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May 2019

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What is known about how educator preparation programs prepare teacher candidates to employ culturally responsive practices? What do these preparation programs need to do to effectively prepare future teachers?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding preparing teacher candidates to employ culturally responsive practices. 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. Bissonnette, J.D. (2016). The trouble with niceness: How a preference for pleasantry sabotages culturally responsive teacher preparation. Journal of Language and Literacy Education,12(2), 9–32.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Because few teacher education programs are truly rooted in the philosophical aims of multicultural and social justice education (Asher, 2007; Banks, 2008; Hayes & Juarez, 2012; Miller, 2014), many pre-service teachers (PSTs) remain unpracticed--and unable--to teach in culturally responsive ways (Sleeter, 2012). But what structures and forces bear the culpability for the long documented shortcomings of this preparation? And how can literacy teacher educators honor their commitment to preparing practitioners capable of teaching "all" children? Here, the author postulates the ways in which teacher education programs' preference for niceness functions as an iteration of Whiteness that obstructs attempts to actualize culturally responsive teacher preparation, tending specifically to the complicity of audit culture, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, and curricula and instruction. In an effort to disrupt and ultimately dismantle the culture of niceness, the author offers successful approaches to training PSTs for teaching in culturally responsive ways, including displaying sociocultural vulnerability, modeling and creating opportunities for critical reflection, and collaborating alongside PSTs to craft a transformative curriculum.”
  2. Howard, C., Overstreet, M., & Ticknor, A.S. (2018). Engaging preservice teachers with culturally responsive pedagogy: Three model lessons for teacher educators. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 14(2).
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “In this article, we present three example lessons focused on intentionally developing preservice teacher (PST) knowledge of culturally responsive teaching in each of our literacy courses. We use culturally responsive teaching as a framework to expand PSTs beyond surface level thinking of diversity by modeling specific literacy practices that embrace students' cultural experiences and connect to academic learning. We offer teacher educators tools and resources to combat popular myths of diverse families, access language and literature for teaching social justice, and use facilitative texts to scaffold affirming and accurate language in their own teaching contexts.”
  3. Lewis Chiu, C., Savman, D., Carrero, K.M., Gibbon, T., Zolkoski, S.M., & Lusk, M.E. (2017). Developing culturally competent preservice teachers. Multicultural Perspectives, 19(1), 47–52.
    Retrieved from: Full text available at
    From the abstract: “An unfortunate, yet persistent, truth in U.S. public schools is the large achievement gap existing between children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and their White, middle-class counterparts. The potential for cultural dissonance between contemporary teachers and their students necessitates that educators must persistently seek culturally responsive practices. Much has been written regarding strategies for culturally responsive pedagogy; therefore, this article moves beyond a review of culturally responsive pedagogy. Rather than providing teacher candidates with more suggestions for culturally responsive teaching activities, the authors provide teacher educators with specific resources for facilitating the development of cultural competence among preservice teachers.”
  4. Olson, J.D. & Rao, A.B. (2016). Becoming a culturally responsive teacher: The impact of clinical experiences in urban schools. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research, 12, 133–141.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “This study focuses on elementary and secondary teacher candidates' perspectives of how their clinical experiences influence their preparedness in becoming effective culturally responsive educators. Clinical experiences in urban schools embedded within teacher preparation programs have the potential to develop students' ability to become culturally responsive educators, yet it is unknown how these experiences contribute to teachers' development in enacting culturally responsive pedagogy. Qualitative data was collected through open-ended survey responses and focus groups with teacher candidates in urban focused elementary and secondary teacher education programs at one college of education. Findings indicated that connecting with students' cultures and communities, the school/classroom context, and university-school partnerships and alignment impacted teacher candidates' feelings of preparedness on becoming culturally responsive educators.”
  5. Robertson, P.M., García, S.B., McFarland, L.A., & Rieth, H.J. (2012). Preparing culturally and linguistically responsive special educators: It “does” take a village. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 2(3), 15–130.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “The preparation of culturally and linguistically responsive special educators requires planning, substantive collaboration, and valuing the perspectives of underrepresented groups. This article describes restructuring efforts of one special education preparation program that included coursework and field-based experiences designed to enhance candidates' understanding of the complex, dynamic interrelationships among culture, language, and disability as the basis for culturally and linguistically responsive practice. Major activities included identifying key competencies, aligning those competencies with specific coursework and activities, and working with faculty in general education to design opportunities for candidates in both programs to develop collaborative skills. Results of ongoing program evaluation indicate that efforts were successful based on positive responses from participating candidates, cooperating teachers who host them, and the principals who subsequently hire them. Successes, challenges, and future directions are discussed within the context of program design and delivery.”
  6. Smith, R., Ralson, N., & Waggoner, J. (2018). Impact of culturally responsive teaching workshop on preservice teachers: How to teach Columbus from multiple perspectives. AILACTE Journal, 15(1), 61–77.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “This qualitative case study examines the impact of a workshop on culturally responsive teaching on preservice elementary teacher candidates' ability to conceptualize and apply culturally responsive instruction. The "Rethinking Columbus" workshop teaches students to read critically as text detectives, asking questions such as, "Whose voices are being heard, and whose are not, and what are the hidden messages in the text and illustrations?" Overall, it appears that preservice teachers who participated in the workshop were able to generate numerous culturally relevant instructional strategies that directly aligned with the conceptual framework presented in the workshop. Students were also able to extend their learning by creating new and innovative strategies to engage elementary students in learning that were not discussed during the workshop. This paper describes the workshop model for teaching preservice teachers to be culturally responsive educators and includes numerous participant-generated examples of how to teach with a culturally responsive lens.”
  7. Wachira, P. & Mburu, J. (2019). Culturally responsive mathematics teaching and constructivism: Preparing teachers for diverse classrooms. Multicultural Learning and Teaching, 14(1).
    Retrieved from: Full text available at

    From the abstract: “As the school population becomes increasingly diverse with students of differing ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, there is a need for more responsive practices that capitalize on the cultural capital that such students bring to the learning process. Current practices especially in mathematics teaching are failing to meet the learning needs of most diverse students thus contributing to their lack of success. Further, few teacher education programs have successfully tackled the challenging task of preparing teachers to meet the learning needs of diverse students. This article explores the theory of constructivism and its implications to mathematics teaching. The article further explores culturally responsive pedagogy and what it means to be a culturally responsive teacher. In their analyses, the authors draw parallels between culturally responsive pedagogical practices and strategies for teaching based on a constructivist view of learning. They demonstrate why the general principles derived from the constructivist theory are particularly suited for teaching diverse students consistent with notions of culturally responsive pedagogy. Some recommendations for teacher preparation are then provided.”
  8. Warren, C.A. (2018). Empathy, teacher dispositions, and preparation for culturally responsive pedagogy. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(2), 169–183.
    Retrieved from: Full text available at
    From the abstract: “Culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) offers elaborate empirical and theoretical conventions for becoming an effective teacher of diverse youth. Empathy has been found to improve classroom teachers' capacity to (re)act or respond to youth in ways that produce evidence of CRP. However, there are too few instructive models in teacher education that help connect teacher candidates' knowledge of students and communities to development of efficacious physical habits, tendencies, and trends in observable behavior or "teacher dispositions". The application of empathy operationalized through perspective taking is one such model useful to preparing teacher candidates to make professional decisions that produce evidence of CRP. Engaging teacher candidates in "perspective taking"--adopting the social perspectives of others as an act and process of knowing-- invites them to obtain (and reason with) new knowledge of students and the sociocultural context where she or he will teach. Recommendations for modeling and practicing perspective taking in teacher education are discussed.”
  9. Whipp, J.L. (2013). Developing socially just teachers: The interaction of experiences before, during, and after teacher preparation in beginning urban teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 454–467.
    Retrieved from: Full text available at
    From the abstract: “This interpretive study investigated how 12 graduates from a justice-oriented teacher preparation program described their teaching goals, practices, and influences on those practices after their 1st year of teaching in an urban school. Relationships among these teachers' orientations toward socially just teaching, self-reported socially just teaching practices, and self-reported preprogram, program, and postprogram influences were explored. Teachers who were individually and structurally oriented exhibited a sociocultural consciousness and described socially just teaching in various combinations of culturally responsive pedagogies, consciousness-raising, and advocacy; whereas individually oriented teachers focused primarily on "color-blind" caring relationships with their students. Factors that seemed to influence a more structural orientation to socially just teaching included (a) cross-cultural experiences before and during teacher preparation, (b) program course content and field experiences that challenged previous thinking, and (c) administrative and collegial support during the 1st year of teaching. Implications for teacher education practice and research are discussed.”
  10. Zygmunt, E., Cipollone, K., Tancock, S., Clausen, J., Clark, P., & Mucherah, W. (2018). Loving out loud: Community mentors, teacher candidates, and transformational learning through a pedagogy of care and connection. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(2), 127– 139.
    Retrieved from: Full text available at

    From the abstract: “Although there has been significant research examining the practice of culturally responsive teaching, little empirical work to date has examined the role that community-engaged, teacher preparation models play in shaping prospective teachers' orientation toward cultural responsiveness. This study of 60 preservice teacher candidates enrolled in a program of community-engaged teacher preparation at a midsized Midwestern public university specifically examined the ways in which caring relationships between preservice teachers and volunteer community mentors scaffolded candidates' contextualized understanding of culture, community, and identity of children and families. Findings provide evidence that as candidates experience authentic caring within the space of supportive relationships, they emerge equipped to care in more authentic, culturally responsive ways for their students.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE): https://
    From the website: “The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is the leading voice on educator preparation. AACTE represents more than 800 postsecondary institutions with educator preparation programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that assures educators are ready to teach all learners.”

  • Association of Teacher Educators (ATE):
    From the website: “The Association of Teacher Educators was founded in 1920 and is an individual membership organization devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education both for school-based and post secondary teacher educators. Today, ATE members represent nearly 1300 teacher educators in colleges, universities, school districts, and state education agencies within 41 regional and state affiliated units and US Territories.”

  • National Education Association (NEA):
    From the website: “The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.”


Search Strings. Culturally responsive teacher preparation OR culturally responsive educator preparation OR culturally responsive preservice teachers OR culturally responsive teacher candidates OR cultural competence teacher preparation OR cultural competence educator preparation OR cultural competence preservice teachers OR cultural competence teacher candidates OR multicultural teacher education OR MTE OR multicultural educator preparation

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.