The following article written by Melissa Romero focuses on culturally responsive teaching. A former principal and grade school teacher, Professor Romero currently serves as an Early Childhood Instructor at Lourdes.

Originally from New Jersey, she received her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood from Montclair State University and holds a Master's degree in Educational Administration for Urban Education from New Jersey City University. She currently is pursuing a doctorate in Early Childhood Education at North Central University.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is defined by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems as a student-centered approach to learning within the cultural contexts of the learner. CRT is founded on the premise that the cultural practices of learners affect cognition and emotional processes.

Therefore, to maximize student achievement, motivation and potential, instructors must display appropriate cultural competencies and embed such competencies into course curriculum and communication.

A large majority of individuals tend to view CRT as a method that is only necessary in racially diverse areas. In fact, it refers to establishing classroom atmospheres and experiences to meet all types of learners, regardless of age, gender and ability levels. Much like the educational theory of differentiating instruction, CRT is a way of fostering a welcoming learning environment that seeks to encourage and motivate all learners while meeting their individual needs.

Romero photoSignificance of CRT

The goal of CRT is to obtain sufficient background knowledge of learners in order to gain a complete comprehensive profile of the learner. By gathering data on learning styles, preferences, values, philosophies, belief systems and cultural backgrounds, instructors are able to compile factors that contribute to the learning process of each individual learner.

Establishing learning profiles can be accomplished through surveys, interviews, conferencing and consistent and regular communication that is informal and formal. Engaging in social communication and exhibiting genuine and sincere respect strengthens rapport, collaboration and the instructor-learner relationship.

To understand CRT is to realize that diversity is everywhere and encompasses a broad range of attributes. Comprehending the cultural backgrounds of each learner provides instructors with in-depth insight to craft learning experiences, activities and instructional support/

It also helps to eliminate barriers, misconceptions and/or biases that instructors may have towards the learner due to lack of cultural understanding. CRT positively supports the instructor-learner relationship, establishes rapport and opens up lines of communication that may have not existed before.

Lourdes University and CRT

As a Franciscan institution, our philosophy is rooted in the cultural themes of service, reverence and learning. Culturally Responsive Teaching parallels these themes.

In order to gain the knowledge needed to demonstrate reverence, support their needs with service and motivate their learning, we must learn from and about our students. Lourdes University has always been a diverse campus. We have always had students of various ages, religions, races, ethnicities and abilities.

However, our growth as an institution has only magnified our vision of campus diversity. Through the integration of CRT in the education curriculum, we as an institution are able to learn effective methods of communicating with our students, so that we may all continue to reverence, service, and learn.

CRT and Education today

Currently, the state of Ohio has adopted social-emotional standards for teaching which reflect CRT. The wave of school violence and the growing diverse population in schools has impacted how teaching must be developed and demonstrated.

These standards address CRT knowledge, skills and dispositions of the classroom teacher. Educators are now asked to implement these standards in everyday teaching.

The Lourdes standard lesson plan format specifically addresses how teacher candidates apply lesson modifications for diversity, which coincide with the social-emotional standards. Since diversity is a Lourdes education cross-cutting theme, education students are exposed and expected to apply such skills across various educational courses.

As we continue to learn more about CRT and adopt these methods in our own instructional teaching to model and demonstrate its techniques, we will be able to strengthen CRT skills for all of our Lourdes students.

The future success of our students

Our continuous evolution as a society and institution demonstrates the need for manifesting culturally responsive environments. The global competition we all now face indicates the need for scaffolding cultural competencies in the classroom to support our students in the work force and their daily lives.