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Culturally Responsive & Inclusive Curriculum Resources: What is Culturally Responsive Curriculum?

General Thoughts

“Culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum” – let’s break that down.


Culture, what is it and what kinds of cultures are there?  One definition of culture reads, "Broadly, culture is a collection of information (or meanings) that is (a) nongenetically transmitted between individuals, (b) more or less shared within a population of individuals, and (c) maintained across some generations over a period of time." (1)

So what kinds of cultures might exist within a classroom? Culture is often thought of in terms of ethic or national groups, but we can also look at cultures, within or beyond ethic groups, in terms of race, gender, sexuality, abilities, or class. These are only a few ways to look at culture, there are many more. A person may belong to many cultures and so these ways of looking at culture will naturally intersect. It is important too to examine "invisible" cultures within a classroom. For example, what is the culture of academia? What cultures make "the higher education classroom  what it is today? What ethic groups, classes, sexualities, and abilities have been privileged in the creation and maintenance of higher education, and how can we make these assumptions more apparent?

What does it mean to "respond and include culture in our curriculum?" Another way to look at this is how do we become culturally responsive teachers? Geneva Gay states:

“Culturally responsive teaching can be defined as using cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant and effective for them. It teaches to and through the strengths of these students. Culturally responsive teaching is the behavioral expression of knowledge, beliefs, and values that recognize the importance of racial and cultural diversity in learning. It is contingent on a set of racial and cultural competencies amply summarized by Teel and Obidah (2008) (2). They include

  • Seeing cultural differences as assets
  • Creating caring learning communities where cultural different individuals and heritages are valued
  • Using cultural knowledge of ethnically diverse cultures, families, and communities to guide curriculum development, classroom climates, instructional strategies, and relationships with students
  • Challenging racial and cultural stereotypes, prejudices, racism, and other forms of intolerance, injustice, and oppression
  • Being change agents for social justice and academic equity
  • Mediating power imbalances in classrooms based on race, culture, ethnicity, and class
  • And accepting cultural responsiveness as endemic to educational effectiveness in all areas of learning for students form all ethnic groups. (3)

Researchers have found that culturally responsive classrooms motivate students to learn. "The essentials of this motivational framework are that it 1), respect diversity; 2) engages the motivation of a abroad range of students; 3) create a safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environment; 4) derives teaching practices form across disciplines and cultures; and 5) promotes equitable learning." (4)


(1) Kashima, Yoshihisa. "Culture." In Encyclopedia of Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, edited by John M. Levine and Michael A. Hogg, 177-181. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. doi: 10.4135/9781412972017.n55.

(2) Teel, Karen Manheim., and Obidah, Jennifer E. Building Racial and Cultural Competence in the Classroom : Strategies from Urban Educators. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2008.

(3) Gay, Geneva. Culturally Responsive Teaching : Theory, Research, and Practice. 2nd ed. Multicultural Education Series (New York, N.Y.). New York: Teachers College, 2010

(4) Wlodkowski, Raymond J., and Ginsberg, Margery B. Diversity and Motivation : Culturally Responsive Teaching. 1st ed. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995.

Brief Overview

Further General Readings

Here's a list of a few sources that are good introductions to culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum and pedagogy. Some have a K-12 focus, but many of the ideas can be adapted for higher education.

Branche, Jerome., Mullennix, John W, and Cohn, Ellen R. Diversity across the Curriculum : A Guide for Faculty in Higher Education. Bolton, Mass.: Anker Pub., 2007

Gay, Geneva. Culturally Responsive Teaching : Theory, Research, and Practice. 2nd ed. Multicultural Education Series (New York, N.Y.). New York: Teachers College, 2010. 

Banks, James A. Cultural Diversity and Education : Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching. Sixth ed. New York, NY ; Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2016. 

Quaye, Stephen John, and Harper, Shaun R. Student Engagement in Higher Education : Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations. Second ed. New York: Routledge, 2015. 

Lee, Amy; Poch, Robert; Shaw, Marta; Evans, Rhiannon. Engaging diversity in undergraduate classrooms a pedagogy for developing intercultural competence Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley Periodicals, Inc. ; San Francisco, Calif. : Jossey-Bass, 2012. 

Thomas, Cornell. Inclusive Teaching Presence in the Classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning ; No. 140. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014. ONLINE 

Davis, Bonnie M. How to Teach Students Who Don't Look like You : Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press, 2006. 

 
Brown-Jeffy, S., & Cooper, J. E. (2011). Toward a Conceptual Framework of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: An Overview of the Conceptual and Theoretical Literature. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(1), 65-84.

To find more sources use subjects such as:

  • Culturally relevant pedagogy
  • Multicultural Education
  • Inclusive Education
  • Social Justice - Study and Teaching