Cultural Responsive Teaching And The Brain


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Culturally Responsive Teaching And The Brain

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

The achievement gap remains a stubborn problem for educators of culturally and linguistically diverse students. With the introduction of the rigorous Common Core State Standards, diverse classrooms need a proven framework for optimizing student engagement and facilitating deeper learning.

Culturally responsive pedagogy has shown great promise in meeting this need, but many educators still struggle with its implementation. In this book, Zaretta Hammond draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to offer an innovative approach for designing and implementing brain-compatible culturally responsive instruction.

How Do We Teach Using Culturally Relevant Pedagogy And The Brain

Intended Audience

Open to All School/District Staff


Dr. Dean Vesperman is back to talk about how to use culturally responsive practices to plan your teaching. Join him on September 21 at 3:30pm ET as we did deeper into using CRP in your classroom. This is a follow up to Dr. Vespermans webinar from this past spring but it is not a requirement that you attended or watch his first webinar…though it was a big hit and you may want to! This professional development will focus on discussing with teachers how to teach social studies using the research on culturally relevant pedagogy and the brain. We will first explore how we can challenge our own implicit biases about students. This will lead to an active discussion about how children construct knowledge in working memory. We will then explore the ways in which we can get our students to chew and chunk what they are learning.


What Are The Three Components Of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Gloria Ladson-Billings proposed three main components of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: a focus on student learning and academic success, developing students’ cultural competence to assist students in developing positive ethnic and social identities, and supporting students’ critical consciousness or their …

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Iii: Building Intellective Capacity

In the final two chapters Hammond provides hands-on tools, connecting the neuroscience of information processing to specific, culturally responsive strategies teachers can use to make learning stick. She ends with a discussion of how we can build a sense of community and connection in our classrooms to support all students of color and English learners.

Throughout the book, Hammond provides opportunities for teacher reflection. Each chapter ends with a brief summary, an invitation to inquiry and additional resources for those who want to know more.

In her introduction, Hammond writes, When we are able to recognize and name a students learning moves and not mistake culturally different ways of learning and making meaning for intellectual deficits, we are better able to match those moves with a powerful teaching response. Ultimately, that is her goal: to expand teachers CRT vocabulary and spark conversations that help all students become independent learners.

Misconception : Culturally Responsive Teaching Is About Choosing The Right Strategies

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta L. Hammond ...

When working with teachers, Hammond is often asked to provide an actionable set of strategies that teachers can simply integrate into their practice. But true culturally responsive teaching is more complex than that. Its really a challenge to try to say, This is it in a nutshell,’ she says. Teachers need to interrogate their practice a little more robustly, because its not an off-the-shelf program, its not two or three strategies. Its not plug and play.

This plug and play misconception can lead teachers to do things like adding call-and-response to their classroom routine, then assuming they have done enough to reach diverse students. While this strategy is often included in culturally responsive toolboxes, if a teacher doesnt take the time to learn how to use call-and-response to deepen student thinking, it might never serve a purpose beyond fun.

And oftentimes, the instructional shifts that will make the biggest differences dont always look cultural at all, because they arent the kind of things that work only for diverse students. This kind of teaching is good for all brains, Hammond says. So what youre doing to actually reach your lowest performing students is going to be good for your highest performing students. To get a closer look at the kinds of shifts that make a big difference, these three tips for making lessons more culturally responsive can start you in the right direction.

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Ii: Building Learning Partnerships

Relationships are at the heart of all good teaching. This section explores the importance of building trust between teachers and students and provides tools teachers can use to assess the state of their current classroom rapport. Hammond explores how teachers can become warm demanders as we forge learning alliances with our students and help them shift to a growth mindset.

Chapter : Preparing To Be A Culturally Responsive Practitioner

Hammond asks the reader to look within to recognize and name our own Cultural Reference Points. We have the power to penalize those students who seem to be acting in ways that are inconsistent with our cultural view but those actions may not necessarily be wrong, just different. She invites teachers to explore their own triggers that activate threats in the brain so they can manage and maintain their own emotional intelligence.

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Cultural Bias And News:

What is news? How does cultural background influence what our students believe is newsworthy? How can we encourage our students to see a broader picture beyond their cultural bias to expand coverage? Do the faces in our print or broadcast productions statistically match the cultural make up of our schools? What hierarchy, if any, exists on your staff? Do students of color occupy positions that make decisions?

Addressing Inequity In Schools By Being Culturally Responsive

Zaretta Hammond: Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain Webinar

Zaretta Hammond reminded us of the inequities that exist in American education: We go into schools and we see Black and brown kids being those kids chronically at the lower end of achievement than we want.

Culturally responsive teaching addresses those inequities. Helping students strengthen their learning muscles and capacity to take on more rigorous content is what Zaretta Hammond said is necessary to accelerate learning.

The changes in teachers instruction that support students cognitively are rooted in creating a classroom culture of connection between teachers and students and the community.

Zaretta stressed the importance of teachers getting input from families, from the students, from communities, to say, this is what makes us feel a sense of belonging and connectedness. Classrooms where teaching and relationships are grounded in connection enable students to learn more.

As we continue to learn about the stressful impacts of the pandemic and other current events, we look to trauma-informed care and anti-racist action for students. These are also integral practices to weave together with culturally responsive teaching. They are not interchangeable, but rather act in concert with each other.

Combined, the practices support stress reduction for students and foster positive relationships, allowing cognitive skills to activate.

As for now, well leave you with this:

To see our other interviews with Zaretta Hammond, head over to

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Misconception : Culturally Responsive Teaching Is All About Building Relationships And Self

While healthy relationships and student self-esteem are necessary factors in setting the stage for learning, they do not directly increase students ability to do more challenging academic work. Theres a big effort afoot in terms of social emotional learning programs, trying to help students gain self regulation and build positive relationships with students, Hammond observes. Heres what the schools are finding that do surveys: After a few years of this kind of work, their positive climate has gone up, satisfaction surveys among adults as well as kids are really high, but the achievement doesnt move.

This is not to suggest that relationship building should be tossed out. For students who have been marginalized and dont feel welcome, Hammond explains, that relationship becomes important, because you want them to actually do the heavy lifting of the cognitive work, thats not going to happen if you cant get the student to be in a trusting relationship. So the trusting relationship is just one part, and not the part. It is the on-ramp to the kind of cognitive high-level problem-solving and higher-order thinking we want students to do. I see a lot of people just doing the relationship piece.

Culturally Responsive Teaching And The Brain Promoting Authentic Engagement And Rigor Among Culturally And Linguistically Diverse Students

A bold, brain-based teaching approach to culturally responsive instruction

The achievement gap remains a stubborn problem for educators of culturally and linguistically diverse students. With the introduction of the rigorous Common Core State Standards, diverse classrooms need a proven framework for optimizing student engagement and facilitating deeper learning

Culturally responsive pedagogy has shown great promise in meeting this need, but many educators still struggle with its implementation. In this book, Zaretta Hammond draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to offer an innovative approach for designing and implementing brain-compatible culturally responsive instruction.

The book includes:

  • Information on how ones culture programs the brain to process data and affects learning relationships
  • Ten key moves to build students learner operating systems and prepare them to become independent learners
  • Prompts for action and valuable self-reflection

With a firm understanding of these techniques and principles, teachers and instructional leaders will confidently reap the benefits of culturally responsive instruction.

An essential, compelling, and practical examination of the relationship between culture and cognition that will forever transform how we think about our role facilitating the learning of other peoples childrenand our own children!

LaShawn Routé Chatmon, Executive Director

National Equity Project

Kendra Ferguson, Chief of Schools

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Culturally Responsive Teaching: 4 Misconceptions

Listen to my interview with Zaretta Hammond :

Sponsored by Raymond Geddes and Kids Discover

The term culturally responsive teaching has been around for decades, but it seems to have gotten more attention in recent years. Thats good news: With our classrooms growing more diverse every year, teachers should be more interested in how they can best teach students from different backgrounds.

The not-so-good news is that in some cases, teachers think theyre practicing culturally responsive teaching, when in fact, theyre kind of not. Or at least theyre not quite there. And that means students who might really thrive under different conditions are surviving at best. We all want to do better for these students, but how to do it still hasnt become common knowledge.

Zaretta Hammond

To move the needle forward a bit more, I invited Zaretta Hammond to share some common misconceptions teachers have about culturally responsive teaching. She is the author of the 2015 book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, which offers a neuroscience-based teaching framework that goes beyond surface changes to really build cognitive capacity in our students from diverse backgrounds. When I read it, I realized that true culturally responsive teaching isnt as simple as I thought it was its much more holistic. In fact, in most cases, it wouldnt even look culturally responsive to an outside observer.

Think You Know What Culturally Responsive Teaching Is You Might Not

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Many educators have heard of culturally responsive teaching, but do they really know what that entails? The term is often incorrectly used interchangeably with other classroom pedagogies and practices such as trauma-informed care.

According to Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, culturally responsive teaching is distinctly different from trauma-informed care and anti-racist education, and it is also not one specific strategy that teachers can pick up and implement tomorrow.

Culturally responsive teaching is a framework and approach for how to teach.

Zaretta talked with Edthena founder and CEO Adam Geller in this PLtogether Lounge Talk, and the two discussed the meaning of culturally responsive teaching and what it looks like in practice.

Watch the interview above, and read on for highlights of the conversation.

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How Do You Implement Culturally Sustaining Instruction

There are however, steps that school districts can encourage in order to make the learning environment in classrooms more culturally responsive.

  • Assess your own personal biases. …
  • Get to know your students. …
  • Adapt your teaching and curriculum. …
  • Elevate the students’ culture and native language. …
  • Involve family and community.
  • So What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching

    Culturally responsive teaching is often talked about in terms of classroom social-emotional learning, building teacher-student relationships, or motivating students.

    Citing the researcher Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, who coined the term, Zaretta framed culturally responsive teaching as teaching with students academic prowess at the center.

    Zaretta Hammond defines the practice as changes in instruction that actually increase students cognition.

    I call this getting ready for rigor so that they can carry more of the cognitive load.

    How to achieve this? Zaretta noted that students brains must be calm and ready.

    Perhaps the change in instruction required are changes in your behavior management techniques or helping students stay focused and learn how to persevere through challenges.

    Culturally responsive teaching isnt simply getting students motivated to learn, but the instructional practices that will allow them to feel stress-free enough to turn their attention to learning.

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    How Can You Apply Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy In The Classroom

    Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in the Literacy Classroom

  • Seek out nontraditional texts. In our research, literacy teachers sought out nontraditional read-alouds and mentor texts for writing. …
  • Explore and model meshing languages. …
  • Encourage students to explore alternative cultural affiliations.
  • Misconception : Culturally Responsive Teaching Must Start With Addressing Implicit Bias

    Interview with Zaretta Hammond | Part 1

    Many diversity trainings and other efforts to build teachers cultural competence start by having teachers examine their own implicit biases. Although this is essential, Hammond says, it may not need to be the very first step, because that can delay a shift in instructional practices.

    You do need to get to implicit bias at some point, she says. Its just not the starting point. If you start there, you cant pivot to instruction. Whereas when you understand inequity by design, you can actually talk about instruction but also come back to talk about microaggressions. The sequencing of that is really important.

    When the time comes to address implicit bias, Hammonds tools for interrupting implicit bias will help.

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    Chapter : Information Processing To Build Intellective Capacity

    How do we help dependent learners learn how to learn? To this point, Hammond focuses on the conditions that need to be in place to allow dependent learners to build cognitive horsepower . This chapter provides hands-on strategies to build intellective capacity to use what we know about information processing to engage all learners: cuing the brain to pay attention, chunking information into digestible bits, providing time for students to chew the material using cognitive routines and unstructured thinking time and finally reviewing effectively to strengthen neural pathways . This chapter provides immediately usable strategies for culturally responsive classrooms.

    Book Review: Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain

    I saw this book during the summer of 2020, and what resonated with me what the integration of neuroscience into culturally responsive teaching pedagogy. In this book, Zaretta Hammond weaves together data, neuroscience and culturally responsive teaching in a way that surfaces how to access culture as a way to activate learning pathways in the brain.

    Youd be interested in this book if you:1) Wanted to learn more about CRT and the brain2) Wanted to build your capacity in DEI and neuropsychology approaches to the classroom3) Access the development of all of your students intellectual capacity4) Most significantly, centre your own practices in the current sociopolitical climate5) Want to reinforce and learn great pedagogical moves backed by neuroscience

    What is CRT:

    The application of CRT is more significant than ever, and Hammonds work is timely and relevant. Originally written as a response to the achievement gap in the United States, her work has relevance to me as a white, male, independent school educator in that it challenges me to reflect not only on my implicit bias, but also my role in an institution originally established to protect and maintain white privilege. Her work supports my work to make me a better educator through CRT.

    Structural Barriers:

    Do you know about the Ready for Rigor Framework?

    CRT is defined by Hammond as:

    Upon first reading, this just sounds like good teaching. However, as I read more, I came to understand that there are layers upon layers.

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    Chapter : Establishing Alliance In The Learning Partnership

    As teachers, Hammond posits that we must earn the right to demand from our students. A combination of personal warmth and active demandingness creates a student-teacher relationship that allows a teacher to push for excellence and stretch the student beyond his comfort zone. This role as Warm Demander moves students from dependent to independent learners and is the social justice aspect of culturally responsive teaching.

    I: Building Awareness And Knowledge

    Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain : Promoting Authentic ...

    This section begins with a discussion of dependent and independent learners and argues culturally responsive teaching is a powerful tool for helping students find their way out of the gap. Hammond examines the deep roots of culture and then links culture to neuroscience, illustrating how misunderstandings can shut down the brain and prevent learning. The section ends with concrete steps teachers can take to prepare to do this work.

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    Webinar: Culturally Responsive Teaching And The Brain

    Discover from Zaretta Hammond, bestselling author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain, how to use culturally responsive teaching to re-ignite authentic student engagement and accelerate learning.

    An essential, compelling and practical examination of the relationship between culture and cognition that will forever transform how we think about our role facilitating the learning of other peoples children and our own children! Zaretta Hammond forcefully traverses the socio-political landscape of race and learning, smashing our misconceptions and bias about the educability of black, brown and low-income students setting us free to take a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to creating classroom practices and environments that result in true learning partnerships with our students. The framework Hammond offers skillfully weaves together cultural knowledge with neuroscience the real artistry of culturally responsive pedagogy.

    This book demonstrates high regard for the complexity of teaching and delivers an even higher regard for the promise and academic potential of the students weve made most vulnerable in our school systems if we, as educators, choose to act on what we know. This book should be required reading for every teacher education program in the country!”

    LaShawn Routé Chatmon, Executive DirectorNational Equity Project, Oakland, CAKendra Ferguson, Chief of SchoolsKipp Bay Area Schools, Oakland, CAPedro Noguera, Professor, NYU

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