You Can’t Be Culturally Responsive Without Being Responsive

You Can’t Be Culturally Responsive Without Being Responsive

By: Dr. Rachael Mahmood

When I first learned about multicultural education in college, I was very excited to start including my students’ backgrounds in the lessons I taught. I, too, come from cultures that aren’t often included in curricular stories or histories. I eagerly searched for books that reflected my students’ home cultures and decorated my room with artifacts from around the world. I felt that I was being a culturally responsive teacher by incorporating my students’ backgrounds in my classroom. After all, Gloria Ladson-Billings, a well-known scholar in the field and author of the amazing book The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children, defined culturally responsive teaching as a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning (1994).

A few years later, I came across research from scholars like A. Wade Boykin and Zaretta Hammond who describe students as having varied cultural learning styles. Though students have some predisposition to the way they learn based on the biological makeup of their brains, they’ve also been socialized, within their home culture, on how to learn. Therefore, much about how students learn is influenced by nature and nurture (Myers, 1990). Hammond (2014) expanded on this idea in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, asserting that students have certain cultural learning style preferences. She claimed we as teachers must use teaching pedagogy that leverages the cognitive scaffolding of students from traditionally communal cultures to help close the achievement gap. 

In my own practice, I began to research and implement different ways of teaching that were more effective for students from communal cultures. I added more verve (Boykin, 1982) to my lessons, incorporated call and response into my questioning, made space for students to have more kinesthetic approaches to learning, and storified and gamified my direct instruction and independent practice (Hammond, 2015). I was convinced that I was a culturally responsive teacher because I was including both the cultural backgrounds and cultural learning styles of my students in what I taught…. Read the full article at

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