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Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, Second Edition

reviewed by Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz - November 30, 2010

coverTitle: Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, Second Edition
Author(s): Geneva Gay
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807750786, Pages: 289, Year: 2010
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The release of the 2nd edition of Culturally Responsive Teaching, Theory, Research and Practice marks the 10th anniversary of Geneva Gay’s landmark text. Few books have been more influential on how to effectively teach African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and immigrant students. In one short decade, Gay’s text has become a timeless classic and indispensible tool for anyone interested in becoming a culturally responsive educator.

In eight chapters, the book presents a clarion call for schools to include diverse perspectives and cultures in their curriculum. Chapter 1 uses a powerful story of two students to convey the critical need for incorporating the cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds of students into teaching strategies. Chapter 2 presents the work of researchers, scholars, and practitioners on the teaching practices that work best with diverse students. In Chapter 3, Gay argues how caring, a major tenet of culturally responsive teaching, has profound effects on students, and explains why it might be the most challenging tenet for educators. Gay has revised the book extensively, offering new material in Chapter 4 on culturally diverse communication that addresses common myths about language diversity, and the effects of English Plus instruction. In Chapter 5, Gay analyzes diverse curriculum content and provides convincing evidence for how students performed higher on multiple measures of achievement when involved in programs or classrooms that used culturally responsive teaching as a mode for learning. Chapter 6 of this edition includes new content on how to execute culturally responsive programs and strategies for poor (rural) Europeans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian American students in K-12 settings and higher education. In Chapter 7, Gay shares her personal beliefs about this approach to teaching and her practices as a teacher educator, and, finally, Chapter 8 offers a “look back” at the major principles of culturally responsive teaching while looking forward to future ways it can prevent the persistent academic failure of ethnically and linguistically diverse children in our nation’s schools.

The movement for social justice in education led to African American and ethnic minority students attending public schools with white students. However, the benefits that should have been the immediate harvest of the Civil Rights litigations of the 1960s were stymied by a system that found new ways to segregate the incoming Black, Brown, and Native children. School systems were creative and deliberate in their use of suspensions, expulsions, and special education classes as the new methods of exclusion. In this book, Gay continues the historical argument for equity in educational access, the elimination of racism in schools, and for the cultural lives of students to be central to a school’s curriculum. She maintains that negating and negatively portraying these students’ cultures is detrimental to their academic achievement.

Although this edition comes a decade after its initial publication, the persistent low achievement of students of color and current demographic trends indicate that this book is needed now more than ever. African American and Latino students, particularly boys, continue to be disproportionately suspended, expelled, and placed in long-term special education (Klingner, Artiles, Kozleski, et al., 2005). Native American students face alienation in the schools they attend (Sparks, 2000) and the cultures of diverse students are still rarely found in school curriculum. Those students whose cultures are farthest from the mainstream Anglo-European culture often find themselves mistreated and gravely marginalized in schools. The 2000 U.S. Census documented Latinos as the largest U.S. minority group at 35 million (12.5 percent of the U.S. population), very close to the share of African Americans, and the Bureau currently projects that by 2025 the Latino population will grow from 35 million to 61 million, at which point it will represent 18 percent of the U.S. population.

The curricula in our nation’s schools continue to reflect primarily Anglo-European American perspectives even as our schools strive to become more diverse in their populations. This book asks educators to continuously question the “normalcy” of middle-class European culture that is omnipresent in school and society. As teaching and learning is filtered through cultural experiences, the book emphasizes the socio-cultural process of education and notes that educators must be aware of how a student’s culture influences how he or she learns and experiences school, as well as how a teacher’s culture influences how and who he or she teaches. Gay’s book guides the reader through what is needed for curriculum reform for culturally and linguistically diverse students, what a pedagogy of equity could look like, the multicultural competence needed to be developed in teachers, and the educational environment (districts, schools, and classrooms) required to promote equity. This book illuminates the transformative characteristic of culturally responsive teaching and its potential to build a critical consciousness in marginalized groups who are then situated to analyze the world and make effective and appropriate decisions for themselves.

Gay admits that more research is needed on culturally responsive teaching. Although no single book can offer everything, this text would have been enhanced by the inclusion of more voices of actual teachers and students discussing their experience with culturally responsive teaching. Gay offers a few examples of some of the writings by her graduate students, and presents stories which read as case studies to highlight the need for culturally responsive teaching for improvement in student academic achievement. More examples presented by actual teachers and students in the research studies Gay mentions throughout the text would have strengthened this already important book.

At a time in public education when teachers are increasingly pressured with standardized teaching and learning methods, Gay’s book offers practical and purposeful approaches for practitioners to meet and exceed the challenges imposed by standardization, and make content responsive to the cultural backgrounds of students. This text reinforces the significance of culturally responsive teaching for a new generation of scholars and educators, and those who will lead America’s culturally and linguistically diverse schools.

Eight years ago when I read the first edition of Gay’s book, I had already been teaching for eight years. Gay’s book gave me a language to describe and explain why I taught as I did. Gay’s theory is central to the work I do with pre-service teachers as I help them embrace an identity of a culturally responsive educator, and help them develop their racial literacy for effective teaching. This book will most likely fulfill the prediction made by James Banks, the book’s series editor. In the foreword of this 10th anniversary edition he writes: “The first edition of this book was read by hundreds of present and future educators. I am confident that this second edition will be received as enthusiastically as the first and affect eternity” (p. xii).


Klingner, J. K., Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E., Harry, B., Zion, S., Tate, W., Durán, G. Z., & Riley, D. (2005). Addressing the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education through culturally responsive educational systems. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(38). Retrieved November 23, 2010 from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v13n38/.

Sparks, S. (2000, May). Classroom and curriculum accommodations for Native American students. Intervention in School and Clinic, 35(5), 259-263.

U.S. Census Bureau (2001). The Hispanic population in the United States (Current Population Report P20- 535).

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 30, 2010
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16249, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 2:31:14 AM

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About the Author
  • Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    YOLANDA SEALEY-RUIZ is an Assistant Professor in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her current research interests include Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, African American college reentry females, and racial literacy development in pre-service teachers and high school students. Some of her articles have appeared in Adult Education Quarterly, The Journal of Negro Education, and The Urban Review.
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