To effectively teach an increasingly diverse student population throughout the United States, scholars and teacher educators have become proponents of using culturally responsive pedagogy. Culturally responsive pedagogy is defined as a combination of knowledge, practices, and dispositions that center racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse students’ cultural traditions, experiences, and perspectives to facilitate meaningful and transformative learning opportunities. Culturally responsive pedagogy is particularly important for students of color who have persistently been marginalized in U.S. schools and will become increasingly relevant in teacher education as the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of school populations continues to grow in the United States. As such, educator preparation programs are key teacher learning sites for preparing future teachers to be able to engage in culturally responsive pedagogical practices with their students.
In the context of the United States, traditional educator preparation has often centered its program designs for a White female teacher population, preparing them to address the learning needs of racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse student populations via sense making and application activities in individual courses, community service projects, and fieldwork experiences. These efforts are often additive approaches for addressing culturally responsive pedagogy in the curriculum and not always central to the mission of programs.
Scholars have challenged piecemeal preparation approaches for addressing culturally responsive pedagogy and argued for an integration of culturally responsive approaches throughout preservice teacher preparation experiences. Despite calling attention to such approaches, several issues complicate this effort. For one, the pervasive Whiteness that encompasses most educator preparation programs must be acknowledged, critiqued, and addressed in ways that many programs are ill-equipped to do given the demographic makeup of the teaching faculty. Even if some programs recognize this pressing need and work to emphasize the importance of culturally responsive pedagogy in the core mission statements of their programs, close examination of the program design suggests gaps of the application as it relates to the learning experiences of teacher candidates.
Further, there is growing concern regarding the overemphasis of culturally responsive approaches for preparing White teachers in ways that overlook the learning and preparation needs of teachers of color. Given these challenges, discourse on culturally responsive pedagogy in teacher education must be addressed through the perspective of multiple stakeholders and program facets, with a common goal of emphasizing rigorous, engaging, and challenging educational opportunity for racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse youth in schools.