Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Posted on Posted in eColumns, Music, Equity, and Social Justice

The term culturally relevant pedagogy seems to be gaining a lot of traction these days in education scholarship and practice. Tyrone Howard (2003) writes:

Culturally relevant pedagogy has been described by a number of researchers as an effective means of meeting the academic and social needs of culturally diverse students (Gay, store 2000; Howard, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Shade, Kelly, & Oberg, 1997). Gay (2000) asserts that culturally relevant pedagogy uses “the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning more relevant to and effective [for students]…. It teaches to and through strengths of these students. It is culturally validating and affirming” (p. 29). An additional, and some would argue the most important, goal of culturally relevant pedagogy is to increase the academic achievement of culturally diverse students.  (

This is all well and good, and I will state here that I basically agree with the description above; it covers the main elements. However, such definitions leave considerable room for variation in pedagogical approach – so the question I would like to ask readers: what does the term culturally relevant pedagogy mean to you as it relates to music teaching at various levels?


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