6 Culturally Responsive Pedagogy strategies to boost student engagement

In the last few decades, classroom structures have changed significantly due to inclusion in education. In today’s classrooms, you will find students belonging to diverse cultural groups, races, identities, and socioeconomic classes. And therefore, educators should not expect their sole cultural perspectives to engage all students in the classroom. 

In other words, teaching styles should be changed and to address this situation, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy is crucial. A Culturally Relevant Pedagogue can create an inclusive environment in class to promote student engagement and improve their academic performance. Students feel safe in a culturally responsive environment and thereby openly contribute their learning, perspectives, and experiences in class. [1] In this article, we will discuss what exactly culturally responsive pedagogy is, its principles, along with some effective Culturally Responsive teaching strategies that boost student engagement.

What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP), also known as, Culturally Relevant Teaching refers to the teaching approach that emphasizes the significance of connecting the culture of students and their social situations with the school’s curriculum. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy helps students build empathy towards different opinions and perspectives by boosting their engagement with peers. 

In this pedagogical approach, instructors are required to include cultural references of students in all aspects of their learning. In a traditional pedagogical strategy that solely focuses on educator-student dynamic, instructors mainly adhere to the curriculum for imparting knowledge in students. 

Unlike this out-dated teaching strategy, CRP is more focused on imparting a sense of belonging and safety among culturally diverse students in the classroom. For instance, students belonging to low-income families or marginalized communities often feel disconnected from their peers and instructors in class; however, in a culturally responsive classroom, these students can better engage with course material and perform well in academics. 

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy method often depends on the student-centred approach. In this teaching method, educators tend to identify various cultural strengths of students and strive to nurture those strengths to create a positive sense of self in students and boost student engagement. 

Specifically, this pedagogy requires educators to encourage knowledge-sharing about diverse cultures among students to build an inclusive learning culture. Since diverse students are all carriers of unique culture, education based on understanding these differences can enhance the respect for the cultures themselves. [2]

Conditions Necessary for Culturally Responsive Teaching

Inclusion

In order for educators to create a culturally responsive environment in the classroom, they must establish inclusion in the classroom. Educators should emphasize the human purpose behind learning objectives of the course and its connection to the experience of students. 

Besides, in an inclusive environment, educators must treat all students fairly and encourage each student to share their diverse practices with other classmates. This, in turn, helps students feel confident and boost their engagement in class. Educators can ensure inclusion by implementing a collaborative learning approach, peer teaching, and focus groups in the classroom. Kritik’s platform is built to facilitate inclusivity through anonymous and meaningful peer assessments. As one student put it, "I like that all feedback is anonymous, it removes any personal biases, and multiple students can assess my work which provides different perspectives."

"I like that all feedback is anonymous, it removes any personal biases, and multiple students can assess my work which provides different perspectives."
Positive Attitude

Developing a positive attitude in a culturally diverse classroom is equally important to enhance student engagement. In a culturally responsive pedagogy, educators must relate learning activities to experiences as well as previous knowledge of students. Moreover, educators can develop a positive attitude by encouraging students to make choices in assessment methods based on their strengths, experiences, values, and learning needs. 

Enhance Meaning

Another motivational condition that educators need to create is to enhance the meaning of course content by providing students with challenging and thoughtful learning experiences. More importantly, these learning experiences must include the values and perspectives of students. Educators must encourage group discussion in the classroom by incorporating student dialect in the discussion. Kritik’s discussion feature allows students to interact with course material beyond just textbooks and lectures. Through dynamic conversations and engaging online environments, students develop a deeper understanding of course concepts.

Create Competence

Culturally responsive educators should connect the assessment procedures to the students’ frame of reference, social situation, values, and learning needs. Moreover, educators must create an understanding that diverse students perform well in something that they value. Therefore, educators must include different ways in their culturally responsive instructions to represent unique skills and knowledge of culturally diverse students. This can significantly develop students’ intrinsic motivation towards learning and thereby enhancing their engagement in classrooms. Educators are using Kritik to develop new & unique activities and grading that are designed to strengthen students' critical thinking skills. For example, Kritik can be used for interactive and effective online presentations

Inclusion is a key condition for Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Strategies to Boost Student Engagement 

1. Student-Centric Course

Identifying and incorporating students’ interests in course play an important role in connecting them with their course and motivating them to learn. However, when it comes to motivating students, educators should not force them to see and perceive things as they do. Rather, in a culturally responsive pedagogy, they must identify the likes, dislikes, interests, and learning needs of culturally diverse students. Then, they should incorporate those into the class lessons so that students feel more engaged with the course content. [3] 

2. Make Room for Differences

Educators can motivate and get the best out of their students by making room for cultural differences. In this culturally responsive teaching strategy, educators must encourage students to acknowledge and respect each other’s cultural differences with a positive attitude.

With the help of this positive identification of differences, educators can encourage productive communication among diverse students in the classroom. Besides, they can also reinforce student engagement and enhance the social skills of students, such as cultural competence and respect for other cultures. 

3. Encourage Group Interaction in Class

In a culturally responsive teaching strategy, educators should arrange open discussions in classrooms. It allows diverse students to talk about their past learning experiences, values, and perspectives. With the help of group discussions, social interaction is encouraged too among students. 

Educators should create class assignments that require group interaction so that students can improve their problem-solving, critical thinking, as well as social skills. By accommodating class discussions, students learn to relate with their peers in a positive manner which, in turn, boosts the sense of collaboration among students. [3] 

Educators should also incorporate team building activities with the purpose to promote peer support which positively influences the academic performance of students. Of note, students should be engaged in-class activities that foster team spirit before providing them with collaborative learning tasks. This is essential for creating a social-emotional environment in culturally diverse classrooms that is conducive for boosting a sense of solidarity among students. 

Team building activities enable students to feel comfortable and respected, allowing them to confidently express their genuine viewpoints, disagreements with others to reach a consensus in a non-defensive manner. [3] With Kritik’s team-based learning feature, students learn how to collaborate with their peers & debate topics and ideas to come up with collective solutions to the problems posed in their assignments. 

4. Validate Multiple Perspectives in Class

By validating the different perspectives of diverse students, educators can motivate and engage students in learning. When educators validate the ideas and viewpoints of each student, it builds confidence in students to do their best; in addition, it encourages students to collaborate with peers and learn more. Educators can authenticate student’s perspectives by responding like ‘Good Idea’, ‘It is one way to understand the problem’, ‘Does anybody have any alternative opinion or idea? And so on. 

5. Culturally Responsive Curriculum

Before creating and instructing lesson plans, culturally responsive educators must identify the current knowledge of diverse students. This is because the student-centred curriculum is more meaningful as it takes into account the values, interests, and experiences of students. 

Moreover, students belonging to diverse backgrounds engage more in the curriculum when it is relevant to their lives. Also, a culturally relevant educator should be culturally sensitive meaning that he/she must consider cultural competence, academic performance, and socio-political consciousness of students when planning culturally relevant lessons. [1] It is worth mentioning here that culturally sensitive educators expect a high level of academic success from students irrespective of their race, ethnicity, and culture. 

6. Connect School Learning with Students’ Real Life Experiences

If you want to engage students with their learning, you will need to connect theory to practice so that students can understand and develop the real-world applications of concepts. Also, it is one best teaching strategy to strengthen student motivation which helps students engage in learning. Students take more interest in the information that they can relate to their personal circumstances. 

In order to recognize the real-life experiences of students outside the classrooms, educators can arrange programs such as posting poetry, pictures, quotes, songs and stories. This can largely help educators and peers to learn about others’ cultures. Furthermore, educators can engage students in other content-based projects, including storytelling; free-writing exercises; and surveys, to help students engage with school and their peers. Professors utilizing Kritik administer creative and unique learning activities that enable students to apply course concepts to real-world applications. For example, STEM instructors run activities to allow students to effectively communicate the details of a real world design problem.

STEM instructors run activities to allow students to effectively communicate the details of a real world design problem.

Benefits of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

There are multiple research-backed evidences that culturally responsive pedagogy practices offer students various social, emotional, academic as well as cognitive benefits. Some of the benefits of CRP are as follows:

Facilitates Brain Processing

Studies have shown that cultural norms and knowledge of diverse students significantly contribute to mathematical thinking and reading comprehension of students. As per neuroscience research, students learn new information more when it is linked with their existing knowledge. Since culturally responsive pedagogy focuses on a student-centred curriculum that draws from cultural background and schemas, students can learn fast and easily. [4]

Other Benefits
  • Culturally responsive teaching strategies strengthen students’ sense of belongingness and identity.
  • This pedagogical method promotes the inclusion and equity in the classroom.
  • Students belonging to diverse backgrounds are engaged in course material which ultimately enhances their learning.
  • Due to open class discussions involved in culturally responsive teaching strategies, critical thinking skills of students are developed and improved. 
  • CRP approach motivates and engages students as educators connect academic concepts with the lives of diverse students and thereby making their learning experiences more engaging, meaningful, and effective. 
  • Culturally responsive lesson plans promote a sense of safety and support among students. This is because educators cultivate collaborative feelings using different strategies like encouraging social interaction and building respectful relationships among diverse students. 

All in all, educators who adopt culturally responsive pedagogy strive to boost student engagement and a sense of belonging to improve students’ academic performance. Also, they are always ready togo above and beyond to help students succeed in their academics and personal lives.

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California State University https://digitalcommons.csumb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1499&context=caps_thes 

Educational diversity and ethnic cultural heritage in the process of globalization https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41257-019-0022-x 

Culturally Responsive Teaching https://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/resources/culturally-responsive-teaching.pdf 

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain https://resources.corwin.com/sites/default/files/01._table_of_contents_and_front_matter.pdf

Carine Marette
Carine is the Co-Founder of Kritik.

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