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Successfully Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices

Topaz D. Thompson

University of West Georgia



This qualitative study examines seventeen certified Georgia middle school teachers preparedness

implementing culturally responsive teaching strategies. Participants were administered a

questionnaire regarding their level of preparedness in incorporating culturally responsive

pedagogy (CRP), and a focus group interview after participating in a professional development

workshop. According to Gay (2002, p.106; as cited in Tengku, 2013), “culturally responsive

teaching is defined as using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives of

ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively.” Culture encompasses

numerous aspects which have direct implications for teaching and learning (Tengku, 2013).The

professional development workshop will provide instructional strategies and resources for

incorporating culturally responsive practices within the classroom. Data will collected using a

questionnaire, and focus group interview. The author predicts that the qualitative analysis will

reveal a positive impact on the teachers’ level of comfort implementing culturally responsive

pedagogical strategies in the classroom after the workshop.

Keywords: culturally responsive teaching, middle school, academic achievement


Successfully Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices

The United States public schools are more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse

and different than ever before, yet the racial and ethnic demographics of educators remain

relatively unchanged or stable (Ford as cited in Kea & Trent, 2013). Several researchers contend

that a focus on culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is needed to address this state of affairs

(Ladson-Billings 1994, as cited in Kea & Trent, 2013). Culturally responsive teaching refers to a

multidimensional, student-centered approach that promotes equitable excellence and serves to

validate and affirm the experiences and contributions of students from all cultures and

backgrounds (Samuels, Samuels & Cook, 2017). This pedagogical movement has revolutionized

the way that educators deliver instruction all over the world. However, teachers need to first be

multi-culturally aware of differences among their students, to better act as role models in the

English classroom (Tengku, 2013).

In most teacher education programs, however, teachers take a "multicultural" or

"diversity" course which is an “add on” to regular teacher education programs rather than

integrated within the curriculum. This can be problematic because “the very coursework that

comprises teacher education fails to take up notions of culture and learning in robust and

substantive ways,” (Ladson-Billings; p.14, as cited by Ebersole, Kanahele-Mossman &

Kawakami, 2015). The result is often teachers are not provided with sufficient diversity training

to offset the growing level of cultural diversity amongst students. Teachers need to be better

prepared to understand the values of cultures different than their own. Teachers’ attitudes have

direct implications and may determine the success or failure of diverse learners in schools.

Teachers’ perspectives and attitudes toward multiculturalism are manifested in areas like

teacher-student interaction, attention given to students, expectation of students’ achievements,


conflict resolution, teaching materials selection and many other aspects (Ambe, Banks & Banks,

as cited by Tengku, 2013). Additional research is required to ensure that teachers are adequately

prepared to incorporate culturally responsive pedagogy within daily teaching practices.

Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this study was to examine teacher preparedness in implementing

culturally responsive teaching practices in their classes after participating in a professional

development workshop providing instructional strategies and resources on culturally responsive


1. How if at all does professional development training help teachers become more

proficient culturally responsive teachers?

Literature Review

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of

including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings, 2015, as cited

by Larson, 2018). Multicultural education is at least three things: an idea or concept, an

educational reform movement, and a process. Multicultural education incorporates the idea that

all students—regardless of their gender and social class and their ethnic, racial, or cultural

characteristics—should have an equal opportunity to learn in school. Another important idea in

multicultural education is that some students, because of these characteristics, have a better

chance to learn in schools as they are currently structured than do students who belong to other

groups or who have different cultural characteristics (Banks 2005, as cited in Kea & Trent, 2013)

Studies have shown that culture influences the learning process and social adjustment of

students. As agents of change, teachers need to be multi-culturally aware of differences among

students and promote cultural understanding to enable them to become sensitive to other students

from other cultures and to eventually be able to live harmoniously in a multicultural community

(Tenkgu, 2013). Teachers need to focus more on students’ learning than on classroom

procedures, which entails serious consideration of students’ prior knowledge and their

experiences, beliefs, values and aspirations. Such an approach requires insight into the students’

worlds and into the use of teaching strategies that access and engage information about and from

students. This pedagogical approach helps to ensure cultural relevance (Hamdan, 2014).

Teachers have to extend their knowledge to stay abreast of the newest strategies in an

effort to reach a variety of students on numerous levels. Efforts to increase awareness of their

teacher identities as they proceed through education programs requires acknowledging beliefs

that all students can succeed and preparing lessons for students to learn how to navigate social,

cultural, and historical contexts in diverse school environments (Gregory & Salmon, 2013). It is

important, then, to find approaches that enable academics to develop not only their conceptions

of teaching but to explore their beliefs and practices within a supportive environment (Gregory &

Salmon, 2013).

Educational preparation programs must ensure they are providing teachers and teacher

candidates with the knowledge, skills, and tools to create inclusive classrooms that embrace and

foster diversity (Gregory & Salmon, 2013). The lack of exposure amongst preservice teachers to

culturally responsive pedagogical practices suggest the need for training opportunities for current

teachers. This study serves as avenue for new research on teacher preparedness regarding

culturally responsive pedagogy. Even though extensive effort has been made to assess if teachers

are adequately prepared to implement culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP), additional research

is needed to determine if teachers need more training in this area. Because efforts to prepare

culturally responsive teachers are fairly recent, there is the unfortunate possibility that

prospective teachers may graduate without being exposed to the practices of culturally

responsive teaching during their coursework and field experiences (Siwatu, 2011). Whether all

teachers are exposed to adequate CRP training has not yet been clarified. These limitations

within the current research imply the need for additional research in this area of study.


This research explores teacher preparedness in the area of culturally responsive pedagogy

by use of grounded theory research design. Grounded Theory Research attempts to decipher how

participants respond to certain conditions and seeks to evaluate the consequences of their

conduct or actions (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). Plano Clark and Cresswell (2015) define the

grounded theory research design as “sets of systematic, qualitative procedures that researchers

use to generate a general explanation that explains a process, action, or interaction among

people” (p. 297). In other words, the purpose of grounded theory is to develop a theoretical

explanation for a process or an action through a process of continual comparison (Soldana,

2011). This explanation is supported and created from the qualitative data produced by the

participants (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). It is widely understood that a theory extends beyond the

findings in that it generates a viable explanation about phenomena (Plano Clark & Cresswell,

2015). All teacher participants will be certified Georgia middle school teachers participating in a

professional development workshop. The data will be collected from a questionnaire and a focus

group interview that will be administered after the professional development workshop. The

workshop would be comprised of two main activities as part of the construct. In an effort to

determine teacher’s level of preparedness in implementing CRP, the workshop will address (a)

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy/Effective Implementation (b) Effective CRP Resources. The

intent of the workshop will be to help teachers deepen understandings about the topic, and to

assess their current level of comfort implementing CRP strategies. Teachers will engage in focus

group interviews using driving questions to generate insights. I intend for all of the participants

to participate in the focus group interviews. The interviews will be approximately 10 minutes in

length. The purpose of these interviews would be to gain insight on teachers’ perspectives on

CRP, and the teacher’s feelings of their level of preparedness implementing CRP strategies

within the classroom before and after the workshop. To analyze the data, I will employ coding

procedures to determine themes from the questionnaire and the interviews. The process of

transitioning research from raw data to emerging themes fall into the following categories (1)

recognition, (2) examination, (3) coding, (4) sorting, and (5) synthesis. All data will be reviewed

multiple times to further aid in analysis, develop themes, and promote accuracy. Finally, I will

sort, and synthesize the data, while locating findings related to emerging themes.


This research could be extremely valuable to the field of education. This study explores

importance of providing teachers with exposure to culturally responsive pedagogy. The

aforementioned research in this study states that CRP strategies benefit student achievement. In

my literature review I explore the issue of lack of exposure of culturally responsive pedagogy

amongst preservice teachers. The results of this study could offer insight on the preparedness of

teachers currently implementing culturally responsive pedagogy in the classroom. I predict that

the qualitative analysis will reveal a positive impact on the teachers’ level of comfort in

implementing culturally responsive pedagogy after implementation of the professional

development workshop.


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