Culturally Responsive Caring

Culturally responsive caring means: 

Acquiring a knowledge base, Personal and professional self-awareness, and Dialogues about cultural diversity (Gay, 2000). 

Acquiring a Knowledge Base

    Teachers must become more culturally responsive by working to expand their knowledge about ethnic and cultural diversity in education (Gay, 2000).  G. Smith (1998) has identified 13 components of multicultural education that he considers necessary for inclusion in teacher education.  These are: ideological foundations; learning styles; sociocultural contexts of human growth and development; essentials of culture; experiential knowledge; and principles of culturally responsive curriculum design and classroom instruction.  Other helpful resources for the professional preparation of teachers for culturally responsible pedagogy is Preparing Teachers for Cultural Diversity, edited by J. King, Hollins, and Hayman (1997) and Professional Development Guide for Educators: The Multicultural Resource Series, Volume 1, edited by P. Gorski, G. Shin, and M. Green (2000).


Personal and Professional Self-Awareness

    Knowledge alone is not enough to ensure teachers are considering multicultural education in the classroom (Gay, 2000).  Acquiring a knowledge base should be done in addition to thorough self-reflection. Teachers must examine their own beliefs about relationships among culture, ethnicity, and intellectual ability; the expectations they hold for students from different ethnic groups; and how their beliefs and expectations are evident in instructional behaviors.  If teachers themselves are not aware of their own cultural lenses, they can inadvertently hinder educational opportunities for diverse students or impede their abilities to work for change of negative beliefs.  For these reasons, self-awareness is critical for the effectiveness of culturally responsive caring.

    To facilitate this self-awareness, two resources are highly recommended.  Spindler and Spindler (1993, 1994) and Bennett (1995) both have designed models for developing this awareness.  These offer methods for explaining how teachers can observe their own classroom behavior as they occur.  The Spindler and Spindler model is "cultural therapy."  This guides teachers in comprehending their own cultural identities and in deconstructing their cultural embeddedness  of others (Gay, 2000).

    Bennett's (1995) model was created from the Teacher as Decision Maker Program at Indiana University.  It incorporates decision making and reflective practice in teacher preparation.  Within this model, teachers begin by stating their personal philosophies of  teaching through choosing among seven conceptual options.  They then examine their instructional actions and reflect through interviewing.  If discrepancies between beliefs and actions are uncovered, teachers are challenged to explain and resolve these discrepancies.  This may involve learning how to adapt teaching behaviors (Gay, 2000).  

Dialogues About Cultural Diversity

    Critical to developing culturally responsive caring is participating in discussions with others about self-reflections and interactions (Gay, 2000).  Dialogues should involve individuals who have some expertise to help teachers analyze their behaviors and improve them.  Other participants, such as professional peers, students, and supervisors, are welcome in the dialogue, and ideally should reflect multiple ethnic groups.  Participants should work together to share insights on the matters under consideration.  The intention of these dialogues is  for the members to learn how to talk about ethnic and cultural differences, attain cultural sensitivity, , and identify ideas and issues that can improve pedagogical practices.  A suggested reference for further understanding of the dialogue process is Schoem, Frankel, and Lewis' (1993) Multicultural Teaching in the University.  

    Further ideas for stimulating discussion among groups are to include written stories, films, and videos* as part of the group dynamic.  Examples of these can include: The Color of Fear(Mun Wah, 1994), Rosewood (Peters & Barone, 1997), Eye of the Storm (1970) and its sequel A Class Divided (1986), Stand and Deliver (Menendez, 1988), Something Strong Within(Nakamura, 1994), Ethnic Notions (Biggs, 1987) Eyes on the Prize (Hampton, 1987), and Smoke Signals (Estes & Rosenfelt, 1998).

    *Also see a more detailed list of movies and view the multicultural skit to observe teachers engaged in a multicultural dialogue as part of the InTime Multicultural Considerations site.


           Bennett, C.I. (1995).  Teacher Perspectives as a Tool for Reflection, Partnerships, and Professional Growth.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.

           Biggs, M. (Producer & Director). (1987).  Ethnic Notions -->.  San Francisco: California Newsreel.

           Estes, L., & Rosenfelt, S. (Producers). (1998). Smoke Signals [Film]. New York: Miramax Films.

           Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, & Practice.  New York:     Teachers  College Press.

           Gorski, P., Shin, G., Green, M. (Eds.). (2000). Professional Development Guide for Educators. The Multicultural Resource Series, Volume 1.  Washington DC: National Education Association.

           Hampton, H. (Executive Producer). (1987). Eyes on the Prize, I-VIII -->.  Los Angeles: PBS.

           Menendez, R. (Director). (1988).  Stand and Deliver[Film].  Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video.

           Mun Wah, L. (Producer and Director). (1994). The Color of Fear [Film].  Berkeley, CA: Stir Fry Productions.

           Nakamura, R. A. (Producer). (1994).  Something Strong Within [Film]. Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum.

           Peters, J., & Barone, T. (Producers). (1997).  Rosewood [Film]. Burbank, CA: Warner Brothers.

           Schoem, D., Frankel, L., Zuniga, X., & Lewis, E.A. (Eds.). (1993).  Multicultural Teaching in the University. Westport, CT: Praeger.

           Smith, G.P. (1998). Common Sense about Uncommon Knowledge: The Knowledge Bases for Diversity. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

           Spindler, G., & Spindler, L. (1993).  The process of culture and person: Cultural therapy and culturally diverse schools.  In P. Phelan & A.L. Davidson (Eds.), Renegotiating Cultural Diversity in American Schools (pp. 21-51).  New York: Teachers College.


           Spindler, G. & Spindler, L. (Eds.). (1994). Pathways to Cultural Awareness: Cultural Therapy with Teachers and Students.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.