The Culturally Responsive Teaching Academy (CRTA) is a cohort-based, year-long instructional development experience that helps SLU faculty and graduate students engage international students more effectively. The CRTA was developed to support instructors teaching INTO Pathway courses and other courses with high concentrations of international students enrolled. However, the program emphasizes inclusive course design and teaching practices that can benefit all students.
In general, the Culturally Responsive Teaching Academy seeks to:
- Expand instructor awareness and understanding of cultural variations in teaching and learning contexts and of their own situated expectations about what teaching and learning may look like;
- Deepen instructor understanding of foundational pedagogical strategies and concepts that can support learning for a wide range of students (not just international students);
- Provide hands-on, supported time for instructors to revise course materials to better support culturally responsive learning experiences;
- Introduce instructors to campus resources and partners who may support their work with international students;
- Create communities of practice focused on culturally responsive teaching, which can in turn create a support and collaboration network for instructors (and thus diversify their perspectives about what teaching and learning can look like in increasingly diverse classrooms).
The CRTA begins with a four-day summer institute in June, followed by a half-day workshop in August and monthly cohort meetings during the academic year. During the summer institute, participants can expect a combination of informational presentations, interactive workshops and discussions, and individual work time. The summer institute provides information about key topics (e.g., cultural differences in higher education, particular needs of English Language Learners, culturally responsive pedagogies) and creates space and support for participants to (re)design existing course materials. A sample institute schedule may be found here. During the academic year, cohort members read texts in common, share challenges and strategies for working effectively with international students, and learn with and from colleagues from a range of disciplines across the University.
Cohort members are expected to attend all four days of the summer institute and all cohort meetings through the end of the fall semester. Most cohorts choose to continue meeting through the spring semester.
Participants must be nominated by their department chairs or program directors. Faculty (full-time and part-time/adjunct) and graduate students who teach INTO Pathway courses and/or courses with high concentrations of international students enrolled are eligible to participate. Space is limited; priority consideration is given to instructors who are scheduled to teach INTO Pathways courses during academic year in which they participate in the CRTA. A call for nominations is issued every spring.
Past cohort members have identified many benefits of participation, including: a greater awareness of cultural differences represented in their classrooms; time and support for revising course materials for greater inclusion and student engagement; increased confidence in working with international students; and opportunities to engage with colleagues from across the University.
In recognition of the time commitment for this program, the Provost’s office also supports participants with a financial incentive. Faculty members may choose to receive a stipend or professional development funds, while graduate students receive professional development funds.
Finally, faculty participants who complete the program are designated Culturally Responsive Teaching Fellows, and graduate student participants are designated Culturally Responsive Graduate Fellows.
Since the CRTA was first piloted in 2015, the program has experienced strong participation. To see a list of past participants, click here.
Culturally responsive teaching is teaching that demonstrates awareness of the ways in which the norms and values experienced in a classroom – by both teachers and learners – are shaped by culture. Students come to our courses with a range of backgrounds and experiences and often with only-half-understood “rules” for what teaching and learning look like in a university setting. From classroom engagement, to faculty/student interactions, to writing and research: the norms of academic culture look different depending on when and where the teaching and learning is happening. And academic culture is a “culture” – though it’s easy for many of us to forget this because we are so steeped in it. (Of course, faculty and graduate students who come to American universities from other contexts likely are more aware of this fact.)
Culturally responsive courses make explicit and visible for all students the assumptions and expectations instructors bring to those courses. This is important not just for international students, but also for first-generation college students, students from traditionally under-represented groups, returning adult students, veterans, and others who come back to the classroom after having been steeped in workplace, military, and/or family cultures.
While the concept of culturally responsive teaching emerged from the literature on elementary and secondary education in the U.S. (with an emphasis on racial and ethnic diversity in urban schools), the concept has begun to appear in the literature on international students’ experiences in Western / U.S. classrooms (see Lin & Scherz, 2014).
For our purposes in the CRTA, we recognize that culturally responsive teaching shares much with inclusive teaching and with universal design. We acknowledge that the practices of culturally responsive teaching are good for all students, and that culturally responsive courses can maintain their rigorous academic standards and support achievement of those standards by all students.