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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

Culturally Responsive Teaching Basics


By acknowledging our own cultural lens, we can see our own biases, blind spots, and assumptions that may impact students negatively. To counter this, we can take steps to build trust, reduce student fear, and create independent learners. The techniques on this page are from Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond, a copy of which is available to check out from the AEI office in room 3110.

The two steps to Culturally Responsive Teaching are to build a trusting and supportive environment and then use that as a foundation to strengthen rigor and academic mindsets.

By building trust we ensure that students are ‘calm and ready’ no matter what they may be experiencing outside the classroom. When they feel safe, they will be more willing to take risks and learn. We can hold students to high standards through effective course design that guides them towards independence and an 'academic mindset'.

A useful framework for this type of teaching is that of ‘Warm Demander’: someone who is trustworthy and supporting while asking students to stretch their abilities to reach high standards

The Taskmaster
High Demand, Low Support

  • No rapport but enthusiastic about subject
  • Doesn’t care about getting to know students
  • Very competent with technical side
  • Support independent learners
  • Likable but distant

The Elitist
Low Demand, Low​ Support

  • Doesn’t build rapport or trust
  • Professional distance
  • No scaffolding
  • Holds low expectations for dependent learners
  • Allows them to disengage if not disruptive

The Caretaker
Low Demand, High Support

  • Focus on building rapport or trust
  • Makes excuses for students poor performance
  • Holds low expectations out of pity
  • Overprotective
  • No scaffolding or room for ‘productive struggle’

The Warm Demander
High Demand, High Support

  • Builds rapport and trust
  • Offers instructional scaffolding
  • Encourages productive struggle
  • Demonstrates “tough love”
  • Shows personal regard for students

The goals are to:

  • better serve students from a variety of backgrounds
  • create independent learners who are more confident and who adopt an academic mindset.
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