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Culturally Relevant Teaching: Strategies & Definition

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  • 0:00 What Is Culturally…
  • 0:37 Background of CRT
  • 1:58 Three Elements of CRT
  • 3:21 CRT in the Classroom
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Marin Carlson
This lesson will define culturally relevant teaching and illustrate how this approach to instruction can boost student engagement, increase students' feeling of belonging within their school, and positively impact student achievement.

What Is Culturally Relevant Teaching?

Gloria Ladson-Billings defines the concept of culturally relevant teaching (CRT) as 'a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.' This approach to teaching involves teachers building a bridge from students' experience at home to their experience in the classroom, bringing elements into their daily learning at school which validate their culture and make lessons 'hit home' because of those connections.

Background of CRT

The philosophy of CRT is based in part on the 1993 research by Cornel Pewewardy who sought to find out why so many Native American children were unsuccessful in school. He concluded that, instead of honoring and exploring the variety of different cultures that students brought to school with them, educators ignored this in their students and attempted to teach mainstream white, middle class culture to students. Several other researchers in the 1990s then theorized that students suffered from a disconnect between their home and school experiences and that this made them less likely to engage in and excel at school.

The term culturally relevant teaching is a term coined by Gloria Ladson-Billings in 1992. Ladson-Billings described this approach as a way that would empower students to excel because the way in which they experience the curriculum makes sense in the context of their lives and helps them to develop confidence as learners. Ladson-Billings found that students were put more at risk for academic failure if they did not see themselves or their culture represented in the classroom or felt they had to assume another culture (that of their mostly white, middle-class teachers) to be able to fit in and excel in school. From this research, she created a framework which teachers can incorporate to make learning relevant to students, particularly students of color.

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