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July 2019

Ask A REL Question:

What is the research on the effectiveness or impact of culturally responsive teaching practices on student outcomes?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding the effectiveness or impact of culturally responsive teaching practices on student outcomes. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Byrd, C. M. (2016). Does culturally relevant teaching work? An examination from student perspectives. SAGE Open, 6(3), 1-10.
    Retrieved from: Full text available at
    From the abstract: “Culturally relevant teaching is proposed as a powerful method for increasing student achievement and engagement and for reducing achievement gaps. Nevertheless, the research demonstrating its effectiveness consists primarily of case studies of exemplary classrooms. In addition, most of the research fails to take student perspectives into account. The current study asks whether culturally relevant teaching works by considering student perceptions of classrooms that vary in the amount of culturally relevant practices. The sample was 315 sixth- through 12th-grade students sampled from across the United States (62% female, 25% White, 25% Latino, 25% African American, and 25% Asian) who completed surveys of their experiences of culturally relevant teaching, cultural socialization, opportunities to learn about other cultures, and opportunities to learn about racism. Elements of culturally relevant teaching were significantly associated with academic outcomes and ethnic-racial identity development. The findings provide support for the effectiveness of culturally relevant teaching in everyday classrooms.”
  2. Larson, K. E., Pas, E. T., Bradshaw, C. P., Rosenberg, M. S., & Day-Vines, N. L. (2018). Examining how proactive management and culturally responsive teaching relate to student behavior: Implications for measurement and practice. School Psychology Review, 47(2), 153-166
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “The discipline gap between White students and African American students has increased demand for teacher training in culturally responsive and behavior management practices. Extant research, however, is inconclusive about how culturally responsive teaching practices relate to student behavior or how to assess using such practices in the classroom. Identifying proactive behavior management and culturally responsive teaching practices that are associated with positive student behavior may inform teacher training and bolster efforts to reduce disparities in behavioral and academic performance. The current study examined the association between student behaviors and the observed use of and teacher self-reported efficacy in using culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices. Data were collected from 274 teachers in 18 schools. Structural equation modeling indicated a statistically significant association between observations of culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices, with observed positive student behaviors in classrooms. Implications for measurement and practice are discussed.”
  3. Mackay, H. & Strickland, M. J. (2018). Exploring culturally responsive teaching and student-created videos in an at-risk middle school classroom. Middle Grades Review, 4(1), 1-15.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “As the United States public school classrooms encounter notable shifts in student demographics and increased access to technology, teachers face the dual challenges of cultural and digital differences as they attempt to build relationships with students and develop responsive and relevant instruction. Framed by culturally responsive teaching (CRT), this qualitative study explored how one middle school teacher and his students in two summer school English classes interacted with and responded to novel technology-based instructional approach that sought to connect the students' lives outside of school to the classroom. The findings suggest that involving the students within this culturally responsive teaching approach using student-created videos informs the contribution of both the teacher and the students for connecting home and school contexts with a CRT framework.”
  4. Piazza, S. V., Rao, S., & Protacio, M. S. (2015). Converging recommendations for culturally responsive literacy practices: Students with learning disabilities, English language learners, and socioculturally diverse learners. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 17(3), 1-20.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “This study examines culturally responsive pedagogy across the fields of special education, multicultural literacy education, and teaching English language learners. A systematic review of recommendations identified culturally responsive practices in five key areas: dialogue, collaboration, visual representation, explicit instruction, and inquiry. Educators are encouraged to adopt a critical and responsive stance that incorporates students' cultural knowledge and lived experiences when implementing these recommendations. Creating classrooms that promote culturally responsive and effective instruction is grounded in the definition of literacy as a social practice and leads to more equitable learning opportunities in all areas.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CCRTL):
    From the website: “The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CCRTL) exists for making cultural responsiveness a meaningful aspect of everyday life (mission). Being culturally responsive is an approach to living life in a way that practices the validation and affirmation of different cultures for the purposes of moving beyond race and moving below the superficial focus on culture. Cultural responsiveness is for everyone (our vision). The number one objective is to sway school communities, professional communities, and the general public to becoming culturally responsive.”

  • National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt):
    From the website: “Financed and supervised by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt) is an educational initiative that was started to provide technical support and facilitate professional development of students in schools. The project was designed to eliminate the achievement gap between students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and their peers, and this way decreasing the need for special education. The project dealt with ways to improve culturally responsive practices, early intervention, literacy, and positive behavioral supports.”


Search Strings. Culturally responsive teaching OR culturally responsive practices OR culturally responsive influence on students OR culturally responsive student practices OR student response to culturally responsive teaching OR culturally responsive classrooms OR culturally responsive teaching and student achievement OR culturally responsive teaching outcomes OR culturally relevant teaching

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

REL Mid-Atlantic serves the education needs of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This Ask A REL was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0006 by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.