Teaching Across Cultural Strengths

“A professor’s role is to create an environment in which diverse student strengths, knowledge, and perspectives are integrated and valued. Then we must design ways for students to naturally contribute to their own and others’ learning” (Chávez and Longerbeam, 2016, p. 159).

Higher education institutions are becoming more and more diverse in terms of student populations, but not necessarily in terms of instructor populations. It is therefore more common today that faculty will have classes full of people today who have cultural understandings of teaching and learning that are different from their own. Since our own culture is often something we take for granted, it is important for faculty to reflect on their assumptions about factors such as the purpose of learning, time, the role of the teacher in learning, and the importance of student-student interactions. The higher education model used in the United States today is based on systems and understandings of learning that originated in Northern European cultures. By accepting these systems uncritically, we run the risk of alienating or disproportionately challenging students from other cultures.

“Despite … demographic disparities, faculty can reach all students when we understand the influence of culture in teaching and learning, our own cultures of origin, and the impact of our origins on our teaching” (Chávez and Longerbeam, 2016, p. 67).

By identifying the ways that one’s assumptions about learning may overlap and differ from those of one’s students, faculty can begin to deliberately structure courses and classroom activities in ways that will both challenge and reach each of their students. This will benefit all students in the long run.

These are some of the claims of Teaching Across Cultural Strengths by Chávez and Longerbeam (2016). The authors describe their Cultural Frameworks in Teaching and Learning Model, which includes eight cultural continua that range from Individuated to Integrated. The authors describe ways that faculty can adjust course activities to be in line with different types of cultural backgrounds, and share interviews with students from diverse backgrounds about the impacts of various teaching methods and attitudes on their learning. Many of the strategies shared are relatively easy changes that faculty can apply to a specific lesson or activity. The authors advocate for incorporating a balance of individuated and integrated strategies over the course of the semester, so that some students will be ‘at home’ in the learning environment and some will be challenged.


  • Chávez, A. F., & Longerbeam, S. D. (2016). Teaching across cultural strengths: A Guide to balancing integrated and individuated cultural frameworks in college teaching. Routledge.


Rachel A. Rogers
Director, Center for Teaching Excellence
Community College of Rhode Island