Culturally Responsive Pedagogy is NOT a classroom management technique

You’ve probably heard the term “culturally responsive pedagogy” or “culturally relevant pedagogy” by now. Maybe you know a little about it, or you’re curious about implementing it. 

Unfortunately, CRP has become a buzzword in the educational world, and we need to be careful with words and terms that “buzz.” Sometimes buzzwords are thrown around in the hopes of cultivating a certain idea or vibe, but without the weight of reflection and deep thought behind it. 

What CRP has been reduced to, in some uses of the term, is yet another technique for reducing undesirable behaviors. 

Can implementing CRP get the attention of students who often aren’t attentive? Yes. 

Can it engage students on a deeper level? Absolutely. 

Can it seem to reduce “undesirable behaviors?” It can do that, yes. 

But… Culturally responsive pedagogy is NOT a classroom management technique. 

Here’s what’s wrong with trying to implement CRP for the sake of classroom management:

Culturally responsive pedagogy does not seek to make “cultural others” more like the “cultural norm.”

A lot of “classroom management” comes from the desire for conformity. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a classroom that’s functional, effective, and engaging. But that doesn’t mean it has to be uniform, quiet, and wound up tight. Culturally responsive pedagogy celebrates uniqueness and has a wide lens for a variety of definitions of success and engagement. 

Here are some more truths on “losing control” in your classroom.

Culturally responsive pedagogy, at its best, is about creating more independent and confident learners, and increases learning capacity– and not just because students “behave better.”

There is a direct line between CRP and better learning outcomes– do not pass go, do not collect $200. There is no route that goes through “compliance-ville.” Simply put: when in a culturally responsive learning environment, students learn better. 

Culturally responsive pedagogy is way more than using diverse materials– it’s about your classroom culture. 

Including more diverse materials in your classroom is a nice start. However, if those materials are presented in a manner that is racist or into a classroom culture that upholds racist policies and ideals, then that isn’t culturally responsive pedagogy– It’s tokenism. The use of diverse materials is unlikely to make any meaningful change in your classroom without the proper supportive classroom culture. 

If you are looking for the meaningful connections and improved creative and learning outcomes that CRP promises, you’ll have to dig deeper than surface-level behaviors or a diverse composers series. Intentional changes in your music program’s policies, culture, and design– along with honest self-reflection and education yourself– will yield significant outcomes for all of your students.

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