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Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education

Overview: Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CR-S) Education draws on decades of research in asset-based pedagogies that recognize that cultural difference (including racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, sexuality and ability) should be treated as assets for teaching and learning. This approach to education, according to Dr. Django Paris, counters dominant narratives about difference as deficits or as characteristics of students and families that should be remediated or assimilated (Paris, 2012). Using this approach to education, all families are believed to have cultural capital, or knowledge, abilities, and networks, that can, and should, be leveraged in classrooms. While schooling has traditionally privileged the capital of families from dominant backgrounds, CR-S positions educators to acknowledge, value, and leverage the wealth of knowledge found in communities that have been marginalized (Paris, 2012).

Culturally responsive education is about teaching the students in front of you. To do this requires that educators and leaders work to get to know their students and develop meaningful relationships with students while engaging in the students’ communities. These are two tenets that anchors CDE's definition of best, first instruction. However, culturally responsive education must also be sustaining, that is it must work to encourage cultural pluralism and not cultural assimilation. Home and youth culture should be welcomed into the classroom as areas ripe for discussion. Differences should not just be seen as strengths, but they should also be maintained because they are what make students and families unique. How educators understand culture has real consequences for our children as a limited understanding of culture has the power to disadvantage some while privileging others (Kirkland, 2012).

Origins of Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education

The term culturally sustaining requires that our pedagogies be more than responsive of or relevant to the cultural experiences and practices of young people—it requires that they support young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence. Culturally sustaining pedagogy, then, has as its explicit goal supporting multilingualism and multiculturalism in practice and perspective for students and teachers. That is, culturally sustaining pedagogy seeks to perpetuate and foster—to sustain—linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling. (Paris, 2012). 

Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Framework

The Culturally Responsive and Sustaining framework helps educators create student-centered learning environments that affirm racial, linguistic, and cultural identities; prepare students for rigor and independent learning; develop students' abilities to connect across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; and empower students as agents of social change. CR-S education explores the relationship between historical and contemporary conditions of inequality and ideas that shape access, participation, and outcomes for learners.


Reflection of Practices

Welcoming and Affirming Environment (1)

1. What are you doing to learn more about your students’ culture?
2. How are you building and sustaining student relationships?
3. How do the instructional materials you use affirm your students’ identities?

High Expectations and Rigorous Instruction (2)

1. How are you encouraging student-led civic engagement in your classroom?
2. How are you engaging your students in a critical examination of power structures?

Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment (3)

1. Are your students' co-designers of the curriculum?
2. How are you adapting your instructional strategies to the diverse learning styles of your students?
3. Are you incorporating resources that are written and developed by racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives?


NOTE: The content on this webpage was developed using the Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Framework created by the New York Department of Education and the research of Dr. Django Paris, Professor at University of Washington, and Dr. David Kirkland, Professor at New York University.

Next Module: Creating and Sustaining Culturally Responsive Learning Environments Part One