The Mindset of Culturally Responsive Educators


One definition of culture is that it is a way of life and learned ways of acting, feeling thinking and communicating based on a group who share common language, beliefs, values, traditions, social norms, and identity in a society (Canadian Hearing Society, 2016).

The Ministry of Education Monograph, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools (MoE 2013) states that culture goes much deeper than typical beliefs about ethnicity, race & religion, or traditional understandings of “multiculturalism,” with its emphasis on food, festivals, clothing, traditions and celebrations. Culture “encompasses broad notions of similarity and difference and it is reflected in our students’ multiple social identities and their ways of knowing and of being in the world.” In order to serve the increasingly diverse cultures and communities in Ontario, therefore,  it is crucial for teachers to understand what Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP) is and how it applies to teaching and learning (MoE 2013).

TDSB Expectations of Practice states: The classroom environment, instructional strategies and program content must reflect, respect and validate the lived experiences and social identities of the students and the greater global community. This means that our schools and classrooms need to reflect the current reality of our students and move away from representing and maintaining the values, beliefs, curriculum, instructional strategies and resources that reflect the dominant culture of a bygone era  (Accessed Feb 3, 2016).

Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP) is a term that was first introduced in 1994 by Gloria Ladson-Billings (MoE 2013). Culturally responsive pedagogy recognizes that:

  • all students have multiple social identities, unique perspectives and ways of knowing, of being in the world and of learning.
  • differences may be connected to background, language, family structure, ability, LGBTQ, mental health, socio-economic status, or cultural identity, etc.


There are three central principles:

  1. high expectations for all students,
  2. assisting students in the development of cultural competence
  3. guiding students to develop a critical cultural consciousness.

Theorists write about three dimensions which comprise culturally responsive pedagogy. All three dimensions are foundational to the establishment of an inclusive school culture.

  1. Institutional

This highlights the need for school leadership to critically examine educational practices that may reproduce particular patterns of marginalization. School leadership needs to also engage families, communities and other stakeholders and establish collaborations with community agencies whose mandates include serving school-age children, youth, and their families (OISE).

  1. Personal

This encompasses the mindset of culturally responsive educators and the practices they engage in, in order to support the development of all students. Culturally responsive educators are self-aware, and reflective in their professional practice. They are motivated to really get to know their students and allow students to connect with each other. They accept, value and respect their students as individuals and seek to understand how their students learn and how to inspire, motivate and engage them.

  1. Instructional

Culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy  means that teachers create an inclusive and respectful environment and are mindful of, and sensitive to how curriculum, instructional strategies and classroom resources impact the conditions for student learning and student experience. Culturally responsive educators provide students with choice and voice, multiple ways of learning, personalized learning and the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a variety of unique and personal ways.

The MoE Monograph states: Culturally responsive teachers share a particular set of dispositions and skills – a mindset that enables them to work creatively and effectively to support all students in diverse settings.


In a culturally responsive classroom, teachers are mindful of how critical their role is in setting the tone for learning by providing a safe and supportive learning environment that is learner-centered and embraces students’ diverse backgrounds. Students strengths are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement. In a culturally responsive classroom the following are carefully and thoughtfully selected to reflect diversity, support student learning and contribute to student success:

  • curriculum/course content
  • diagnostic assessment
  • instructional strategies
  • classroom design and layout
  • assignments and projects
  • pacing and timelines
  • learning and play materials
  • posters and wall charts
  • textbooks and teacher guides
  • online and print resources
  • technology, including assistive technology
  • educational apps
  • novels and reading materials
  • assessment & evaluation
  • interventions
  • feedback

To download and read the full  Monograph, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy : Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools, SECRETARIAT SPECIAL EDITION # 35 click here: CBS_ResponsivePedagogy


Additional Reading:

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