You are here

Culturally Responsive Leadership

2 March, 2015 - 10:41
Available under Creative Commons-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Download for free at

Culturally responsive leadership may provide some guidance in leading schools in rural Appalachia. The term culturally relevant pedagogy was used by Ladson Billings in her classic book, The Dream keepers (1994). She called for a redesign of learning environments that would respond to the educational needs of diverse learners, in part, by incorporating students' cultural backgrounds into their instruction. While cultural responsiveness is not exclusively applied to race, Ladson Billings examined the teaching of African American students who were experiencing academic success (1995). Culturally responsive teaching today continues to focus upon race, but also, more broadly, upon ethnicity and language diverse students (King et al., 2009).

A culturally responsive approach could be employed in rural Appalachia. While the students of Appalachia are generally neither African American nor language diverse, it can be argued they live in a distinct culture. Appalachian students also share with African American and language diverse students a status within the larger culture that often devalues their home culture. Both the people and the natural resources of Appalachia have been exploited (Johnson, Shope, & Roush, 2009). A culturally responsive approach to teaching would seem appropriate as a means to meet the educational needs of Appalachian students and provide them with the means to enhance their social and economic futures.

Culturally responsive teaching requires culturally responsive leadership. Farmer and Higham (2007) proposed a design for university graduate programs that produce culturally responsive leaders. In support of the need for such programs they stated "personal conditioning and bias, coupled with firmly established institutional traditions, limit the development of culturally responsive leaders" (p. 3). They suggested changes to admission requirements, program design and curricular content. They argued that program curricula be infused with elements that require participants to examine culture in order to breakdown ethnocentric cultural bias.

School principals lead instruction, model behavior, guide faculty conversations, and have great influence over school climate and culture (Darling Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson, Orr, and Cohen, 2007; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson and Wahlstrom, 2004). Using that influence to support a culturally responsive school that recognizes the unique contributions of students' home culture would benefit the students of Appalachia.