[5-minute read] Our 2018-2019 calendar emphasizes developing an understanding & responding to the context of your classroom. We start with an inspirational quote, back it up with research, then provide you with classroom application ideas. Our June 2019 blog post, written by Instructional Designer Richard Palmer, provides examples of how to present real-world connections to students.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” It is believed Xun Kuang said this in the 4th century BC and it remains true today. Creating sustained learning in our students has many factors that influence the success that we have as instructors. Presenting “real world” connections to your students and helping them to find a growth mindset can set the stage for learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

There are many approaches that can be used in trying to achieve sustained learning. Today let’s think about the cultural frameworks individual students bring to the learning setting and the “real world” connections that we present as instructors. Both will influence the mindset of the learner and the credibility that the student will give to the material that you are teaching. Psychological studies have shown that some short term interventions that work to change students’ beliefs about their intelligence, that promote social belonging, or that connect performance to future goals—as having substantial effects on school performance that are sustained over time (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2007; Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003; Oyserman, Terry, & Bybee, 2002; Walton & Cohen, 2007) (Farrington et al, 2012 P.5).

There are many different cultures that make us up as individuals. Each of those cultures will act as a lens and impact the ways in which we perceive and accept information. As instructors, you have control over the types of connections you use to present your materials to students. In addition, the more you understand the different cultures brought by each student into your class the better your chances of finding a connection that will strike a chord with that individual student.

The problem is that you must find ways to understand the different types of culture that are out there and how best to apply them to individual students. I recommend Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond. This book connects CRT learning theory with cognitive brain function to form a basis for classroom application. It is a good start to understanding different types of culture as frameworks to perception and cognitive brain function. Hammond uses collectivist culture versus individualist culture as an example of how instructors often misjudge individual student’s perception of the presented subject matter. She recommends using formative assessment as one way to understanding the different cultural frameworks each individual student brings to your class. (Hammond, 2015)

Creating a high trust low-stress atmosphere for students will help leverage the affective and cognitive scaffolding that students bring to the learning situation. Creating this mindset can set the stage for you to use “real world” connections that students can use to learn. Hopefully as a deeper knowledge through application to their lives. I place “real world” in quotes because what is perceived as “real world” is dependent on the individual and the cultural frames of reference that they bring to the class.

There are several applications that you might consider using in the classroom to make “real world” connections with your students by understanding the cultural frameworks that they bring with them. Creating a sense of community, inquiry, and safety to fail can all help to empower the student to focus on the subject matter.

Guided reciprocal peer questioning and critical questioning can assist in self-examination of belief and self-concept. Historical investigations, experimental inquiry, and case study methods can assist in seeing the subject matter from a wider world view. Modeling and simulations allow students to approach subjects and processes in relative safety yet show them potential outcomes. All of these applications allow students to approach a wide variety of subject matter but the comfort level and openness to learning is facilitated by the instructor’s learning environment and the cultural frames of reference in which the subject matter is presented to the students.

It is important to note that all of these applications are not important in themselves. CRT is meant to be a holistic approach to teaching. Helping the individual to find a sense of community and relevance to their own lives will help build a foundation of trust and motivate a will to focus on the materials being taught. Given the diversity of student populations, we know that you will have many sets of perceptual frameworks in each of your classes. So build those foundations of trust. Use the tools that best fit your courses and lead your students to deeper knowledge!


To support faculty who are exploring and implementing culturally responsive teaching in their courses, we’ve created a Private Facebook Group to facilitate collegial conversations.

CRTxACC members are encouraged to share resources, experiences, and questions to deepen their understanding of culturally responsive teaching.

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Anonymous (Ed.). (2018, April). Xun Kuang Quotes. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/14098753.Xun_Kuang

Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H., and Dweck, C.S. (2007) Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263.

Farrington, C.A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T.S., Johnson, D.W., & Beechum, N.O. (2012). Teaching adolescents to become learners. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: A critical literature review. Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Good, C., Aronson, J., and Inzlicht, M. (2003) Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645-662.

Hammond, Z., & Jackson, Y. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a SAGE Company.

Oyserman, D., Terry, K., and Bybee, D. (2002) A possible selves intervention to enhance school involvement. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 313-326.

Walton, G.M., and Cohen, G.L. (2007) A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82-96.