JEA book review: 'Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain' serves as a toolkit for culture and diversity independent learning (2024)

JEA book review: 'Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain' serves as a toolkit for culture and diversity independent learning (1)

By Sarah Verpooten, MJE and Kristin Taylor, CJE

This book review is first in a series of resources JEA is recommending to advisers in an effort to provide antiracist teaching resources to educators. JEA is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its membership and practices. See the official statement here.


JEA book review: 'Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain' serves as a toolkit for culture and diversity independent learning (2)JEA book review: 'Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain' serves as a toolkit for culture and diversity independent learning (3)

Education consultant Zaretta Hammond describes herself as “a ‘boots on the ground’ teacher … a former writing teacher turned equity freedom fighter [whose] heart is forever with children and teachers in the classroom.” Hammond started her career as a writing teacher, and those years in the classroom led her to “understand how important literacy was to equity, and how neuroscience and culture should inform our instructional practice.”

In her book “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students,” Hammond blends practical brain science with the need for awareness of individual and collective culture, arguing we cannot be effective teachers without first understanding how culture programs the brain. However, as she cautions early on, the book isn’t a “how-to guide on developing culturally responsive lesson plans in every subject area”; rather, it is “a mindset, a way of thinking about and organizing instruction to allow for greater flexibility in teaching.”

In other words, the book is a toolkit for teachers ready to do the work of examining and leveraging “deep culture” to foster independent learning.

The book is divided into three main sections:

Part I: Building Awareness and Knowledge (Ch. 1-4)

This section begins with a discussion of dependent and independent learners and argues culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a “powerful tool for helping students find their way out of the [achievement] 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.

Part II: Building Learning Partnerships (Ch. 5-7)

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.

Part III: Building Intellective Capacity (Ch. 8-9)

In the final two chapters Hammond provides hands-on tools, connecting the neuroscience of information processing (input, elaboration and application) 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 student’s 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.

Key takeaways

Although we found the entire book helpful, here are some key takeaways that struck us as we engaged with Hammond’s book.

Chapter 4: Preparing to be a Culturally Responsive Practitioner

Hammond asks the reader to look within to recognize and name our own Cultural Reference Points. (57) “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. (56) She invites teachers to explore their own triggers that activate threats in the brain so they can manage and maintain their own emotional intelligence. (65)

Chapter 5: Building the Foundation of Learning Partnerships

Because “the same areas in the brain light up whether we stub our toe or get rejected,” (76) teachers must continually build trust and rapport with all students in an alliance to keep student brains active and engaged. Hammond lists Trust Generators (79) and asks the reader to examine what points of connection they have with students.

Chapter 6: 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.” (98) This role as Warm Demander moves students from dependent to independent learners and “is the social justice aspect of culturally responsive teaching.” (100)

Chapter 8: 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” (122). 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 (130). This chapter provides immediately usable strategies for culturally responsive classrooms.

Application to journalism classrooms

Reflect on these questions as you read. Please join Kristin and Sarah for a Zoom-in discussion Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. CDT as we explore how “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” can impact our student newsrooms.Sign up to participate in the Zoom-in here.


How can we make our classrooms more culturally responsive? How can we be leaders in our classrooms to welcome in students of culturally diverse backgrounds? What best practices for CRT do you already employ? What are you excited to try?

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?

Trust Generators (79)

Which of the Trust Generators come easily to you? Which are more difficult? In what ways can we build trust with our culturally diverse students so they know their opinions and participation on staff matter? How do your student editors do these things? What do we have on the walls of our newsroom that reflect back student culture to them? How does the seating arrangement foster communication and equity?

Student Agency and Voice: (148-150)

Do our implicit biases shape who succeeds on our staff? What cultural expectations do we have of our staffers? Is there a way that we are silencing the voices of portions of the student population by not having a diverse staff? If you do have a diverse staff, how do you foster community and agency for all learners? What specific practices do you use (like helping trios, etc.) to encourage more participation and engagement from all students in your classroom?

Final Thoughts?

Kristin Taylor, SPRC Director,
Sarah Verpooten, Director-at-Large,

As an Amazon Associate, the Journalism Education Association earns from qualifying purchases on books and products we recommend to members.

JEA book review: 'Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain' serves as a toolkit for culture and diversity independent learning (2024)


What is the summary of the book culturally responsive teaching and the brain? ›

In her book “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students,” Hammond blends practical brain science with the need for awareness of individual and collective culture, arguing we cannot be effective teachers without first ...

What are the main ideas of culturally responsive teaching and the brain? ›

Culturally responsive teaching builds students' brain power by Improving information processing skills using cultural learning tools. This isn't an aspect of CRT we talk about a lot. Instead, educators like to focus on the affective elements.

What happens in chapter 1 of culturally responsive teaching and the brain? ›

Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

In her opening chapter, Hammond establishes that underserved students of color, including students who are linguistically and culturally diverse, have been affected by systems of inequity; these systems have held them back from becoming independent learners.

How to reference culturally responsive teaching and the brain apa? ›

How to cite “Culturally responsive teaching and the brain” by Zaretta L. Hammond
  • APA. Hammond, Z. L. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain. ...
  • Chicago. Hammond, Zaretta L. 2015. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. ...
  • MLA. Hammond, Zaretta L. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.

What is the primary goal of culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally Responsive Teaching is an approach that leverages the strengths that students of color bring to the classroom to make learning more relevant and effective. A major goal of Culturally Responsive Teaching is to reverse patterns of underachievement for students of color.

What is culturally responsive teaching and why is it important? ›

Culturally responsive teaching is a research-based approach to teaching. It connects students' cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school. These connections help students access rigorous curriculum and develop higher-level academic skills. Our brains are wired to make connections.

What are the 4 characteristics of culturally responsive teaching? ›

These four practices are: (1) that teachers are empathetic and caring; (2) that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures; (3) that they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference; and (4) that they are knowledgeable about other cultures.

What are the three principles of culturally responsive teaching? ›

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

What is Chapter 2 of culturally responsive teaching and the brain about? ›

Chapter 2: The author describes two cultural archetypes shes thinks are important to know – collectivism and individualism (p. 25-27).

What is the role of the teacher in a culturally responsive teaching? ›

In culturally responsive classrooms, teachers provide opportunities for choice in classroom activities, encourage child-directed learning, and assist students as they engage in these activities.

How does culturally responsive teaching affect student learning? ›

Since CRT focuses on inclusive curriculums, it helps teachers and students understand different perspectives, appreciate each other's strengths, and build empathy. It also helps teachers to introspect how their own identity and experiences impact their attitudes and teaching practices.

What is an example of the principles of culturally responsive teaching? ›

For example, we might invite families or community members representing the different faiths found in students' communities into school to share their values. Students' family members and community guests can provide firsthand knowledge of the content and add a level of relevance to learning.

How do you engage in culturally responsive teaching? ›

4 ways to practice culturally responsive teaching
  1. Build a positive classroom culture.
  2. Get to know your students and families.
  3. Provide opportunities for students to see themselves in the learning.
  4. Set high expectations for all students.
  5. Other resources to support your practice.
Mar 17, 2022

How to use culturally responsive teaching in the classroom? ›

Give students frequent opportunities to share information about their lives and cultures. Look for ways to build bridges to students' communities in thoughtful ways. Colleagues, family liaisons, families, and community members can help. Remember that sometimes culture is harder to see, but no less significant.

What is the most important element in culturally responsive teaching? ›

Ladson-Billings (1995) notes that a key criterion for culturally relevant teaching is nurturing and supporting competence in both home and school cultures. Teachers should use the students' home cultural experiences as a foundation upon which to develop knowledge and skills.

What are the 7 principles of culturally responsive teaching? ›

7 Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
  • Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
  • Make learning contextual. ...
  • Consider your classroom setup. ...
  • Form relationships. ...
  • Discuss social and political issues. ...
  • Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
  • Incorporate popular culture.
Nov 19, 2020

What are the 6 themes of culturally responsive education? ›

The six themes of CRE from Stembridge include engagement, cultural identity, relationships, vulnerability, assets, and rigor. These six themes overlap but are listed separately to elucidate the connections with classroom assessment.

What are examples of culturally responsive care? ›

Providing culturally responsive care to non-English speakers may include (but is not limited to) the use of interpreters, using plain language, and communicating in a way that is both linguistically and culturally appropriate.

What does it mean to provide culturally responsive practice? ›

Culturally-responsive practices involve recognizing and incorporating the assets and strengths all students bring into the classroom, and ensuring that learning experiences, from curriculum through assessment, are relevant to all students.

What are two of the most important ways for teachers to become more culturally responsive? ›

How to Implement Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Classroom
  • Gather demographic information on students such as background, languages spoken, etc.
  • Identify students' assets and their cultural capital.
  • Create a welcoming classroom environment and develop authentic, caring relationships with your students.

Which of the following skills are needed to be a culturally responsive teacher? ›

According to the results, being a culturally responsive teacher requires having certain personal and professional competencies, such as avoiding discrimination, respecting cultural differences, being a role model, having an empathic tendency, and having good communication skills as well as a pedagogical background.

What are the four 4 basic characteristics of culture? ›

The major elements of culture are symbols, language, norms, values, and artifacts.

What are the four 4 domains of the responsive classroom? ›

This approach to teaching and discipline creates the conditions for social, emotional, and academic learning using practical strategies in four domains: positive community, effective management, engaging academics, and developmentally responsive teaching.

What are the 5 essential principles that are relevant to cultural competence? ›

Have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of communities they serve.

What does it mean to be culturally responsive in the classroom? ›

Cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of one's own culture as well as those from other cultures. Culturally responsive schools offer a learning environment where every student's cultures, languages, and life experiences are acknowledged, validated, and celebrated.

What is culturally responsive teaching and mental health? ›

Culturally responsive care is the intentional and consistent decision mental health care providers make to see, respect, and celebrate the aspects that make each person unique.

What are the benefits of a culturally responsive classroom? ›

5 Ways Culturally Responsive Teaching Benefits Learners
  • Facilitating brain processing. ...
  • Motivating and engaging students. ...
  • Cultivating critical thinking and problem-solving skills. ...
  • Strengthening students' racial and ethnic identities. ...
  • Promoting a sense of safety and belonging.
Sep 23, 2019

How can schools be more culturally responsive? ›

Ensure that principals and teachers have professional development opportunities to help them assess their own cultural viewpoints and biases, set high expectations for all students, acknowledge diverse learning styles, use culturally responsive pedagogy, and effectively engage diverse families and community members.

What is another word for culturally responsive teaching? ›

Geneva Gay published Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice in 2000. You may have come across this pedagogy under the names “culturally appropriate instruction,” “culturally relevant teaching,” “culturally congruent instruction” or other variations on these themes.

How do you promote equity and diversity in the classroom? ›

Seven effective ways to promote equity in the classroom
  1. Reflect on your own beliefs. ...
  2. Reduce race and gender barriers to learning. ...
  3. Don't ask students of color to be “experts” on their race. ...
  4. Diversify your curriculum. ...
  5. Hold every student to high expectations. ...
  6. Avoid assumptions about students' backgrounds.
Mar 19, 2020

How do you embrace cultural diversity in the classroom? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

How do you practice cultural responsiveness? ›

How do you become Culturally Responsive?
  1. Develop cultural self-awareness.
  2. Appreciate the value of diverse views.
  3. Avoid imposing your own values on others.
  4. Examine your own teaching for cultural bias.
  5. Build on students' cultural strengths.
  6. Discover your students' primary cultural roles; incorporate culture into your teaching.

What is the conclusion of culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally responsive teaching holds the greatest promise of closing students' learning gaps by helping them rapidly build their brainpower or what many call intellectual capacity.

Why culturally responsive books are important? ›

Culturally relevant literature is important because it can lead students to academic achievement, create educational equity and critical consciousness within a classroom community, and teach all students to take on a global perspective and understand cultural competence.

What are the 3 levels of culture culturally responsive teaching? ›

In her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Zaretta Hammond defines culture on three levels: surface culture, shallow culture, and deep culture.

What are the key concepts in culturally responsive practice? ›

It means being respectful of everyone's backgrounds, beliefs, values, customs, knowledge, lifestyle and social behaviours. It helps you provide culturally appropriate care and support, so people are empowered to manage their own health.

What are the key concepts of cultural responsiveness? ›

Being culturally responsive requires having the ability to understand cultural differences, recognize potential biases, and look beyond differences to work productively with children, families, and communities whose cultural contexts are different from one's own.

What is a culturally responsive book? ›

Culturally relevant books help to engage all readers because they build on the lived experiences of students. Culturally responsive teaching insists on educators intentionally creating their classroom libraries with their students.

Why is it important to read books about diversity? ›

Diversity in literature can help students to be more compassionate, caring citizens. Reading about other cultures and identities can remind students of both similarities and differences in the human experience. No matter who we are, we all have dreams, hopes, and fears—and so can a book's protagonist.

What are the benefits of culturally responsive education? ›

Since CRT focuses on inclusive curriculums, it helps teachers and students understand different perspectives, appreciate each other's strengths, and build empathy. It also helps teachers to introspect how their own identity and experiences impact their attitudes and teaching practices.


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