s article: Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Teaching Practices (2019) we are confronted with a multitude of questions aimed at teachers, and teacher-training institutions that drive this point home. A strong example is: “How can we ensure that teacher candidates understand that trusting relationships develop for teachers who take care of themselves, take care of each other, and take care of the community…” (Stevenson, 2019, p.7). Reflecting on this question can change the teacher-student dynamic to a more co-learner model, as described by Freire “In Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (2002).
This line of self-reflection can change a teacher centred vision, such as: “Culturally responsive teaching defines the total experiences of each child in regards to their strengths, and teaches to and through those strengths, while connecting them to global issues. Building bridges of relevance between what they already value and global issues affecting their cultural experience. Inspiring reflection about connections and building critical thinking through inclusive comparison.” (Perron, 2019). The result of reflecting on the question and then sharing that reflection with other teachers who’ve been doing the same may bring about a more inclusive definition, such as: “A culturally responsive art teacher is defined by their constant effort of cultural awareness within their practice, and is one who views their students as individuals, as opposed to a student body. We consider a culturally responsive teacher one who facilitates an open environment where students are able to bring traditions and values to individual assignments.” (Perron, Restrepo, & Rosati, 2019). However, as the conversation continues to grow, so does the definition continue to change. Therefore, framing any definition for CRT must be done with a continual questioning and commitment to open-mindedness.
How can we frame CRT?
In her 2012 article, Culturally Responsive Art Education in a Global Era, Alice Lai presents twin foci under which teachers must act in framing experiences that will be relevant to their students: where does the individual’s cultural experience come from, and how do issues of globalization impact on their communities. The individual’s context is made up of personal experience, family values, geographic influences, and their cultural makeup: ethnicity, religion, politics, gender, etc. While the teacher becomes a connecting influence between the student and the world they live in, they can only do this effectively by dedicating themselves to learning from their students’ personal cultures.
Thomas & Berry (2019) gave examples of teachers actively engaging in the communities of their students to gather perspective on what constitutes relevance to them. “Knowledge of context is related to space and place in the ways teachers gained knowledge of their students’ home-life, communities, and neighbourhoods. (Thomas & Berry, 2019, p.26) This is a physical example of how teachers need to learn from their students, but this practice may still be hard to systemically implement. The first step for each teacher may be of implementing classroom experiences that encourage students to voice who they are as individuals and in the context of the classroom community. This is where the teacher can start to develop their own cultural competency.
How can we build CRT?
Embracing a cross-curricular mindset and practice. What we learn about our students’ cultures can be used in almost every subject to make them more relevant and enjoyable to learn. “Cultural competency was found in the ways teachers developed knowledge and skills associated with various forms of communication and funds of knowledge. Further, the teachers acted on this knowledge of cultural practices by incorporating nonverbal communication through proximity and by integrating music and movement into teaching practices.” (Thomas & Berry, 2019, p.27) As art teachers, we can incorporate performance as well as visual art into the other subjects. Eg: Drawing perspectives to demonstrate basic math concepts, like trigonometry, distances, etc…Pulling from the cultural traditions of our student’s lives builds a learning environment that fosters connection and a safe place for the individual to share their unique voices. We are building a community space where the students also learn to be culturally responsive to each other. Cultural Responsiveness nurtures a more collaborative, co-learning environment for both the student and their teachers.
“Aceves & Orosco (2014, pp.9-12, as cited in Ozudogru, 2018. p.2) identified the relevant themes of culturally responsive teaching as:
1) Instructional engagement referring to integrating students’ cultural knowledge with the lesson can have a great impact on students’ development and learning by helping them make connections with the new knowledge (p.9).
2) Culture, language and racial identity need to be enhanced because if students from different cultures cannot connect and create a relationship between school learning and their own cultural background, then learning may be difficult for them. Culturally responsive teaching methods enable teachers to understand the aspects of students’ cultural and linguistic background and how learning is affected from these structures (pp9-10).
3) Multicultural Awareness: Teachers should be critically aware of their own cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Using multicultural skills enables teachers to better understand, sense, and appreciate the various aspects of their students’ cultures such as history or lifestyle (p.10).
4) High Expectations: In culturally responsive teaching context, teachers should have high expectations and belief in students’ learning capabilities. The curricula should consist of challenging and engaging exercises that are developed with careful consideration of students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds (p.11).
5) Teachers should foster students’ critical thinking skills by integrating linguistically and culturally challenging activities that involve critical and higher order thinking skills (p.11).
6) Social justice needs to be focused on in culturally responsive teaching context. In such context, teachers need to guide students to become aware of what kind of challenges or inequalities the other communities face and find possible solutions for them (p.12).”
How can we foster CRT?
Caring as a teaching practice. “Caring is a continuous cycle of working to establish a rapport, using knowledge gained from that rapport to inform teaching practices, and then, reflecting upon teaching and yearning to understand learns… knowledge.” (Thomas & Berry, 2019, p.26) One could also interpret this as developing a teaching practice through the mindset of loving. In reading “All About love” by Bell Hooks, one only needs to return to her encouraging first paragraph where she teaches us the great lesson of remaining open to love, that understanding will come and happiness will come with it. Is she also telling us that remaining open to love will deliver understanding? Be open to learning; be open to learn from your students; love the possibility that they will teach you something; show them the love of an eager learner… they will learn from your example what being a learner is and that will help you share more with them.
It is possible to speak with our heart directly. Most ancient cultures know this. We can actually converse with our heart as if it were a good friend. In modern life we have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart. (Jack Kornfield, as cited in Hooks, 2000).
Practice what you preach. In becoming co-learners in our classrooms, we open ourselves more to our students’ life experiences and demonstrate to them respect and ways of being respectful to others. In this respect, becoming culturally responsive is a natural extension of being individually responsive to others. It becomes a mindset of caring and sharing. Creating safe environments for collaboration and sharing for teachers in training and then extending that into the classrooms, the schools, and the community, all become part of becoming culturally responsive together, all become a community.
“Regarding preparation for culturally responsive teaching, Gay (2002, pp.106-112, as cited in Ozudogru, 2018) pointed out five important components of it:
- developing a cultural diversity knowledge base,
- Designing culturally relevant curricula,
- Demonstrating cultural caring and building a earning community,
- Establishing cross-cultural communications,
- Establishing congruity in classroom instruction.”
As stated in the Thomas & Berry article, CRT is “time sensitive”, in that the understanding of its scope of growing awareness and application are rapidly evolving with globalization. They recommend further research prior to making any conclusions. “More work is needed in the field to unpack teaching practices that promote access, equity, and empowerment. The findings of this research suggest that teachers who incorporate CRP & CRT know their learners and communities of their learners. More work is needed to unpack the continuous cycle teachers use to develop rapport with learners and communities.” (Thomas & Berry, 2019, p.28) The path to getting better results may be found in the results of studies like that complied in the Ozudogru article: The Readiness of Prospective Teachers for Culturally Responsive Teaching (2018, p.7-9), which cites five reflective, self-assessment tests given to educators at various levels. The article also reports the results of of “semi-structured interviews” with the same educators. There’s a great value of placing these tests in the hands of teachers in training. They back-up a greater need for a teacher’s better understanding of their own cultural values and how they may influence their perceptions of different cultural values and practices. In the end, it comes back to a personal practice and the success of that practice relies on continual growth. Learn from your students and share what they teach you with the rest of your classes. This will foster a more inclusive community where more students will develop a love of learning.
Lai, A. (2012). Culturally Responsive: Art Education in a Global Era. Art Education, 65(5), 18-23.
Stevenson, H. hstevenson@pacific. ed., & Markowitz, N. L. nancy. crtwc@gmail. co. (2019). Introduction: Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Teaching Practices. Teacher Education Quarterly, 46(4), 3–9. Retrieved from
Thomas, C. A. ., & Berry III, R. Q. . (2019). A Qualitative Metasynthesis of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy & Culturally Responsive Teaching: Unpacking Mathematics Teaching Practices. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 10(1), 21–30. Retrieved from http://0-search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=139360188&site=eds-live
Özüdoğru, F. fatma. ozudogru@usak. edu. t. (2018). The Readiness of Prospective Teachers for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Acta Didactica Napocensia, 11(3–4), 1–12.
Perron, Mario. (2019): Notes retrieved from: Group Workshop on Multi-Disciplinary Assignment.
Perron, M., Restrepo, F., Rosati, A. (2019): Notes retrieved from: Group Workshop on Multi- Disciplinary Assignment.
Hooks, B., “Introduction, Grace: Touched by Love,” & “Clarity: Give love words” & “Values: Living by a love ethic”, All About Love: New Visions, New York: Harper, 2000, xv-xxix, 3- 14, 85-102
Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 1. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (pp. 43-69) Continuum: New York.
Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (pp. 71-86) Continuum: New York.