Culturally responsive teaching is not just a buzzphrase — it’s a pedagogical approach to creating inclusive learning environments. In today’s classrooms, students come from various cultural backgrounds, so it’s important to acknowledge and value their identities. By embracing culturally responsive teaching, educators foster a sense of belonging and empowerment among students, which supports academic achievement and socio-emotional well-being.

As education blog Prodigy notes, “Children process content more effectively when their cultures and languages have places in the curriculum.” In programs like the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Leadership program and M.A. in Curriculum and Instuction – concentration in Reading online program, students learn the practices and strategies to create culturally responsive classrooms and foster student success.

What Is a Culturally Responsive Classroom?

A culturally responsive classroom recognizes and respects students’ diverse cultural backgrounds and integrates them into the learning process. It’s a space where students feel seen, heard and valued for who they are. In these classrooms, educators intentionally incorporate culturally relevant content, teaching strategies and materials that reflect the experiences and perspectives of their students. Doing this creates an environment where all students can engage meaningfully with the curriculum and thrive academically.

Curriculum and instruction encompass the content taught in the classroom and the methods used to deliver that content. In the context of culturally responsive teaching, curriculum and instruction practices should be designed to meet the diverse needs of students while honoring their cultural context. This means selecting materials and resources that reflect the cultural diversity of the classroom, using teaching strategies that resonate with students’ cultural experiences and creating learning opportunities that validate their identities.

Examples of Culturally Responsive Teaching

New America, a non-partisan think tank, lists eight competencies of culturally responsive teaching, including using “students’ culture to share curriculum and instruction.” Drawing on students’ culture to shape curriculum and instruction is a significant part of culturally responsive teaching.

Educators can achieve this by incorporating culturally relevant texts, stories and even physical examples into their lessons. For example, in a history class, teachers might include narratives from various cultural perspectives to provide a more comprehensive understanding of historical events. In a literature class, they could introduce texts written by authors from different cultural backgrounds to broaden students’ reading experiences.

Culturally responsive teaching involves creating a classroom environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusivity, according to Prodigy. Educators can set up classroom guidelines that encourage mutual respect, open dialogue and appreciation for different viewpoints and perspectives. They can also incorporate collaborative learning activities that allow students to share their cultural backgrounds and learn from one another.

Eastern Michigan University’s Online Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction – Leadership

EMU’s M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction – Leadership and M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction – Reading online programs prepare educators with the necessary tools and understanding to build culturally competent classrooms. In courses such as Creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms and Education for Justice: Toward a Diverse, Democratic, & Sustainable Society, graduates learn how to develop curriculum and instruction materials that reflect the cultural diversity of their students. They also gain strategies for fostering inclusive learning environments while studying linguistic, ecological and social justice and the relationship between society and schools.

The National Education Association notes that 1 in 4 children in U.S. public school classrooms will be English language learners (ELLs). Given this, culturally responsive teaching is a vital educational approach that honors students’ diverse backgrounds and languages, encourages inclusivity and enhances learning outcomes.

Educators in all roles can create effective and engaging learning environments by integrating culturally relevant materials, promoting diversity and collaboration and incorporating multiple perspectives. In EMU’s online M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction – Leadership program and online M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction – Reading program, teachers arm themselves with the skills needed to create culturally responsive classrooms and prepare students for success.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Leadership and Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Reading online programs.