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Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Developing Curriculum

Information on developing culturally responsive and inclusive pedagogy.

Inclusive: Responds to a Variety of Identities and Reflects a Diversity of Voice

The students taking our classes represent a myriad of different: Ethnic groups, Religions, Social Classes, Gender and Sexual Identifies, and Learning Styles and Abilities.

Culturally responsive pedagogy, therefore, should strive to be inclusive, optimizing teaching methods that incorporate varied approaches and means of assessment to reflect the diverse voices, learning styles, and abilities of our students.

It is important yet challenging to consider the ways that the Dominant Culture in a college and in the classroom undermines attempts to achieve culturally responsive efforts. Assumed and hidden cultures permeate academia and need to be considered.

In this 18 minute TedTalk, novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Below are a couple of general resources on Inclusive Education. See other tabs in this guide for a more comprehensive list.

Responds to a Variety of Learning Styles and Abilities

As defined in the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education, "Learning styles refers to a theoretical perspective that explains individual and group patterns of propensities and preferences for particular approaches and strategies for learning, information processing, and particular habits of mind related to ways of making sense of the world, approaching particular tasks, problem-solving, and communicating with others.” According to learning style theory, when an individual’s learning preferences are met, the individual learns more easily and effectively.

Different theorists have proposed different learning styles and learning types. Two of the most popular are the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which are outlined below. Alan Pritchard’s Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom provides a comprehensive overview.

Neuro-Linguistic (NLP) Learning Styles

Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to learn by seeing. They have good visual recall and prefer information to be presented visually, in the form of diagrams, graphs, maps, posters and displays, for example.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening. They have good auditory memory and benefit from discussion, lectures, interviewing, hearing stories and audio tapes, for example.

Kinaesthetic Learners

Kinaesthetic learners prefer to learn by doing. They are good at recalling events and associate feelings or physical experiences with memory. They enjoy physical activity, field trips,manipulating objects and other practical, first-hand experience


Meyers-Briggs (MBTI) Learning Styles

Extrovert Learners

Extroverts learn best when they can work with a friend and learn by trying something themselves instead of watching or listening to others. When they have difficulty with understanding, they benefit by talking about their ideas with others.

Introvert Learners

Introverts learn best when they can find quiet places to work and have enough time to reflection, redraft and improve their work. Introverts often like to make connections between schoolwork and their personal interests

Sensing Learners

Sensing learners learn best when they can ask their teacher to explain exactly what is expected and when they can focus on skills and tasks that are important in their lives. They like to use computers, watch films or find other ways to see, hear and touch what they are learning.

Intuitive Learners

Intuitive learners learn best when they can find ways to be imaginative and creative in school.They prefer to follow their instincts and understand the big picture before they begin school tasks.

Thinking Learners

Thinking learners learn best when they have limited time to do their work and are able to put information in a logical order that makes sense to them. They succeed when they can focus on what they already know in order to make connections to new information.

Feeling Learners

Feeling learners learn best when they can work with a friend, find opportunities to choose topics they care about and help others.

Judging Learners

Judging learners learn best when they have short-term goals, when they are able to make a plan of action and find out from the teacher exactly what is expected.

Perceiving Learners

Perceiving learners learn best when they find new ways to do routine tasks in order to generate interest and to discover new information and ideas.They prefer being involved in projects that are open-ended without definite cut-off points and deadlines.

Best Practices for Reflecting Diversity

  • Textbook and Course Materials: Try to ensure representation of voices from different cultures, classes, genders, and with differing abilities.
  • Syllabus: Lay the ground rules about respecting diverse points of view, using respectful language, and bringing up issues with the instructor. Include language from Cerro Coso’s “Unlawful Discrimination Policy” located in the Catalog.
  • Small Groups: Create opportunities for students to feel valued in the classroom. Small group work can help overcome barriers to effective participation. Check out "Using Small Groups to Promote Inclusive Learning" from Flinders University.
  • Assignments: Allow students to select topics of interest to them and include opportunities for them to personalize and draw from their own experiences.

In this 4 minute video, expert Carolyn Nielsen discusses her approach throughout her curriculum, including small group work, and self-reflection exercises. Produced by The Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment (CIIA) at Western Washington University

Employs Universal Design

Our students represent a wide range of abilities and disabilities, which may include learning as well as behavioral and physical disabilities. Many instructors are attempting to accommodate students who have different abilities, which also benefits all students. Universal design principles recognize that “…changing demographics, perceptions, and attitudes are fueling the demand for more…sophisticated environments that are accessible for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes” (Steinfeld, Maisel & Levine, 2012). Educators can employ these principles to design inclusive and culturally-responsive curriculum for optimal access, achievement, and participation.

Checklist of Assumptions that Impact Motivation, Learning and Performance

Assumptions about Experience/Knowledge

  • Do I expect most students to share my historical, popular culture, religious or literary references?
  • Do I expect most students to come from traditional families?
  • Do I fail to recognize that members of the dominant group have benefited from the privileges that come from membership in that group?
  • Do I expect most students of color to come from lower income families or have weaker academic preparation?
  • Do I expect minority students to be first-generation college students?
  • Do I expect African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, or other students of color to be all alike within their group?

Assumptions about Ability

  • Do I expect minority students to need extra help?
  • Do I expect that Asian students will do better than most other students, especially in math?
  • Do I expect women in scientific fields to struggle more?
  • Do I expect students from certain majors to have weaker intellectual skills?
  • Do I link certain individual characteristics with levels of intelligence and ability (e.g., political or religious beliefs, tattoos and piercings, athletic or Greek system membership)?

Assumptions about identity and viewpoint

  • Do I treat students as if they are all heterosexual?
  • Do I treat students as if they are all Christian?
  • Do I think all students look like the gender or race they identify as?
  • Do I think I can tell which students have physical or mental/learning disabilities?
  • Do I think I can tell the political affiliation of my students?

Assumptions influencing attributions

  • Do I ascribe confident-sounding (tentative) language to intellectual strength (weakness)?
  • Do I link less-than-fluent English skills (speaking and writing) to weaker preparation?
  • Do I believe that certain cultural communication styles (e.g., those that never seem to get to the point or take a position) betray a low level of preparedness or confidence?
  • Do I assume that students who don’t participate in discussions have not done the readings?
  • Am I inclined to believe that “good” students requesting an extension probably have a good reason, whereas “bad” students doing the same are just lazy?