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Commitment to culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy

We believe that beginning teacher effectiveness is a social justice issue.  It is our responsibility to ensure that our teacher preparation graduates meet the intellectual and developmental needs of all children of color and children from low-income families.  NExT members have made a commitment to support culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy within our teacher preparation programs.


Research on the role of cultural relevance in classroom teaching identifies how students’ cultures — the values, beliefs, practices, and experiences they bring with them from their homes, communities, and heritage — can be an integral part of the students’ successful academic experience in schools when teachers know how to relevantly build on them (Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995a; Lee, 1995).  Gay (2000) argued “a very different pedagogical paradigm is needed to improve the performance of underachieving students from various ethnic groups—one that teaches to and through their personal and cultural strengths” (p. 24). Lack of attention to the cultural differences among learners lead to academic failure of certain groups of students.


Ladson-Billings (1995a; 1995b) identified three fundamental characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogy:

  1. Students experience academic success in basic academic skills.

  2. Students experience instruction with cultural integrity that allows them to maintain their cultural identity while engaging in high level work.

  3. Students are challenged to develop a socio-political consciousness and are encouraged to analyze
    macro-social norms.

In her more recent work, Ladson-Billings (2014) suggests that the concept should be shifted from culturally relevant to "culturally sustaining pedagogy" in order to emphasize that schooling should not replace or obscure students’ home cultures.  She adds to her original framework the ideas that a culturally sustaining pedagogy uses a fluid conception of culture and that teaching practice explicitly engage equity and justice through curricular choices and student engagement.


Gay (2000) identified several aspects of teaching that are successful in supporting students who have been marginalized in schools.  She described the importance of acknowledging the legitimacy of the cultural heritages of different ethnic groups as content to be taught in the formal curriculum by bridging home and school experiences.  She also advocated for including meaningful connections between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities and accomplishing this by using a variety of instructional strategies aligned with student learning styles and incorporating multicultural information, resources, and materials in all the subjects and skills routinely taught in schools.

Gay and Ladson-Billings are pointing us toward a pedagogy that is not only respectful of and attentive to students’ home cultures but is engaging students in important socio-cultural conversations that make the ongoing construction of a democratic nation real in the classroom.  Students in these pedagogies are participants in shaping our communities through their engagement and actions, not merely conforming to others’ expectations.  In our framing of teaching quality, we hold the values of culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy at the forefront.  When we measure content knowledge, teaching practices, or dispositions for teaching, we do so within the lens of equitable teaching.

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