A Critical Call to Action: Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Instruction

The initials RCELD refer to students who are racially, culturally, ethnically, and linguistically different – all historically underserved groups of children in the educational system of the United States (Artiles et al., 2010). They include students who are Black, Latinx, and Native American descent; English Learners; and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Their academic achievement in gifted services relies on instructional and curricular support provided by classroom teachers. RCELD students and students with multiple exceptionalities (2e) need curriculum and instruction that develop and hone their strengths. Current research, action steps, and resources can be used to incorporate culturally responsive curriculum and instructional support for diverse populations receiving gifted services.

The Data

Responsive curriculum and instruction within gifted services afford RCELD students opportunities to experience academic success since the curriculum and instruction utilize cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them.

  • Researchers have concluded that culturally responsive practices are helpful for all students and should not just be targeted at minoritized students in schools within special programs like gifted education (Ford, 2014; Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2014).
  • Culturally responsive educators are adept at motivating all students, including those with gifts and talents, and understand that students of color may face more challenges than their White classmates and peers (Wright et al., 2017).
  • Gifted students of color want, need, and deserve to see themselves mirrored in curriculum and literature (Ford et al., 2018).
  • In order to appropriately serve culturally and linguistically diverse exceptional students, educators must demonstrate cultural responsiveness when interacting with learners and families (Obiakor, 2012).
  • A culturally responsive curriculum benefits all children, including those with gifts and talents, by building on the richness of varied lived experiences and cultures to make learning more meaningful (Bergeron, 2008).


The inequities experienced by RCLED and students with multiple exceptionalities (2e) must be addressed. The following recommendations may help stakeholders address those inequities:

  • Implement culturally responsive curriculum which is characterized by the following:
    • Thematic organization (Nieto, 2013);
    • Real-world application and relevant current event integration (Gay, 2010);
    • Ongoing and diagnostic assessment (Ladson-Billings, 1995);
    • High expectations for all groups with support to mirror the expectation (Ladson-Billings, 2014); and
    • Cultures incorporated into the curriculum (Ford et al, 2018)
  • Implement culturally responsive instructional practices which include the following:
    • Modeling and scaffolding (Gay, 2010);
    • Cooperative and flexible grouping (Santamaria, 2009);
    • Inquiry-based classroom environment (Linan-Thompson et al., 2018);
    • Graphic organizers and highly visual creative student outputs (Nieto, 2013); and
    • Student ownership of the learning process (Gay, 2010).

Resources to Learn More

  • Teaching Tolerance Lesson Plans and Teacher Guides (https://www.tolerance.org/frameworks)
  • A Culturally Responsive Equity-Based Bill of Rights for Gifted Students of Color (https://www.nagc.org/blog/culturally-responsive-equity-based-bill-rights-gifted-students-color)
Click here for a downloadable document


Artiles, A., Kozleski, E., Trent, S., Osher, D., & Ortiz, A. (2010). Justifying and explaining disproportionality, 1968–2008: A critique of underlying views of culture. Exceptional Children, 76(3), 279–299. https://doi.org/10.1177/001440291007600303

Bergeron, B. S. (2008). Enacting a culturally responsive curriculum in a novice teacher’s classroom: Encountering disequilibrium. Urban Education, 43(1), 4–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085907309208

Ford, D. Y. (2014). Why education must be multicultural: Addressing a few misperceptions with counterarguments. Gifted Child Today, 37(1), 59–62. https://doi.org/10.1177/1076217513512304

Ford, D. Y., Dickson, K. T., Davis, J. L., Scott, M. T., & Grantham, T. C. (2018). A culturally responsive equity-based bill of rights for gifted students of color. Gifted Child Today, 41(3), 125–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/1076217518769698

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching practices: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Teachers College Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 465–491. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312032003465

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: Aka the remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84, 74-84. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.1.p2rj131485484751

Linan-Thompson, S., Lara-Martinez, J. A., & Cavazos, L. O. (2018). Exploring the intersection of evidence-based practices and culturally and linguistically responsive practices. Intervention in School and Clinic, 54(1), 6–13. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053451218762574

Nieto, S. (2013). Finding joy in teaching students of diverse backgrounds: Culturally Responsive and socially just practices in U.S. classrooms. Heinemann.

Obiakor, F. E. (2012). Multicultural special education: Culturally responsive teaching. Pearson.

Santamaria, L. J. (2009).Culturally responsive differentiated instruction: narrowing gaps between best pedagogical practices benefiting all learners. Teachers College Record. 111(1). 214–247.

Wright, B. L., Ford, D. Y., & Young, J. L. (2017). Ignorance or indifference? Seeking excellence and equity for underrepresented students of color in gifted education. Global Education Review, 4, 45-60.

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