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Culturally inclusive practices and student outcomes — February 2018


What is the relationship between culturally inclusive practices and student outcomes?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on the relationship between culturally inclusive practices and student outcomes in K–12 settings. The sources included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

Aceves, T. C., & Orosco, M. J. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching (Document No. IC-2). Gainesville, FL: Collaboration for Effective Educator, Development, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR). Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This paper features an innovation configuration (IC) matrix that can guide teacher preparation professionals in the development of appropriate culturally responsive teaching (CRT) content. With the implementation of any innovation comes a continuum of configurations of implementation from non-use to the ideal. ICs are organized around two dimensions: essential components and degree of implementation (Hall & Hord, 1987; Roy & Hord, 2004). Essential components of the IC—along with descriptors and examples to guide application of the criteria to course work, standards, and classroom practices—are listed in the rows of the far left column of the matrix. Several levels of implementation are defined in the top row of the matrix. For example, no mention of the essential component is the lowest level of implementation and would receive a score of zero. Increasing levels of implementation receive progressively higher scores. ICs have been used in the development and implementation of educational innovations for at least 30 years (Hall & Hord, 2001; Hall, Loucks, Rutherford, & Newton, 1975; Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 1987; Roy & Hord, 2004). Experts studying educational change in a national research center originally developed these tools, which are used for professional development (PD) in the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM). The tools have also been used for program evaluation (Hall & Hord, 2001; Roy & Hord, 2004). Use of this tool to evaluate course syllabi can help teacher preparation leaders ensure that they emphasize proactive, preventative approaches instead of exclusive reliance on behavior reduction strategies. The IC included in the Appendix of this paper is designed for teacher preparation programs, although it can be modified as an observation tool for PD purposes. The Collaboration for Effective Educator, Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center ICs are extensions of the seven ICs originally created by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (NCCTQ).”

Aronson, B., & Laughter, J. (2016, March). The theory and practice of culturally relevant education: A synthesis of research across content areas. Review of Educational Research, 86(1), 163–206. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Many teachers and educational researchers have claimed to adopt tenets of culturally relevant education (CRE). However, recent work describes how standardized curricula and testing have marginalized CRE in educational reform discourses. In this synthesis of research, we sought examples of research connecting CRE to positive student outcomes across content areas. It is our hope that this synthesis will be a reference useful to educational researchers, parents, teachers, and education leaders wanting to reframe public debates in education away from neoliberal individualism, whether in a specific content classroom or in a broader educational community.”

Bennett, J. G., Gardner, R. I., Cartledge, G., Ramnath, R., & Council, M. I. (2017). Second-grade urban learners: Preliminary findings for a computer-assisted, culturally relevant, repeated reading intervention. Education and Treatment of Children, 40(2), 145–186. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study investigated the effects of a multicomponent, supplemental intervention on the reading fluency of second-grade African-American urban students who showed reading and special education risk. The packaged intervention combined repeated readings and culturally relevant stories, delivered through a novel computer software program to enhance oral reading fluency and comprehension. A concurrent multiple probe experimental design across seven participants was used to assess intervention effects. Results showed a positive effect on both practiced and novel passages during intervention and on the 2-week and 1-month maintenance probes. Further, reading growth rates for the participants exceeded the growth rates for comparison peers on AIMSweb assessments. This study supports previous research on the beneficial effects of repeated reading strategies and computer delivered instruction. The link between fluency and comprehension was further supported in these findings. The possible relative effects of the use of culturally relevant material as well as study limitations are discussed.”

Bui, Y. N., & Fagan, Y. M. (2013). The effects of an integrated reading comprehension strategy: A culturally responsive teaching approach for fifth-grade students’ reading comprehension. Preventing School Failure, 57(2), 59–69. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “The study evaluated the effects of the Integrated Reading Comprehension Strategy on two levels. The Integrated Reading Comprehension Strategy integrated story grammar instruction and story maps, prior knowledge and prediction method, and word webs through a culturally responsive teaching framework; the Integrated Reading Comprehension Strategy Plus added multicultural literature and cooperative learning. The study was conducted with 49 fifth-grade students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and used a quasi-experimental nonequivalent group, pretest-posttest design. An informal reading inventory was the measurement instrument. The results indicated that both groups’ mean scores for word recognition, reading comprehension, and story retell increased significantly. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups. These findings support the integration of research-based practices with culturally responsive teaching, which promotes connecting the school’s learning environment with the students’ personal experiences.”

Colton, A. B., & Langer, G. M. (2016). A process of discovery: Teachers examine cultural perspectives through collaborative analysis of student learning. Journal of Staff Development, 37(5), 36–40. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “The collaborative analysis of student learning (Colton, Langer, & Goff, 2015) is a professional learning design that transforms teachers’ capacities and commitment to relentlessly pursue and use equitable ways to promote students’ learning excellence. Thirty years of experience and research indicate to the authors that when facilitated study groups analyze the work of carefully selected students over a period of months, all students benefit—especially those whose cultures are different from that of their teachers. Collaborative analysis of student learning accomplishes these outcomes through structured transformative learning—the ‘process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action’ (Mezirow, 2000, pp. 7–8). These shifts in perspective allow teachers to discover culturally responsive instruction for those students they have struggled to reach and teach. This article provides an example of how a study group using collaborative analysis of student learning helped one middle school social studies teacher transform her beliefs about her Native American Student, and ultimately her own teaching practices. The 5 phases of collaborative analysis of student learning are detailed as a facilitator guides teachers through each phase.”

Dee, T. S., & Penner, E. K. (2017). The causal effects of cultural relevance: Evidence from an ethnic studies curriculum. American Educational Research Journal, 54(1), 127–166. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “An extensive theoretical and qualitative literature stresses the promise of instructional practices and content aligned with minority students’ experiences. Ethnic studies courses provide an example of such ‘culturally relevant pedagogy’ (CRP). Despite theoretical support, quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of these courses is limited. We estimate the causal effects of an ethnic studies curriculum, using a ‘fuzzy’ regression discontinuity design based on the fact that several schools assigned students with eighth-grade GPAs below a threshold to take the course. Assignment to this course increased ninth-grade attendance by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points, and credits earned by 23. These surprisingly large effects suggest that CRP, when implemented in a high-fidelity context, can provide effective support to at-risk students.”

Epstein, T., Mayorga, E., & Nelson, J. (2011). Teaching about race in an urban history class: The effects of culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Social Studies Research, 35(1), 2–21. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “The authors examined the effects of a culturally responsive teacher’s pedagogy on urban low-income African American and Latino high school students’ interpretations of racial diversity, racism, and individual and collective agency in U.S. history. The authors found that students incorporated instruction about the diversity and agency of people of color and the changing forms and complexity of racism in U.S. history. Students were less responsive to instruction about the diversity of white people’s historical experiences and particularly their roles as an oppressed group or as members of anti-racist movements. They also had difficulty conceptualizing the difficulty or ‘long arm’ of change in history. The authors conclude by speculating on the potential and constraints of culturally responsive teaching, as well as areas for further research.”

Farinde-Wu, A., Glover, C. P., & Williams, N. N. (2017). It’s not hard work; It’s heart work: Strategies of effective, award-winning culturally responsive teachers. Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Public Education, 49(2), 279–299. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “With an increasingly diverse, K–12 public school student population, adequately teaching and instructing all student demographic groups is a pertinent educational issue. As such, there has been an ensuing need for teachers to develop the knowledge, dispositions, and pedagogical skills and competencies necessary to teach children from diverse backgrounds. Acknowledging this need, this qualitative analysis examines the teaching strategies that seven award-winning teachers of students in urban schools use to cultivate culturally responsive classroom environments. Considering the disparaging academic achievement of many U.S. public school students, culturally responsive teaching may assist in closing enduring achievement gaps. To this end, this study’s findings indicate four major themes that may inform the classroom pedagogical practices of practitioners.”

Fickel, L. H., Henderson, C., & Price, G. (2017). Language, culture and identity at the nexus of professional learning. Educational Research, 59(4), 391–407. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “Given the persistent gap among majority and minority students in international measures of student outcomes, there is growing attention and research focused on teacher knowledge, learning and professional development. Culturally responsive practice has been posited as one way to ameliorate disparities in outcomes. Proponents of culturally responsive practice argue that there is a special knowledge base, skills, processes and experiences that teachers need to have that enable them to work successfully with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Purpose and methods: This documentary account describes the understandings gained by a team of professional development facilitators as they reframed their work with schools and teachers to focus on developing culturally responsive practices by placing language, culture and identity at the center of literacy-focused Professional Learning and Development (PLD). Using an appreciative inquiry framework, they sought to identify and increase the use of existing practices that supported a culturally responsive learning environment. Results: A number of initial lessons were learnt, including the need for PLD facilitators to engage in ongoing and explicit critical reflection on themselves as socio-cultural beings and to become comfortable with leading and engaging in uncomfortable conversations. The co-construction and on-going revision of PLD materials and tools were instrumental in re-centering practice and assumptions about teaching, learning, literacy, as well as challenging existing PLD practices. Conclusions: Although the appreciative inquiry framework was found to be critically important for prompting change, it was the interweaving of multiple frameworks that led to competencies that built capacity for continuous improvement and evidence-based practice. This focus on enhancing the practice of PLD facilitators has important implications for improving student achievement.”

Ford, B. A., Stuart, D. H., & Vakil, S. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching in the 21st century inclusive classroom. Journal of the International Association of Special Education, 15(2), 56–62. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “As the U.S. population grows more varied, public schools face the challenge of meeting the needs of an increasing population of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students with exceptionalities in inclusive classrooms. This is especially evident in the urban inclusive classrooms. There is a strong connection between culture and learning. The teacher has a significant role in enhancing all learners’ sense of competence and preparing them for the global life of the 21st century. Teachers can support maximum learning through use of culturally responsive pedagogy for CLD students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Teachers can transform their pedagogy with high expectations, contextual learning, culturally mediated instruction and productive family/community engagement. This article will discuss the incorporation of a culturally responsive paradigm and educational delivery practices to increase engagement and positive outcomes for diverse students with disabilities in inclusive settings.”

Garcia, C., & Chun, H. (2016). Culturally responsive teaching and teacher expectations for Latino middle school students. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 4(3), 173–187. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “To promote understanding of the cultural integrity of Latino students in relation to academic performance, the current study investigated the effects of culturally responsive teaching practices and teacher expectations on academic outcomes based on a sample of predominantly Latinos. In addition, students’ generational status was examined in relation to teacher expectations and academic performance. Participants were 110 (55% female) ethnic/racial minority middle school students (84% Latinos) residing in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. Results evidenced the positive effects of high teacher expectations and diverse teaching practices on academic self-efficacy and the positive effect of high teacher expectations on academic performance. Further, the effect of diverse teaching practices on academic performance was mediated through academic self-efficacy. Implications in regard to culturally responsive teaching and teacher expectations are discussed to meet the needs of Latino students.”

Klump, J., & McNeir, G. (2005). Culturally responsive practices for student success: A regional sampler. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved from

From the preface: “This booklet pertains to the unique experiences of teachers and school administrators in the Northwest and Pacific regions, and provides a starting place for educators to consider as they develop culturally responsive practices in their schools and districts.”

Lopez, F. A. (2016). Culturally responsive pedagogies in Arizona and Latino students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 118(5), 1–42. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “Despite numerous educational reform efforts aimed at aggressively addressing achievement disparities, Latinos continue to underperform in school. In sharp contrast to the belief that the inordinate achievement disparities among Latino students stem from deficiencies, some researchers assert that culturally responsive teaching (CRT) improves academic achievement because it views students’ culture and language as strengths. The body of literature on CRT provides detailed depictions of classroom experiences for traditionally marginalized students, but is faulted as lacking an explicit link to student outcomes that prevents its consideration among policymakers. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: To contribute to the body of work establishing an explicit link between CRT and student outcomes, the present study examines the extent to which dimensions of teacher-reported CRT beliefs and behaviors are associated with Latino students’ identity and achievement outcomes in reading across grades three through five in Arizona. Research Design: Sources of data in this study consist of teacher (N = 16) questionnaires reflecting CRT dimensions and student (N = 244) questionnaires for ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, and scholastic competence, as well as reading achievement. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to address the research questions. Findings/Results: Consistent with the assertions in extant literature that CRT is related to students’ outcomes, the study found that teachers’ beliefs about the role of Spanish in instruction, funds of knowledge, and critical awareness were all positively related to students’ reading outcomes. For teachers reporting the highest level of each of the aforementioned dimensions, students’ reading scores were associated with approximately 0.85 SD (Spanish), 0.60 SD (funds of knowledge), and 1.70 SD (critical awareness) higher reading outcomes at the end of the school year after controlling for prior achievement. Teachers’ reported CRT behaviors in terms of Spanish and cultural knowledge (formative assessment) were both also significantly and positively related to students’ reading outcomes after controlling for prior achievement. For teachers reporting the highest level of each of the aforementioned dimensions, students’ reading scores were associated with approximately 1 SD higher reading outcomes. Behaviors reflecting the use of Spanish in instruction was also significant, albeit very small (about a 0.03 SD increase). Conclusions/Recommendations: Although the present study is not without its limitations, the findings support the extant work focused on CRT, suggesting for Latino youth that teachers who use instruction that considers students’ culture an asset can reduce educational disparities. As such, the findings also suggest that CRT merits serious consideration by policymakers and those who train teachers of Latino youth. Notably, most teachers in the present study held a bilingual endorsement, which requires coursework focused not only on bilingual methodology and linguistics, but also on culture and experiences with funds of knowledge practices. Teachers who have said training appear to have high levels of knowledge about critical awareness, and put into practice asset-based pedagogies that are related to student outcomes. This is particularly salient given that the setting for the present study is arguably one of the most restrictive states for Latino youth. Thus, even though teacher-reported beliefs and behaviors regarding the role of Spanish in instruction were related to students’ outcomes, future studies are needed that examine the extent to which bilingual endorsement, which exceeds most programmatic requirements regarding diversity, might provide teachers with the necessary knowledge (i.e., critical awareness) that enables them to behave in ways consistent with CRT.”

Lopez, F. A. (2017). Altering the trajectory of the self-fulfilling prophecy: Asset-based pedagogy and classroom dynamics. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(2), 193–212. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “Prior research has contributed to our understanding about the ways teachers communicate their expectations to students, how students perceive differential teacher behaviors, and their effect on students’ own perceptions of ability and achievement. Despite more than half a century of this work, historically marginalized students continue to be underrepresented in a vast array of achievement outcomes. Scholars have argued that asset-based pedagogy is essential to effective teaching, but reviews of research repeatedly point to a need for empirical evidence. This article describes a study wherein asset-based practices are applied to a classroom dynamics framework to examine how teachers’ asset-based pedagogy beliefs and behaviors are associated with Latino students’ ethnic and reading achievement identity. Analyses revealed that teachers’ critical awareness moderates their expectancy, resulting in higher achievement; and teachers’ critical awareness and expectancy beliefs were found to be directly associated with teachers’ behaviors, which were in turn related to students’ ethnic and achievement identities. Implications for teacher education are discussed.”

Mayfield, V. M., & Garrison-Wade, D. (2015). Culturally responsive practices as whole school reform. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 16, 1–17. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Despite our best efforts, black children still lag behind white children in academic performance on standardized academic measures. Unconscious racism and our lack of ability to confront it present the most salient reason for the indefatigable prevalence of inequitable opportunities for children of color which undeniably result in achievement gaps. This study identified specific culturally responsive practices schoolwide in a middle school that is successfully closing academic opportunity gaps between White and Black students. The findings indicate professional development served as a conduit for ongoing discussions on race and building the cultural competency of staff. These discussions served to promote culturally responsive practices found in leadership, parent engagement, learning environment, and pedagogy.”

Powell, R., Cantrell, S. C., Malo-Juvera, V., & Correll, P. (2016). Operationalizing culturally responsive instruction: Preliminary findings of CRIOP research. Teachers College Record, 118(1), 1–46. Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “Many scholars have espoused the use of culturally responsive instruction (CRI) for closing achievement gaps, yet there is a paucity of research supporting its effectiveness. In this article, we share results of a mixed methods study that examined the use of the Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP) as a framework for teacher professional development. Twenty-seven elementary teachers participated in this study. Of the 27 participants, all were female, 26 were White, and all were native speakers of English. Student achievement data were collected from students enrolled in classrooms of participating teachers at the two schools in the study that administered the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Of the 456 students who were participants, 397 (87.3%) received free or reduced lunch, and 128 (28% of total sample) were classified as English Language Learners (ELLs). Research Design: This study utilized a concurrent triangulation mixed methods design. Data sources included classroom observations, student achievement results, and post observation teacher interviews. The CRIOP instrument was used for classroom observations to determine the extent of implementation of culturally responsive practices. Following each classroom observation, field researchers conducted an audio-recorded semi-structured interview using the CRIOP Post-Observation Teacher Interview Protocol and The CRIOP Family Collaboration Teacher Interview Protocol. These protocols were designed to elicit additional information that might not have been readily apparent from data gleaned during the observation. In addition, participants were interviewed to determine their perceptions of culturally responsive instruction. Three interview questions and responses were transcribed and coded for analysis: How do you define culturally responsive instruction? What are your biggest successes with using Culturally Responsive Instruction with your students? What are your biggest challenges with using Culturally Responsive Instruction with your students? Integration of quantitative and qualitative data occurred during data collection and interpretation. Findings: Results of classroom observations showed that teachers had significantly higher levels of CRI implementation in the spring compared to fall. Data on student achievement indicated that students of high implementers of the CRIOP had significantly higher achievement scores in reading and mathematics than students of low implementers. The results of this study also suggest that teachers face several challenges in implementing CRI, including constraints imposed by administrators, high-stakes accountability, language barriers in communicating with families, and the sheer complexity of culturally responsive instruction.”

Ukpokodu, O. N. (2011). How do I teach mathematics in a culturally responsive way? Identifying empowering teaching practices. Multicultural Education, 18(3), 47–56. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The article discusses the teaching of mathematics in U.S. urban schools in a culturally responsive way. The author reviews educational statistics relating to race and academic achievement in U.S. schools and universities. Topics include the prominence of ability grouping in U.S. high schools and its impact on minority students, the cultural and historical factors of mathematics neglected, according to the author, by mathematics educators, and the mathematics teaching of African American students. Also discussed is a qualitative study which the author undertakes to explore culturally responsive teaching practices in order to integrate culturally relevant content and social issues into mathematics teaching.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

(“Culturally inclusive” OR “culturally responsive” OR “culturally relevant” OR “culturally appropriate” OR “culturally sensitive”) AND (“instruction” OR “practices” OR “teaching” OR “pedagogy”) AND (“outcomes” OR “effects” OR “impacts” OR “academic performance” OR “academic achievement”)

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally-funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally-funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its 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.