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Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy builds upon the Asset-Based Pedagogies that came before it but presents the need to not only affirm and connect to students’ cultural backgrounds, but also to sustain them through schooling.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy builds on decades of asset-based pedagogical research including Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Ladson-Billings) and Culturally Responsive (Gay and Hammond) and Linguistic (Hollie) Pedagogy.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy affirms and respects the key components of the Asset-Based Pedagogies that preceded it, but also takes them to the next level. Instead of just accepting or affirming the backgrounds of students of color as seen in Culturally Relevant Pedagogy; or connecting to students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and frames of reference as we see in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy; Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy views schools as places where the cultural ways of being in communities of color are sustained, rather than eradicated.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy promotes equality across racial and ethnic communities and seeks to ensure access and opportunity. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy also supports students to critique and question dominant power structures in societies.

Django Paris and H. Samy Alim describe the key features across culturally sustaining educational settings in an Education Week Author Interview: ‘Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies’ External link opens in new window or tab..

Feature What it Looks Like

Valuing community languages, practices, and ways of being

Students’ languages, literacies, and cultural ways of being are centered meaningfully and consistently in classroom learning instead of being considered as “add-ons.”

Schools are accountable to the community

Educators and schools are in conversation with communities about what they desire and want to sustain through schooling.

Curriculum that connects to cultural and linguistic histories

Educators connect present learning to the histories of racial, ethnic, and linguistic communities both locally and nationally.

Sustaining cultural and linguistic practices, while providing access to the dominant culture.

Educators value and sustain the cultural and linguistic practices of the community while providing access to the dominant culture (white, middle class, and standard English speaking).


H. Samy Alim and Django Paris, eds., Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World, Teachers College Press (2017).

Gloria Ladson-Billings, “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy 2.0: a.k.a. the Remix” External link opens in new window or tab., Harvard Educational Review (Volume 84, Number 1, p.74–84, Spring 2014), accessed October 2019.

Ferlazzo and Paris, “Author Interview: ‘Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies’” External link opens in new window or tab., EdWeek (2017), accessed January 2020.

Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy

Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy extends Paris and Alim’s research to Native American learners. The Western colonization of the United States historically erased Native American culture, belief systems, and languages. Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy specifically relates to reclaiming or revitalizing what Native American learners lost through the process of colonization.

Most Native American learners in the United States attend schools outside of reservations and constitute very small percentages of public school populations. Disparities on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as well as in graduation rates, overrepresentation in special education, and college completion rates are evident when comparing Native American students to their White counterparts.

Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy is a promising practice in utilizing Native culture and language to positively impact Native learners’ achievement. Deeply embedded in these practices is the teaching of Native languages in order to allow students to deeply connect with their cultural communities. Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy ensures that Native culture is present throughout the curriculum as well.


Michelle M. Jacob, Leilani Sabzalian, Joana Jansen, Tary J. Tobin, Claudia G. Vincent, and Kelly M. LaChance, “The Gift of Education: How Indigenous Knowledges Can Transform the Future of Public Education” External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), International Journal of Multicultural Education (Volume 20, Number 1, 2018), accessed October 2019.

Teresa L. McCarty and Tiffany S. Lee, “Critical Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy and Indigenous Education Sovereignty” External link opens in new window or tab., Harvard Educational Review, accessed October 2019.

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Last Reviewed: Thursday, April 11, 2024
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