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Reality Theory As Culturally Responsive Learning

Christopher Emdin (2011) considers the importance of utilizing students’ culture to drive instruction but also the importance of using the reality of students when teaching. Emdin’s (2011) reality pedagogy draws from the frameworks of critical pedagogy and culturally relevant pedagogy. Reality pedagogy is composed of 5 C’s, which are practical tools for educators in any setting to be culturally relevant while using the reality of their students to drive instruction which includes: co-teaching, co-generative dialogues, context, cosmopolitanism, and content.

When enacting reality pedagogy, a student rather than another adult acts as a co-teacher and is charged with the task of learning content before their peers and is responsible for teaching that content to the class. Co-teaching encourages the teacher to arm students with the tools and support that they will need to teach a portion of the class. When students are encouraged to co-teach, not only are they empowered, but also it provides an opportunity for the teacher to sit in the physical seat of a student and learn how that student is engaging the class from a student’s perspective.

Co-generative dialogues occur when teachers cogenerate a plan with students to discover some of the best methods and practices to teach a particular group of students. Students are involved with creating a plan for how the classroom is being managed, and through their peer-relevant pedagogy when content is being taught, they are able to break down the social constructs of a traditional class and wield their agency to create a learning environment where students have a voice. Context, the third member of the “5 C’s,” describes a set of practices that revolves around the teacher and student bringing artifacts from the students’ community into the classroom to show students a sense of belonging and to connect content to situations in which students can easily see a connection with their immediate communities. Cosmopolitanism is a philosophical construct that when described in reality, pedagogy becomes a tangible approach to transforming human roles in social settings. Lastly, “content” refers to the academic content that teachers are responsible for constructing to help students learn (Emdin, 2011).

These tangible tools, as Emdin (2011) refers to as “the 5C’s,” are culturally relevant because they encourage students to reach toward and eventually experience academic success. Moreover, they encourage students to bring artifacts into the classroom from their communities that represent a part of their culture that wouldn’t be described otherwise, and lastly, they encourage students to challenge the status quo of the current social order in the classroom by making use of their voice and agency to change how the class is being managed and how instruction is delivered through co-generative dialogues. More importantly, any educator, regardless of content area or grade level, can utilize these tools to be culturally relevant.

IINII uses an innovative Design Thinking process to help students and staff members gain an understanding of one’s sense of self. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience.

The IINII, bullying prevention model, creates a vibrant face-to-face interaction that encourages relationship building. Adults can also be trained in antibullying strategies and techniques to build an inclusive climate. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment.

To learn how you can create a safe and dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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