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Culturally responsive pedagogy: How today's teachers can impact 21st Century learners

Jess Scherman By  Jess Scherman  |  @jescherman  | 

Culturally-Responsive-Pedagogy

America's public school system is in the midst of a huge cultural shift. A new demographic era has begun to unfold in our K-12 schools, as evidenced by numbers pulled from 2014 fall enrollments.

For the first time, the number of Latino, African-American and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms has surpassed that of non-Hispanic Caucasian students. Minority students now comprise approximately 50.3 percent of enrolled students, according to "Education Week." Projections indicate that this number will continue to grow in the coming years.  

So what does this mean for today's K-12 educators?  

Teachers will need to pursue pedagogical approaches to which this diversified student population can most effectively respond. There is a renewed necessity to cultivate classroom cultures that are inclusive to all students, regardless of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, providing each with the best opportunity to learn.  

That's where culturally responsive pedagogy comes in.  

What is culturally responsive pedagogy?

Culturally responsive pedagogy, by definition, facilitates and supports the achievement of all students, according to the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST).  

No single teaching strategy can consistently and effectively engage all learners, which is why this teaching method creates a learning environment to to help students relate lesson content to their own cultural backgrounds. Culturally responsive pedagogy strives to transcend disciplines and cultures to engage learners while still respecting their cultural integrity, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  

This pedagogical practice can be divided into three primary dimensions: institutional, personal and instructional. That is to say, this threefold approach addresses not only the administrative offerings instituted by our schools, but also the cognitive and emotional processes teachers must engage in. This also includes the materials and strategies employed in the cultivation of culturally responsive learning environments.  

There are various resources on the Internet that offer teachers an array of tactics and exercises to increase their cultural competence and teaching practices, but none are as well-rounded or holistic as pursuing a graduate-level certificate in culturally responsive pedagogy.  

What can I expect in an online certificate program?

The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) has paid attention to the shifting demographic of America's K-12 students, and now offers a one-of-a-kind graduate certificate program in culturally responsive pedagogy. The program is 100 percent online, can be completed in just under 18 months and it seeks to provide educators with opportunities to examine the needs of this changing student body and identify classroom-specific strategies.  

Program participants spend time reflecting upon current educational practices, examining systems of power and creating culturally responsive teaching and learning strategies. The certificate focuses on educators' abilities to deeply examine their own constructs of thought so that they may better prepare themselves to improve student achievement.  

The required courses allow participants to both examine demographic trends and achievement disparities, as well as learn research-based teaching strategies that help meet the learning needs of a diverse student population.  

Educators enrolled in the certificate program will have the opportunity to do the following:  

  • Deeply survey characteristics of culturally responsive instruction techniques
  • Critically examine how power and privilege can manifest within schools and communities
  • Explore theoretical frameworks of multicultural education by digging into the relationship between culture and learning
  • Participate in a rewarding capstone course in which they can develop a final project that encompasses all of the knowledge and skills gleaned throughout the program  

Say 'Yes!' to culturally responsive teaching

Educators not only teach, but they have the opportunity to act as leaders for social change. They assume a profound responsibility to ensure that all students see equal opportunities to achieve within the classroom environment. Instruction that is culturally responsive addresses the needs of all learners.  

While states inform classroom curricula, NCCREST asserts that teachers are "institutional agents" who provide students with a bridge of understanding and support. They do so through utilizing materials and examples, engaging in practices and demonstrating values that include students from a variety of different backgrounds.  

If you're seeking tactics to adapt your classroom to the rapidly shifting demographic of K-12 students, visit CSS' Certificate in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy program page.

But don't stop there! In addition to this valuable graduate certificate program, CSS offers four additional online certificate opportunities to enhance your pedagogical practices—from computer science education to online instruction, learn more about these innovative offerings.

Jess Scherman


Jess is a higher education content creator who writes on behalf of The College of St. Scholastica. She researches and writes content to help current and prospective students on their path to educational success. As a published poet with a passion for the transformative nature of higher education, she loves discovering new ways to use her writing as a tool to help others.

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