Exploring Cultural Responsiveness in Literacy Tutoring: “I Never Thought About How Different Our Cultures Would Be”

Exploring Cultural Responsiveness in Literacy Tutoring: “I Never Thought About How Different Our Cultures Would Be”

Dana L. Skelley (University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA), Margie L. Stevens (Greenville Health Systems, USA) and Rebecca S. Anderson (The University of Memphis, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0000-2.ch006
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Embracing a culturally responsive teaching pedagogy in classrooms is one means for addressing literacy inequities with students of color. Afterschool literacy tutoring is another means of addressing these inequities, but little is known about implementing culturally responsive teaching in afterschool environments. This qualitative case study explored how cultural differences impacted an urban elementary afterschool literacy tutoring program. Grounded in participatory literacy theory, the authors conclude that it is normal for cultural differences to occur and cause disruptions during tutoring; however, culturally responsive teaching can mitigate these interruptions through developing caring relationships, creating a safe learning environment, implementing a participatory student-centered curriculum using online resources, and critiquing social inequalities. The discussion offers seven principles of culturally responsive teaching to use in literacy instructional environments.
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An essential lens used to frame this study is the concept of participatory literacy. Jurmo (1993) discussed that participatory literacy includes key characteristics such as learners engaging actively in their learning, exerting control and responsibility, and working as a team all while facilitators operate as a guide and resource to the learners. Consequentially, power is shared “equally among learners and staff” (Fingeret & Jurmo, 1989, p. 1). Ideally, the learner functions at a level of participation manifesting great control, responsibility, and reward from the activity instead of merely being physically present in the program (Jurmo, 1993). The application of this framework in an instructional environment can therefore bring efficacy to learning, promote identity development, and be a catalyst for social change (Campbell, 1996; Deluca, 2018; Jurmo, 1993; Yang, 2010).

In Tierney’s (2018) work with cross-cultural meaning making, he discussed the idea that participatory literacy can “promote approaches that are cooperative, collaborative, and contrastive but respectful and reciprocal” (p. 413). To complement the cooperative nature of participatory literacy, the framework of culturally responsive teaching was also chosen since it can address issues of social injustice and ways of acknowledging all learners’ backgrounds (Banks & Banks, 1995; Gutiérrez & Jurow, 2016). In this vein, culturally responsive teaching was embraced to illuminate ways teachers incorporated the learner’s culture into the teaching process (Aronson & Laughter, 2016; Lee, 1992; Lewis, Enciso, & Moje, 2007; Lipman, 1995). Frequently interchanged with the term culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1994), this paper uses the term culturally responsive teaching which Gay (2010) defines as: “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of references, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for [students]” (p.31).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sociopolitical Consciousness: A personal awareness of the social, cultural, and political privileges and freedoms not available for some races, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Digital Literacies: Literacies which require digital platforms in order to transfer meanings; a means of learning and communicating online.

Racial Awareness: Recognizing and acknowledging the historical, social, political, and economic consequences of being a member of a racially marginalized group.

Digital Tools: Digital or computerized tools that allow for meaning-making with digital literacies such as cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, e-readers, etc.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: A method of instructional pedagogy that encompasses sensitivity to and acknowledgement of cultural differences among learners.

Cultural Competence: Valuing and respecting diversity, becoming culturally self-aware, and understanding the dynamics of cultural interactions.

Student-Centered Strategies: Instructional techniques that allow students to take the lead in the learning environment.

Cultural Mismatches: The confusion or misunderstandings that can occur due to cultural differences manifesting in ways of living, speaking, and being.

Cultural Differences: Differences that can appear when people of different ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, or geographical backgrounds interact.

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