Culturally Responsive Teaching: Ensuring ALL Students Learning & “Ready for Rigor”

Divrse group of four middle school students working together on a group project in a classroom with the Black female student in the foreground looking and smiling at the camera.

Children grow into the intellectual life around them.

– Lev Vygotsky



The information and guides below capture the main points of Hammond’s work and the complete videos linked in the resources box above.

As you engage with this content, reflect on:

> what your school is doing well

> what your school can improve upon

> new ways to incorporate CRT into your students’ school day

While we don’t want learners getting stuck in the learning pit, the journey through it is a natural part of the learning process. It’s our responsibility to help guide them through the areas of struggle, so they can successfully make it out on the other side.

Building Rapport is Foundational

  • Reframe the teacher-student relationship around trust
  • Set the stage for “relaxed alertness”
  • Recognize students will NOT risk failure (necessary to learn) unless they feel safe and trust the one leading them to the edge of their own learning

We often tend to focus on race and ethnicity when considering culture, but especially in terms of cognitive access to learning, there are many more aspects of culture that play a role.

In fact, when incorporating CRT, we don’t even have to talk about race, ethnicity, culture, etc.
Cultural Orientation lies on a spectrum between individualism and collectivism. The USA ranks #1 as the most individualistic nation followed generally by Australia and some Western European nations. There is then a fairly significant gap between these nations and the rest of the world as it becomes more collectivist.

As educators in an individualistic culture, it is our responsibility to incorporate collectivism in the learning environment, so that all of our students feel a sense of belonging and are better equipped cognitively to learn.

Collectivist practices benefit all learners – even those whose native culture is predominantly individualist.

Building an Alliance (between teachers & students) Is the Reason for the Relationship

  • students need both care & push from the teacher(s)
  • teachers use the trust developed during the rapport stage as fuel
  • RESULT = students give you permission to push

Socio-Cognitive Norms for Learners

  • Errors are information, NOT confirmation of low intelligence
  • Answers are important, but NOT only the content counts
    • Pay attention to HOW you are processing the information to arrive at the answers
  • Use non-linguistic representations to think (think with pictures, symbols, etc.)


Engagement that leads to deeper learning (into the Zone of Proximal Development):

  • requires grappling, figuring out
  • is hands-on and/or group-oriented
  • has to stretch the student
  • has to create “gentle disequilibrium” between what the student can do and what they can’t do
  • requires you to create challenge, puzzle, and ambiguity in order for the brain to grow and improve information processing > which equals engagement


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