Challenges to Conceptualizing and Actualizing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: How Viable Is the Theory in Classroom Practice?

Jun. 21, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(3), p. 248–260. (May/June 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Culturally relevant pedagogy is widely applied in educational research and practice. However, it is often not commonly understood as a conceptual framework that advocates the elements of academic success, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness.

The assumption of this study was that racism was deeply rooted in the structure of the schools and that underlying the racial achievement gap were unaddressed issues of hegemony.
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to work with a group of administrators and teachers as co-researchers through collaborative inquiry to define, implement, and assess culturally relevant pedagogy.

Research Questions

The study addressed to the following research questions:
(a) How do teachers and administrators understand and utilize culturally relevant pedagogy?
(b) What process is involved in the co-participatory effort to conceptualize and actualize culturally relevant pedagogy in classroom practice? and
(c) What challenges arise in the definition, implementation, and evaluation of culturally relevant pedagogy?


This study employed a qualitative approach that used the combined methods of action research and critical case study: interviews, inquiry group meetings, follow-up meetings with the principal and the principal intern, classroom observations, the participants’ reflections, the district’s documents, online discussions, and the researcher’s journal.

Setting and Participants
The study took place at Maplewood Elementary School, which was located in a large metropolitan area in the northeastern United States.

Eight participants took part in the study. All of the participants were members of the school’s leadership team, and many of them played active roles in the school, in the district, and in professional organizations. Five participants were white, one participant was Latina, one was Black Caribbean and one was Asian American. Five participants were teachers, one was the school principal, one was the principal intern and one was the researcher.


The findings revealed deep structural complexities in resolving issues of cultural bias among educators, the persistence and prevalence of racism in school settings, and the shortcomings of preservice programs and inservice professional developments to adequately prepare teachers to apply culturally relevant pedagogy to their practice.

Updated: Jul. 18, 2010