Enabling Culturally Responsive Teaching through Open Education

Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Elementary/middle school principal; Ed.D in Leadership

What is Open Education?

Open education is a pedagogical framework based in exploration, equity, and building strong relationships that allow for successful collaboration on topics that implore higher-level thinking. Open by its very definition forms an educational system aimed at eliminating barriers and promoting equitable access for all. Transparency and inquiry are valued in open education as students and faculty work more closely together to create learning projects that both cover required content and give students voice and representation in the manners in which content is learned and assessed.

Open education leads to greater levels of collaboration by fostering a classroom environment that values contribution and representation so that current society and its needs can be openly discussed in a safe environment that is conducive to learning. By removing many micro-level curriculum directives, there is no longer a power differential between the teacher and students so students feel open to explore, analyze, and question.

Modeled listening and self-reflection are both critical to open education. Content should not be taken at face value, but rather dissected for greater understanding. Opposing viewpoints must be considered and evaluated as long as views are shared in a way not to condemn one another. Everyone benefits from open thought, listening to others, self-reflection, analyzation, and planning the next move. All of these components lead to empathy which is at the core of both open education and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

Further, open education offers opportunities for educators to share best practices and instructional strategies with one another. An open network of resources helps teachers bring authenticity and relevance to classroom instruction. Teachers are provided autonomy to deliver content in the manner they feel best suits the needs of their own students. The goal of open education is free-flowing dialogue and collaboration of all persons involved in education. The goal is innovation and open-mindedness aimed at bettering the society and the world in which we live.

The Impact of Open Education on Culturally Responsive Teaching

Open education provides individual teachers with autonomy to deliver curriculum in a way that is relevant and tailored to the best interests of the students they serve. Students learn best when content is taught in a manner that allows them to draw on prior knowledge and see the application of the learning in their own lives and community. Representation matters, and students deserve to see themselves represented in the lessons in their classrooms. Students perform at higher levels when they see how the content respects their heritage, values their community, and is linked to their own future opportunities. While traditional series rarely represent diverse populations, open education allows teachers to modify content in ways that still align with standards but also presents the content in a way that represents the students within their own classrooms. Open education values the professional knowledge and judgement of educators to decide how to best teach core content in a way that is relevant to students.

The Importance and Benefits of Culturally Responsive Teaching

Not seeing oneself represented in the school faculty, reading series, and other curricular materials can lead to feelings of isolation and lacking value. Being able to make connections to content helps students learn at higher levels. In addition to fostering higher-level thinking skills, this practice helps students develop a positive self-image. When students see the relevance of instruction, they begin to question, analyze, and apply learning to their own situations and life. Yet, textbooks and standardized teaching materials rarely represent the population equally. As such, education becomes distant and abstract to so many. Culturally Responsive Teaching brings representation to the student body regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural heritage, geographic location, economic status, disability status, or geographic location. Representation in education is powerful not only because the content becomes more authentic and alive, but also because it gives voice, hope, inspiration, and offers the potential of a brighter tomorrow. Students are more connected to their own learning and work harder because they see educators are making efforts to personalize the learning.

Through open education, teachers can adapt curricular resources to ensure all segments of the student population is represented. Students need to see characters in stories and history that look like them and have similar societal challenges or financial hardships. Libraries and reading selections need to represent the students in the classroom. These same students need to see people who look like them who have persevered and overcome to achieve success and, most importantly, make a difference in this world for the better. With Culturally Responsive Teaching, a student’s prior knowledge and community experiences become assets in the classroom. Students are coming from more diverse backgrounds so education needs to value cultural heritage and not assume uniform backgrounds and prior knowledge.

Language arts and history are not the only subject matters that must consider Culturally Responsive Teaching. Mathematics students need to have problems presented in a concept-based format that shows understanding of community needs. By applying mathematics content in a way that could serve to make an impact upon the local community, students will use higher-level thinking skills and gain greater understanding. Furthermore, students need to see scientists, mathematicians, and innovators who represent them.

The arts can be one of the best applications of Culturally Responsive Teaching. Culturally Responsive Teaching establishes a strong foundation from which to study art and literature that represents the student body. Local art, music, and storytelling can be explored, analyzed, and preserved through Culturally Responsive Teaching.

As teachers represent student’s heritage and culture in learning materials and classroom discussions, students will feel valued and respected. Further, students will feel like a partner in their own education. This classroom environment will help build productive relationships among students and educators. Positive relationships have shown to have a significant impact on student learning.

graduate program favicon

Looking for a graduate program?

We can help you find a graduate program.

Our accessible staff is dedicated to providing a smooth and supportive admissions process for busy teachers.

By subscribing you agree to receive marketing emails, and newsletters from us. See privacy policy.