Culturally Responsive Education

In every culture

  • We respond to respect and disrespect
  • We seek acceptance and to be valued and supported
  • We want to live in an environment of trust and safety
  • We want to know our life experiences matter and are understood
  • We want our strengths acknowledged
  • We want encouragement and hope
  • We do not want to be labeled and marginalized

Download the What People Wantflier

Culture is central to student learning. Culturally responsive education recognizes, respects and uses student identities and backgrounds to create optimal learning.


Teaching methods that use references to a student’s culture help the student understand mainstream culture through a lens of recognition and acknowledgement. The link between culture and classroom instruction derives from evidence that cultural practices shape thinking processes.


Teachers who use and respect their students’ languages, cultures and life experiences follow certain principles.


A culturally responsive education addresses attitudes, environment, curriculum, teaching strategies and family/community involvement. Schools and educators will follow this continuum of goals and outcomes.


What people want

Cultural values and beliefs are so accepted by each group that they are not questioned or even need to be stated. While each culture thinks its own ways are superior, conflicts with other cultures are not always caused by our differences. Improving intercultural relationships and valuing diversity requires patience, flexibility, humility, acceptance of the unknown and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor.


In all my work what I try to say is that as human beings we are more alike than we are unalike."

Maya Angelou, poet and author

Human commonalities

Renowned education theorist Ernest Boyer said true multicultural education affirms the individual while recognizing the universal nature of all people. He suggested a curriculum based on cultural similarities encourages deeper understanding of subject matter. Meeting the challenges of diversity is a central goal of quality teaching. Boyer’s human commonalities provide a firm structure for this goal.


Following are some values all humans share. By focusing on what is shared, we can break out of our ethnocentric boxes and begin to find new ways of educating all students for success in life.


Human commonalityApplied knowledge
Shared use of symbols Multimedia composition with sound, graphics and text
Shared life cycle Community service with elderly, young children, or infirm
Shared membership in groups Participate in school activities, sports, community or religious groups
Shared producing and consuming Project related to marketing and economics
Shared sense of time and space Project on the history of Anchorage, or ethnic group's contribution to the city
Shared relationship with nature Project on environmental concerns and stewardship
Shared values and beliefs Project related to diversity, mutual trust and respect and responsible citizenship
Shared sense of aesthetic Composition, exhibition of artwork or performance

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