The essence of a culture is not its artifacts, tools, or other tangible cultural elements but how the members of the group interpret, use, and perceive them. It is the values, symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or in similar ways (p. 8).
Traditionally in the educational setting, culture describes the backgrounds of students and how they learn. It should also take into consideration students’ implicit and explicit funds of knowledge, ways of speaking, traditions, and backgrounds.
It is important to recognize that we all have culture; culture is not limited to people of color. A common struggle for dominant culture educators (i.e., European ancestry / White) is to be able to name and identify their own cultural identity (Milner, 2010; Tatum, 1997). It is also a reality that people whose culture is different than the dominant culture may struggle with their cultural identity, for example regarding assimilation and adaptation. Recommended tools for educators exploring their cultural identity (Rodriguez & Stinnette, 1998) include the Who am I? Cultural Identity Reflection or the Personal Cultural Introspection. In addition, completing a Cultural Autobiography deepens the introspection as it allows a person to reflect on how culture has impacted them throughout their life and in the workplace.
Defining Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy
Ladson-Billings (2008) defined culturally relevant pedagogy as, “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (p. 20). There are three tenets of culturally relevant pedagogy that were suggested by Ladson-Billings (2008): 1) student success; 2) the use of cultural referents; and 3) allowing students to question the status quo. Culturally relevant
teaching requires teachers to have a laser-like focus on student success, as ultimately the goal of CRP is to improve student learning. Culturally relevant practitioners start with a learner’s perspective on instruction and recognize that the learner’s perspective is intimately tied to the learner’s cultural background, family structure, and identity. The role of the teacher is to design learning experiences that capture and engage all learners across culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The teacher is expected to question societal norms and also to allow students the opportunity to question the status quo, which will help students to develop critical consciousness.
Our choice to identify these goals as both culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy came from our recognition that one cannot be addressed without the other. For example, whereas relevancy is having instruction and curriculum current to the cultures that one is teaching, being responsive is defined as reacting quickly and positively to a situation where culture is involved (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 2014).
The vision of CRRP is to create an educational system that focuses on the broad academic needs of underserved students, to bridge relationships between students, teachers, and families and to make curricula and pedagogy more responsive to student intellectual development.
CRRP supports progress towards the following four goals:
Curriculum and instruction that is challenging and culturally relevant.
P-12 educators who demonstrate high expectations for students.
Participation in educational opportunities which are not predictable by race or poverty.
Professionalize and operationalize the practice of being a culturally relevant and responsive educator.