What is culturally responsive classroom management?

Culturally responsive classroom management is classroom management that furthers the cause of social justice.

Why is culturally responsive classroom management important?

We are all cultural beings with our own beliefs, biases, and assumptions.  In addition, there are cultural, racial, ethnic and class differences that exist among all people.  In order to be culturally responsive, we must acquire cultural content knowledge.  As educators, we must learn about our students’ family backgrounds, previous educational experiences, their culture’s norms for interpersonal relationships, their parents’ expectations for discipline, and the ways their cultures treat time and space.  We can use this acquired content knowledge to demonstrate an openness and willingness to learn about the aspects of culture that are important to our students and their families.

Using these fundamental understandings, we can reflect on the ways our classroom management can promote equal access to learning.

What are the elements of culturally responsive classroom management?

1.  Organization of the physical environment

  • Decisions about the classroom environment are made through the lens of cultural diversity.
  • Environment can be used to strategically communicate respect for diversity, to reaffirm connectedness and community, and to avoid marginalizing and disparaging students.
  • Physical setting can promote social interaction and prosocial behavior, as well as reinforce importance of being kind and tolerant.

2.  Establish expectations for behavior

  • Effective classroom managers usually have three to six rules of conduct.
  • Expectations must be explicit and teachers must model the expected behavior.
  • Students must be engaged in discussion about the class norms and be provided opportunities to practice.

3.  Communicating with students in cuturally consistent ways

  • Recognition of differences in discourse style that have direct effect on students’ behavior.

4.  Create caring, inclusive classrooms

  • Teachers must deliberately model respect for diversity.
  • Teachers must communicate high expectations and hold students accountable for high-quality academic work.
  • Create a sense of community by anticipating cultural conflicts that might arise, promote positive relationships among students, and incorporate cooperative learning activities into lessons that highlight students’ unique talents.
  • Raise awareness about teasing and bullying.

5. Working with families

  • Communicating and collaborating with parents is an integral, but challenging component of effective classroom management.
  • Engage in genuine, meaningful, two-way communication.
  • Sensitivity to cultural differences in communication styles.

6.  Dealing with problem behaviors

  • Reflect on kinds of behaviors that may be problematic and consider how they are related to race and ethnicity.
  • Examine the ways that race and ethnicity influence the use of disciplinary consequences.

[Adapted from Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action by Carol Weinstein, Mary Curran, Sandra Tomlinson-Clarke]


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