Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy

We end this chapter with a discussion on the different versions of culturally relevant teaching, which is used by teachers in this book. Gay (2002) defines it as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively” (106). Ladson-Billings (2009), who first introduced the term, writes:

The notion of “cultural relevance” moves beyond language to include other aspects of student and school culture . . . Specifically, culturally relevant teaching is a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills and attitudes. These cultural referents are not merely vehicles for bridging or explaining the dominant culture; they are aspects of the curriculum in their own right.


Ladson-Billings (2014) describes the secret behind culturally relevant pedagogy as, “The ability to link principles of learning with deep understanding of (and appreciation for) culture” (77). Researchers have built upon and extended her work beyond the confines of the schools and into the consideration of issues in society and have renamed it culturally sustaining pedagogy (Paris, 2012). Ladson-Billings (2014) welcomes culturally sustaining pedagogy as a needed revision to push culturally relevant pedagogy beyond superficial applications (such as the celebration of holidays) to problems where students consider issues that may directly impact their lives or community (82). McCarthy and Lee (2014), based on work from previous researchers, write, “For education researchers working in Native American settings, culturally based, culturally relevant, and culturally responsive schooling (all three terms are commonly used in the literature) have long been tied to affirmations of tribal sovereignty” (103). While they begin with the term culturally revitalizing pedagogy to address the needs of Native communities that “are in a fight for cultural and linguistic survival” (102), they propose the term culturally sustaining/revitalizing pedagogy (CSRP) for including the important contexts of Native American schooling, which they describe as follows:

First, as an expression of Indigenous education sovereignty, CSRP attends directly to asymmetrical power relations and the goal of transforming legacies of colonization . . .

Second, CSRP recognizes the need to reclaim and revitalize what has been disrupted and displaced by colonization. Since for many Indigenous communities this increasingly centers on the revitalization of vulnerable mother tongues, we focus on language education policy and practice . . .

Finally, Indigenous CSRP recognizes the need for community-based accountability Respect, reciprocity, responsibility, and the importance of caring relationships.


Sleeter and Cornbleth (2011) make the point that some may think culturally responsive pedagogy is only for students of color when it is actually effective for all students: Specifically, they see a problem in the perception that “what is culturally responsive for White middle-class students passes as the norm, labeled simply as ‘good teaching’ or ‘best practices.’ However, ‘best practices’ and culturally responsive teaching are not necessarily mutually exclusive” (3). In this book, we see diverse students and their teachers participating in a CSRP environment that promotes social justice by recognizing and supporting students within a safe learning environment.

And now the final question:

1. Does achieving equity in the classroom imply that the teacher must take into account the cultural perspectives of the students?

The research and discussions in the chapters of this book emphatically suggest that including students’ culture in teaching and learning empower educators to create meaningful opportunities for students from different backgrounds to make sense of the mathematics so that the students, in turn, become mathematically powerful.

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