A resource on what it means to affirm cultural ways of being and doing in the classroom


Classroom belonging can be undermined when teachers, intentionally or unintentionally, suggest that there is a “right” way to do things that doesn’t correspond to the culturally familiar practices of students outside of school. These situations can occur in many different arenas, such as classroom rules/norms, collaborative practices, or problem solving methods. For example, a teacher suggesting that students cannot learn productively when socializing (insisting they perform all summative work independently) or suggesting that the textbook’s method for solving a procedural mathematics problem is superior to a student’s suggested alternative. When this conflict between cultural practices occurs, the student is often left feeling that her or his way of being or doing is the wrong one in the eyes of the teacher, and this contributes to a lack of classroom belonging.

There are many different ways to affirm students’ cultures. They include intentionally supplementing the curriculum with culturally familiar exemplars and models, allowing students to generate collaborative norms, and encouraging multiple methods of solving complex problems. When teachers show students that who they are and where they come from has value, students feel that they can invest themselves fully in the learning process.

This resource describes how different cultural frameworks can appear in classroom instruction. It offers a comparison of two primary cultural lenses (individuated vs. integrated) and the ways in which these ways of being and doing influence the various parts of the teaching and learning processes. While it does not offer specific details, it can serve as a starting point for teachers to consider different entry points for culture to be introduced into classroom instruction. You can find the full source, Teaching and Learning Across Cultural Strengths in College, at the link below.

Teaching and Learning Across Cultural Styles

Preferred Citation

Chavez & Longerbeam. Teaching Across Cultural Strengths (Stylus, 2008)