• Tara O'Brien

What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?

Updated: Jun 12, 2021

Planning and practice that develops identity, self-efficacy, and sociocultural consciousness all contribute to building culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP).

Kelly et al., (2021) shares the work of Gay (2004) in describing culturally responsive curriculum as the multicultural education of diverse students which develops social consciousness, civic responsibility, and political activism to work towards greater inclusion, justice, and equality (Kelly et al., 2021).

The definition of identity in an educational context is defined as study of the self. Harter (1999) presents the symbolic interactionalist perspective of identity which argues that students internalize the opinions of family, friends, and teachers when developing their identity (Booth et al., 2017). This perspective on identity reveals the importance of the role of teachers in setting high expectations for students, providing actionable feedback, and supporting students in developing social-emotional competencies. Rivas-Drake et al. (2014) write that as students reach adolescence, identity becomes increasingly more complex due to a group consciousness perspective on ethnic and racial identity (ERI) (Booth et al., 2017). Umaña-Taylor et. al. (2014) explain that a person`s search for ERI and positive affect towards ERI is impacted by the perceptions of other members in said group. The development of a positive affect towards ERI is supported through social and emotional competency as well as culturally responsive pedagogy.

Bandura (1977) describes self-efficacy as, "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations" (Pajeres,1996, p. 544). This cognitive and affective “self-system” assists people in managing their thoughts, emotions, and actions (Pajeres,1996). In an educational context, self-efficacy effects how students view themselves and thus also effects their levels of agency and motivation. Students with low levels of self-efficacy may believe that they cannot be successful at a task and should not bother with persisting while students with high levels of self-efficacy feel more agentic and believe that they can manage academic challenges. Teachers can support the development of high levels of self-efficacy by modelling it and persisting in tasks when challenged. Students look to trusted adults as examples and the perspectives and actions of teachers make a difference.

Johnson (2009) defines the sociocultural perspective in education as the social and interactive process of developing human cognition (Pérez, 2017). Thus, learning is framed by the student`s relationships, interactions, language, context, and culture(s). The sociocultural perspective mirrors the pedagogy of social constructivists like Vygotsky (1978) and calls for curriculum rooted in co-constructed knowledge (Pérez, 2017). Villegas (2007) refers to sociocultural consciousness as social awareness about the existence of other perspectives and experiences including those influenced by ethnicity, race, gender, and social class. To address the challenges of developing sociocultural consciousness in students, teachers must first develop these competencies in themselves by examining their own experiences and the experiences of other groups of people (Villegas, 2007).

The interplay between the development of identity, self-efficacy, and sociocultural consciousness contributes to greater access to education and culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) helps to facilitate development of these competencies. Firstly, students who have developed a sense of identity and feel positive self-affect towards their racial and/or ethnic group feel more supported. Secondly, students with high levels of self-efficacy feel more agency and are more likely to persist when challenged. Thirdly, students with developed sociocultural consciousness perceive the world as complex and recognize that the perspectives and experiences of other people may differ from their own. CRP provides a multicultural perspective on education and strategies for developing the identity, self-efficacy, and sociocultural consciousness of students.

The following list provides research-supported instructional practices that contribute to Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.

  1. Have high expectations for all students (Villegas, 2007).

  2. Plan classroom strategies that develop of self-efficacy among students (Majer, 2009).

  3. Fairbanks et al. (2009) recommends developing procedures that increase student talk, thus enabling student interaction and perspective-sharing (Kelly et al., 2021). These procedures could include resource selection, support structures, grouping strategies, cultural modelling, and the creation of hybrid spaces (Kelly et al., 2021).

  4. Develop student self-efficacy and social consciousness by planning tasks that encourage students to explore and affirm racial and ethnic identity (Booth, 2017).

  5. Anchor planning in real context to develop authentic connection, empathy towards others, and sociocultural consciousness (Villegas, 2007).

  6. Teachers should develop their own socio-cultural consciousness through a variety of methods. Learn about the perspectives, experiences, and culture(s) of their students rather than rely on vague stereotypes (Villegas, 2007). Learn about inequalities in society and systematic injustice (Villegas, 2007). Develop affirming views about diversity and an assets-based approach (Villegas, 2007).

  7. Integrate opportunities from social and emotional learning (SEL) into curriculum and practice to develop the self-awareness and social-awareness of students (Durlak et al., 2011).


  • Arguedas, A., Daradoumis, T., & Xhafa F. (2016). Analyzing how emotion awareness influences students’ motivation, engagement, self-regulation and learning outcome. Educational Technology & Society, 19 (2), 87–103.

  • Booth, M.Z., Abercrombie, S., & Frey, C.J. (2017). Contradictions of adolescent self-construal: Examining the interaction of ethnic identity, self-efficacy and academic achievement. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 29(1), 3-19.

  • Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki A. B., Taylor R. D., Weissberg, R. P. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Raising Healthy Children, 82(1), 405-432. https://www.jstor.org/stable/29782838

  • Kelly, B. L., Wakefield, W., Caires-Hurley, J., Kganetso, L. W., Moses, L., & Baca, E. (2021). What is culturally informed literacy instruction? A review of research in p-5 contexts. Journal of Literacy Research, 53(1), 75-99. https://journals.sagepub.com/home/jlr

  • Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of Educational Research, 66(4), 543-578. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1170653

  • Pérez, N. Y. B. (2017). Constructing sociocultural awareness from the EFL classroom. Gist Education and Learning Research Journal,15, 149-172. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1172003

  • Villegas, A. M., Lucas, T. (2007). The culturally responsive teacher. Responding to Changing Demographics, 64(6), 28-33. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Culturally-Responsive-Teacher.aspx

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