Culturally Affirming Pedagogy

Culturally Affirming Pedagogy

What It Is

Gloria Ladson-Billings (2021) defines the term culturally relevant pedagogy as teaching that focuses on advancing student learning, developing cultural competence, and fostering critical consciousness. Culturally affirming teaching practices are research-based concepts and frameworks that originated with a K-12 focus but are beneficial to learners at any level of instruction. Geneva Gay (2018) defined culturally responsive teaching  as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (p. 31). These pedagogies focus on student strengths, assets, and communities in teaching and learning.

Why It Matters

In an era of increasing racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, personal narratives and cultural stories serve as vital teaching content and methodology (Gay, 2018). Culturally responsive teaching  influences many aspects of learning in higher education settings, including course syllabi, course policies, curricula, instructional practices, and assessment strategies. Culturally relevant pedagogy  influences  student satisfaction, socialization, retention, and graduation (Hutchinson & McAlister-Shields, 2020).

Apply It 

  • Reflect on your own culture. Culturally responsive teaching requires the instructor to examine and critique their beliefs about their students, and consider how these beliefs might affect their instructional behaviors. 




Cochrane, S. V., Chhabra, M., Jones, M. A., Spragg, D. (2017). Culturally responsive teaching and reflection in higher education: Promising practices from the Cultural Literacy Curriculum Institute. Routledge.

Gay, G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (3rd ed.). Teachers College Press.

Hutchison, L., & McAlister-Shields, L. (2020). Culturally responsive teaching: Its application in higher education environments. Education Sciences, 10(5), 124.

 Ladson-Billings, G. (2021). Three decades of culturally relevant, responsive, & sustaining pedagogy: What lies ahead? The Educational Forum, 85(4), 351-354.


Cite This Resource

Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation. (2023, January). Culturally affirming pedagogy [Teaching resource].


Updated 2/2023