It’s almost impossible to ignore that K-12 classrooms in the U.S. are filled with students from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds: race, nationality, religion, economic, etc. Many teachers, though, still aren’t sure how to move from recognizing the diversity to creating a mutually responsive learning environment. In his presentation “Culturally Responsive Teaching: Key Principles and Practices,” Dr. Ken Springer, professor of education and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University, explained why teachers should view diversity as an opportunity and what questions to ask to ensure they’re building a culturally inclusive classroom.
How to build a culturally inclusive classroom
Question 1: What do I know?
Teachers should investigate what sources of diversity they have in their classroom. This can come from institutional knowledge about the students and their families, asking the kids questions about their culture as appropriate, talking with other teachers, and having conversations with the parents. The key is to not make assumptions but to do personal investigations.
Question 2: What do I notice?
In addition to actively learning about students’ backgrounds, teachers also need to make continuous observations. While some behaviors, like being deferential to authority figures, may be cultural, they could also be a part of the student’s personality. Teachers need to get to know all aspects of their students.
Question 3: How do I feel?
Teachers need to constantly reflect on their own behaviors and any biases they have brought into their classroom. The idea is to understand how teachers might be reacting to different student populations and check their own attitudes and assumptions.