Strageties For Teaching Values to Children In Africa


Culturally relevant or responsive teaching is a pedagogy grounded in teachers’ displaying cultural competence: skill at teaching in a cross-cultural or multicultural setting. They enable each student to relate course content to his or her cultural context.

While the term culturally relevant teaching often deals specifically with instruction of African American students in the United States, it has been proven to be an effective form of pedagogy for students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. For instance, in Canada, research reflects the need to bridge the gap between traditional Aboriginal education and Western education systems by including spirituality in Aboriginal educational practices. By making education culturally relevant, it is thought to improve academic achievement. Although the majority of this practice is undertaken in a primary or secondary school setting, Baumgartner and Johnson-Bailey (2008), have experienced the implementation and discussions of culturally relevant teaching within a higher education environment

Historical Context

Culturally relevant teaching was made popular by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings in the early 1990s, the term she created was defined as one “that empowers students to maintain cultural integrity, while succeeding academically.” This has become more widely known and accepted in the education field. For example, the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity Assistance Centers, such as the Equity Alliance at ASU help states, school districts and schools to establish the conditions for equitable educational outcomes for all students, using cultural responsiveness as one of the measures of the needed capabilities of teachers, principals and school communities as a whole. The theory surrounding culturally relevant teaching is connected to a larger body of knowledge on multicultural education and helping culturally diverse students excel in education. Researchers argue that there are gaps in academic achievement between mainstream culture and immigrants or ethnic cultural groups. Early theories suggest, the disconnect between these groups were due to student/teacher language difficulties or that ethnic cultures don’t value education as heavily as the Western culture does. Often placing, culturally diverse students unnecessarily in special education classes simply because of linguistic and cultural differences. In response to these challenges, some researchers and teachers believe that education should be adapted to “match the cultures students bring with them from home.” One key educational researcher who has contributed significantly to the progression of culturally relevant teaching is Geneva Gay. In her landmark book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, Geneva Gay expanded the traditional view of culture beyond race and ethnicity. She wrote, “Even without being consciously aware of it, culture determines how we think, believe, and behave”  In other words, culture is a student’s beliefs, motivations, and even social groups and norms. Thus, the teacher who practices culturally relevant teaching understands that culture manifests in a variety of adaptations within how students prefer to learn. A culturally responsive teacher uses differentiated instruction to tailor learning to every aspect of a student’s culture.

Many of these researchers and educators support the constructivist theories of education because such perspectives recognize the value of multiple cultural viewpoints. In constructivism, learners are taught to question, challenge, and critically analyze information rather than blindly accept what it taught; which leads to exactly the type of teaching advocated by the originators of culturally relevant teaching. James Banks lays out 5 dimensions of multicultural education. These dimensions laid the foundation for the move toward culturally relevant teaching. The first dimension is content integration where teachers make a conscious effort to represent a variety of cultures in the curriculum and teaching. The second dimension of knowledge construction asks learners to begin questioning and critically analyzing the biased, and previously accepted, curriculum. In the third dimension, the teaching focus shifts to encouraging cross-cultural interactions in an effort to reduce prejudice. By the fourth dimension, equitable pedagogy, the teacher uses culturally relevant teaching to change teaching approaches. The purpose of Banks’ fourth dimension is to tailor teaching methods to ensure success of students from all cultures. If successful, the fourth dimension and culturally relevant teaching will manifest into Banks’ fifth dimension of an empowered school culture. It is in this stage when teachers and learners critically examine the institution of education for inequities. Banks’ fourth and fifth dimensions are the perfect example of culturally relevant teaching. Teachers who achieve these dimensions, and thus fully realize the impact of culturally relevant teaching, cherish learners who question, seek answers through inquiry, and embrace a mindset of social justice. All of which are the key components of constructivism.


James Scheurich believes that culturally relevant pedagogy has a significant importance on our youth because it benefits students no matter what the ethnic background or culture of the students. In a video James Scheurich explains how the success of our country is in the hand of our children and in a society where students of color will no longer be the minority, he expresses how teachers must teach to their audience in order for students to be successful. (Scheurich James, N/A)

Characteristics of Culturally Relevant Teaching

A number of authors, including Gay and Lipman have identified characteristics of culturally relevant teaching. These characteristics are:

  1. Validating and Affirming: Culturally relevant teaching is validating and affirming because it acknowledges the strengths of students’ diverse heritages
  2. Comprehensive: Culturally relevant teaching is comprehensive because it uses “cultural resources to teach knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes.”
  3. Multidimensional: Culturally relevant teaching encompasses many areas and applies multicultural theory to the classroom environment, teaching methods, and evaluation.
  4. Liberating: Culturally relevant teachers liberate students.
  5. Empowering: Culturally relevant teaching empower students, giving them opportunities to excel in the classroom and beyond. “Empowerment translates into academic competence, personal confidence, courage, and the will to act.”
  6. Transformative: Culturally relevant teaching is transformative because educators and their students must often defy educational traditions and the status quo.

In the context of British University Business Schools, Jabbar and Hardaker (2012) have proposed a five pillar framework that is designed to support academics in understanding the pertinent aspects of developing pedagogy for students from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds in UK Higher Education

Principles of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP)

  1. Identity Development: Good teaching comes from those who are true to their identity (including genetic, socioeconomic, educational and cultural influences) and integrity (self-acceptance). Teachers who are comfortable with themselves and teach within their identity and integrity are able to make student connections and bring subjects alive. It is critical for the student-teacher connection when implementing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.
  2. Equity and Excellence: Within this principle following concepts are addressed: “dispositions, incorporation of multicultural curriculum content, equal access, and high expectations.” The integration of excellence and equity in CRP is predicated upon establishing a curriculum that is inclusive of students cultural experiences, and setting high expectations for the students to reach.
  3. Developmental Appropriateness: Several concepts collectively define Developmental Appropriateness within the context of CRP. These concepts include, “…learning styles, teaching styles, and cultural variation in psychological needs (motivation, morale, engagement, collaboration).” The goal is to assess students cognitive development progress and incorporate learning activities within the lesson plan that are challenging and culturally relevant.
  4. Teaching the Whole Child: Similar to ‘Developmental Appropriateness’, ‘Teaching the Whole Child’ is a theme that includes the concepts of “skill development in a cultural context, home-school-community collaboration, learning outcomes, supportive learning community and empowerment.” When teaching a child wholly, educators must be cognizant of the socio-cultural influences that have attributed to the learning progress of that child even before they enter the classroom. These outside influences must naturally be accounted for when designing a culturally relevant curriculum.
  5. Student Teacher Relationships: The theme of Student-Teacher Relationship within the context of CRP aligns itself closely with the concepts of “caring, relationships, interaction, and classroom atmosphere.” Educators must combine the willingness to bond with their students with the desire to grow that relationship into one vested in personal care and professional vigilance. Students must feel that the teacher has their best interest at heart to succeed in implementing CRP.
  6. Manage Student Emotions: When teaching adult learners it is also important to exhibit Culturally Relevant Pedagogies. Educators must be prepared to manage students that may have strong emotional experiences to culturally diverse readings Positive emotions may enhance the learning experience, whereas negative emotions may cause discourse and prevent students from engaging  Educators should explore strong emotions, particularly in adult learners, and use it as a cultural teachable moment.
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Suggested Teaching Strategies

In order to be culturally relevant, teachers must create an accommodating and inviting classroom culture, if they are to reach diverse audiences. Teachers must demonstrate that they care for their students, because a genuine attitude of interest is likely to yield positive emotions that empower and motivate students. One way teachers can make their classroom less intimidating is through reciprocal teaching, where students and teachers take turns leading the class discussions. Reciprocal teaching methods give students the opportunity to express the material according to their cultural viewpoints, which is very important according to the constructivist educator.

Similarly, many educators recommend cooperative learning methods as effective teaching strategies to promote culturally relevant learning. Rather than fostering competitiveness among students, group learning strategies encourage collaboration in the completion of assignments.

There have been many studies done in response to how students respond to teachers that exhibit the above characteristics, incorporating the principles and use of these strategies within the classroom. In the article “Telling Their Side of the Story: African American Students’ Perceptions of Culturally Relevant Teaching.” Tyrone C. Howard looked at the “perceptions and interpretations” of students who have experienced this type of learning environment. The qualitative data which included students response, is evidence that this is a positive and effective form of pedagogy.

Games and cross-cultural activities allow students personal interaction with different cultures. For instance, in the three-hour game, “Ba Fa Ba Fa”, students participate in one of two very different cultures and must learn the languages and customs of that cultural group.

Other suggested strategies include family history research where students interview family members and learn about familial cultural influences on their own lives, and reflective writing where students write about their beliefs and cultural assumptions Students may choose to write about their cultural identity and its connection with their educational experiences.

It is very important that teachers advocate for students sharing their own personal experiences with their classmates. This allows students to learn more about one another and new cultures in general. As a teacher prepares to implement culturally relevant teaching into the classroom, it is most effective for the teacher to recognize the student’s diversity and incorporate their backgrounds into the lesson and classroom environment.

 Using Technology to Promote CRT

Optimistically, technology offers the unique chance for educators to bridge the curriculum of school to the 21st century learner, as culturally relevant teaching intends. The most significant barrier to the implementation of culturally relevant teaching has been the prevailing disconnect between school learning and the real-world needs of students – particularly minority students. Yet, when used correctly, “computer technology can provide students with an excellent tool for applying concepts in a variety of contexts, thereby breaking the artificial isolation of school subject matter from the real-world situations”  Technology permeates the real-world environment of the 21st century student. It is literally integral in the culture of the digital native learner. According to their literature review, Conole et al. found that for today’s students, technology is transferable, integrated, personalized, organized, adaptive, and pervasive. Today’s student is continuously connected and in many cases far more of an expert than their teacher. Thus, if schools utilize technology, the curriculum becomes truly relevant and responsive to the learner of the 21st century. In school learning mirrors the learning they engage in outside of school.

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With technology, students possess the ability to connect and interact with colleagues, across the globe, who share their views and beliefs. In interviews, digital natives report that, “lost cost communication technologies such as Skype, MSN chat, and email were considered invaluable forms of communication.” With technology, learners are able to form social groups and engage in cross-cultural interactions that provide instant feedback and learning challenges beyond the capacity of a single textbook, classroom, or neighborhood. These cross-cultural interactions, nearly impossible before global technologies, lead to the depth of questioning and critical thought needed to be successful in the 21st century, global society. In short, students use social networking and technological connections to connect with social and cultural peers but ultimately engage in interactions with members of a variety of cultural groups. These interactions can be quite empowering for modern learners.

The 21st century learner is what Neil Selwyn refers to as an, “empowered digital native” This empowered learner is no longer held hostage to the culturally insensitive curriculum of public schools. In contrast, they are proficient at using technology to tailor their own learning. Within seconds, learners can access a wealth of information and knowledge and no longer must trust solely the limited perspective presented in their textbook. The 21st century learner is accustomed to using technology to challenge preconceived information. “Research indicates that computer technology can help support learning, and that it is especially useful in developing the higher-order skills of critical thinking analysis, and scientific inquiry.” learly, technology offers the potential of helping students achieve and benefit from culturally relevant teaching.

Other suggested best practices in teaching race and diversity into the curriculum are:

  1. Create a positive learning environment: attentive skills, teaching skills, and teacher/student interaction (Radical Pedagogy, 2003).
  2. Utilize a diverse curriculum (Gollnick and Chinn, 2013).
  3. Know, understand, and work with families that come from different race and ethnicities (Gonzalez-Mena and Pulido-Tobiassen, 1999).
  4. Expose children to role models from their own culture as well as those from other cultures (Gonzalez-Mena and Pulido-Tobiassen, 1999).


Artiles, A., & Harry, B. (2006). Addressing culturally and linguistically diverse student overrepresentation in special education: Guidelines for parents. National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST). Retrieved from

Baumgartner, L.M. and Johnson-Bailey, J. (2008). Fostering awareness of diversity and multiculturism in adult and higher education. New Directions for Continuing Education. 120. 45-53.

Castagno, A., & Brayboy, B. (2008). Culturally responsive schooling for indigenous youth: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 941-993. doi:10.3102/0034654308323036.

Castagno, A., & Brayboy, B. (2008). Culturally responsive schooling for indigenous youth: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 941-993. doi:10.3102/0034654308323036. (Page 946)

Curwin, D and Lynda, A. (2003). A missing link: Between traditional aboriginal education and the western system of education. Canadian Journal of Native Education. 27(2). 144-160.

Diller, J., & Moule, J. (2005). Cultural competence: A primer for educators, Thomson Wadsorth: Belmont, California.

Equity Alliance (2011). The Equity Alliance at ASU. Retrieved from

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally Responsive Teaching, 2nd Ed. New York, New York: Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching, 2nd Ed. New


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