Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Mini Series- part one: Culturally Relevant versus Culturally Sustaining

HELLLLLOOOOOO everyone! Well it’s been a bit since I’ve posted a new blog post. Sorry about that, but I was busy soaking up every last second with my family before coming back to Taiwan. We don’t have plans to head back to The States until January/February of 2021, so I had to enjoy every last morsel of my time.

But I am back, and ready to hit the ground RUNNING! We have school starting back for teachers this week and for students next week. My grad school classes have started for the fall semester earlier this week, and we landed back in Taiwan on Saturday August 17th! This gives us a mere FOUR days before we had to be back at work! Small and chaotic transition time: not well recommended for both personal life and inside the classroom! LOL

Thanks for waiting around for my return and for being here today!

I’m ready to dive a bit into my culturally relevant pedagogy mini series though, so let’s get right into it!

There’s a lot of literature about culture in the classroom and best practices for teachers. It’s difficult to navigate the rapidly growing narrative on how both the community and teachers should approach multiculturalism. We know that it’s best to be open-minded and respectful of all cultures that enter our classroom, but how can we best ensure that our curriculum and pedagogy is supporting and encouraging a cultural relevancy?

First, lets discuss the meaning behind culturally relevant. Hopefully, as educators in today’s ever-changing world, we are aware of cultural relevancy and have some idea of what we think that means but just for the purpose of this post…

Being culturally relevant is typically described as: you, as the teacher, displaying a cultural competency within your classroom. You are student-centered and your teaching is responsive to your students’ unique cultural background and strengths. You help to create and cultivate a sense of well being in your students about their place in the world. This includes your classroom materials, your approaches to learning, and being responsive to the different cultures within your class.

An article that I read for a graduate school class and the article that is going to be my focus in this post, Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice (Paris, 2012), supports a changed terminology from culturally relevant pedagogy to culturally sustaining pedagogy. This article really dives into the idea behind relevancy versus sustainability and what that looks like versus what it COULD look like. Paris (2012) discusses how, over the years, the schools begin to change. The change was more towards a curriculum and culture supporting that of White, middle-class and all others were deemed “less than” and aren’t supported in the classroom. This included the linguistics, cultural practices and literature of other cultures, which is a main focus in the article. Paris (2012) argues that sustaining cultures supports multilingualism or multiculturalism versus just recognizing it. He makes the claim that it is very clear that our current policies are not interested in sustaining the languages of both new and longstanding cultures within The States.

Paris (2012) argues that by being culturally sustaining, instead of relevant, we are ensuring that our classrooms are more welcoming environment for cultures, mindsets or interests that are different than that of ours or that of the “normative” school/curriculum culture. We allow for more growth between not only ourselves, but also our students in general. The goal as educators is not just to help our students reach their academic goals, but also to help raise up the next generation of people. We want those people to be accepting and supportive of each other. The best way to reach that goal is to help our students and teachers see the necessity behind sustaining cultures, and not being blinded by the focus on one point of view of the world.

Throughout his article, Paris provides TONS of other sources of information or studies to support his statements and his recommendation of culturally sustaining pedagogy. If you want to look it up, I will cite it at the bottom of this post. I just wanted to give a quick summary of his post and see what it brings about in your head.

Towards the end of his article, Paris (2012) asks how the terms and concepts of our work with “policymakers and the public is forwarding a more equitable education and society?” He also poses the question of “what is the purpose of schooling in a pluralistic society?” for folks to think on.


What do you think of Paris’ proposal to change the terminology and stance from relevant to sustaining?

This is part one of my little mini series on culturally sustaining or culturally relevant pedagogy.... I am going to be touching on other aspects of this topic throughout this little mini-series including: girls education (gender inequality within education), being respectful of other cultures when attempting to teach about them as well as being sure you are representing these cultures properly, and being aware of YOUR culture that you bring into your class and how that affects your teaching!

Hope you’ll continue to join me on this little ride!



Paris, D. (2012). Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.

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