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Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (3rd Edition)

reviewed by Cynthia Zwicky - August 03, 2018

coverTitle: Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (3rd Edition)
Author(s): Geneva Gay
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807758760, Pages: 384, Year: 2018
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Culturally Responsive Teaching consists of eight captivating chapters aimed at developing a culturally responsive praxis. When this seminal book was first published in 2000, it explicitly placed culture at the center of teaching and learning. In this third edition, Geneva Gay argues that the status quo around issues of power and privilege has not changed significantly, and that there has been only some growth in culturally responsive teaching since the second edition was released in 2010. Thus, the need for a third edition is fueled by the global implications for cultural responsiveness, the persistent achievement/opportunity gap based on race, culture, ethnicity, and class, and the fact that as our world and the U.S. become increasingly diverse, and the teaching demographic does not, schools need to respond. While the structure and premise of the book remain unchanged, the third edition responds to the question educators continue to ask: How do we do it? Unlike standard how-to books for educators, this one provides guidelines and resources that encourage the reader to explore and determine the strategies appropriate to their own context and to the students they teach. In this new edition, practice possibilities are suggested at the conclusion of six of the eight chapters.


In the first chapter, “Challenges and Perspectives,” Gay sets the stage by establishing the value of the personal story as a means of inviting multiple intelligences of culturally diverse students into classrooms. She stresses the untapped possibilities of ethnically diverse students and underscores the urgent need to build classrooms that are culturally relevant.


Chapter Two, “Pedagogical Potential of Cultural Responsiveness,” challenges the assumption that schools are culturally neutral spaces where successful teaching means all students having the same experience. Instead, she calls for assets-based instructional reforms that reflect students’ own cultures. She concludes this chapter by urging educators to be more explicit about their ideologies and then includes examples of policy statements on cultural diversity and equity.


In Chapter Three, “The Power of Culturally Responsive Caring,” Gay lays out foundational aspects of authentic care as a means of creating a culturally responsive classroom. While she positions strong relationships as foundational to a culturally responsive classroom, they are not regarded as the ends, but rather the means toward academic success. Instead she initiates that academic success is built upon a strong, solid classroom community where cross-cultural dialogue is the norm. Welcoming student voice and building authentic relationships in the classroom serve to empower students, which leads to increased academic success.


In Chapter Four, “Culture and Communication in the Classroom,” Gay states that “understanding connections between culture and communication is critical to improving intercultural interactions” (p. 92). She cites Lakoff (2004) when naming the value of communication in creating cross-cultural community and cohesion. When recalling aspects of a good teacher, we are reminded that teaching is not telling. Gay points to the complexities of communication; that it is dynamic and strategic, influenced by culture, and open to interpretation. It is therefore not enough for teachers to understand generalizations about communication patterns among various ethnic groups. Rather, Gay calls for teachers to focus on their own classroom contexts and learn more about the specific discourse styles of their students.


Chapter Five, “Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Curriculum Content” promotes the importance of multicultural curriculum content in promoting high achievement for marginalized students. Curriculum should be relevant and teaching should be participatory in order to maximize student learning. This chapter offers a review of research analyzing textbooks for fair and unbiased multicultural content as well as an analysis and critique of the effect that the increasing importance of standards (including standardized testing) has had on a diverse student population. She outlines some success, such as the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, that has issued a comprehensive set of guidelines to facilitate accurate inclusion of indigenous content and teaching practices. She also problematizes the notion that a common set of standards supports student success by noting that the presumption of standardization is that students learn the same. In fact, she notes that the very students the standards are purporting to serve are suffering more than succeeding.

She also notes that bias in children’s and young adult literature persists, and that while the number of books being written by and about people of color is increasing, there still aren’t enough. Progress has been uneven in how people of color are treated in mass media, and changes are not always improvements. In the first edition, Gay challenged scholars to study and document the effects of content on student achievement in all subjects and for all ethnic groups. In the third edition, she cites the positive impact culturally relevant STEM education has had on student achievement for diverse students in general (Brown, 2015) and Ojibwe students in particular (Roehrig and Moore, 2012). She concludes Chapter Five with a comprehensive list of multicultural social justice resources, including films, songs, authors, and museums.


Chapter Six, “Cultural Congruity in Teaching and Learning,” underscores the importance of understanding how students learn. In this edition, Gay shares research that addresses learning styles given the increased presence of technology in the classroom, and also outlines multiple programs that link theory to practice. These programs are organized by type, including funds of knowledge, affective engagement, and cooperative learning. Each section provides further detail on the value and relevancy of implementing these strategies in a culturally responsive manner. For example, she addresses the importance of providing structure, as opposed to free choice, for cooperative learning, describing how it fosters connection and collaboration as well as the inclusion of marginalized groups.


In Chapter Seven, “A Personal Case of Culturally Responsive Teaching Praxis,” Gay illuminates the power of the personal story. She engages the reader by describing the how she has strived to ensure that her own classrooms are welcoming spaces that invite dialogue. Being supportive, establishing routines and rituals, and providing choice and opportunities to learn cooperatively are some of the ways she has been successful with her students. Gay views teachers as learners as well and, reciprocally, expects learners to also be teachers. Establishing her classrooms as a place of shared power is a necessary component of culturally responsive teaching because it establishes an environment founded on assets, where students situate and negotiate their expertise on the same stage as the teacher. It requires not only that a teacher get to know her students, but that the teacher let herself be known by her students.

The Epilogue, “Looking Back and Projecting Forward,” outlines obstacles to moving forward and challenges teachers to deconstruct assumptions. In this chapter, Gay charges the institutions that prepare future educators to continue to evolve in their practices, and urges structures and systems to support inservice teachers who are working to implement culturally responsive classrooms.


In this third edition of Culturally Responsive Teaching, Gay sends a strong message to teachers to stay the course, trust the process, and mind the message that the measurement of success cannot be reduced to a score on a standardized test. In an era where people desire a quick fix or a silver bullet, a definitive answer with a sure result, Gay also emphasizes that there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution. She provides direction as well as resources that allow readers to think for themselves, find their own paths, and develop their own tool kits. To support this self-study, she concludes six of the eight chapters with what she calls “Practice Possibilities.” These include tenets, resources, and quotes that can serve as ingredients that will enable readers to become their own version of a successful teacher for academically marginalized students.

This book is an invaluable resource to preservice and inservice teachers as well as teacher educators. Gay continues to challenge the reader to be proactive and stay the course. She offers a framework that remains relevant and continues to challenge us to do better, reminding us that the need for culturally responsive teaching persists.


Brown, J.C. (2015, September 4). Reach your students with culturally responsive STEM education methods. Retrieved from https://cehdvision2020.umn.edu/blog/culturally-responsive-stem-education/


Lakoff, R. (2004). Language and woman’s place: Text and commentaries. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Roehrig, G., & Moore, T. (2012, March 15). How to make STEM socially and culturally relevant. Retrieved from https://cehdvision2020.umn.edu/blog/make-stem-socially-culturally-relevant/

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 03, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22447, Date Accessed: 5/26/2022 8:11:48 AM

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About the Author
  • Cynthia Zwicky
    University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
    E-mail Author
    CYNTHIA ZWICKY teaches at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is nationally recognized and locally respected authority on Restorative Justice Circles. Her research interests include Culturally Responsive Teacher Education, Restorative Justice, and equity. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota where her primary focus was on school culture.
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