Culture & Learning

Cultural knowledge and experiences play a significant role in the transfer of learning. All children come to school with prior knowledge from their home environments. Teachers can facilitate learning by helping children to make connections between prior knowledge from the home environment and learning in school.

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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

Chapter 3: Learning & Transfer (pp. 71 - 78)

Prior knowledge also includes the kind of knowledge that learners acquire because of their social roles, such as those connected with race, class, gender, and their culture and ethnic affiliations (Brice-Heath, 1981, 1983; Lave, 1988; Moll and Whitmore, 1993; Moll et al., 1993–1998; Rogoff, 1990, 1998; Saxe, 1990). (How People Learn, pg. 72)

This cultural knowledge can sometimes support and sometimes conflict with children’s learning in schools (Greenfield and Suzuki, 1998); see Box 3.9. School failure may be partly explained by the mismatch between what students have learned in their home cultures and what is required of them in school (see Allen and Boykin, 1992; Au and Jordan, 1981; Boykin and Tom, 1985; Erickson and Mohatt, 1982). Everyday family habits and rituals can either be reinforced or ignored in schools, and they can produce different responses from teachers (Heath, 1983).
(How People Learn, pg. 72)

Culturally Responsive Education

Cultural, Racial & Ethnic Subgroups

School accountability reports includes achievement data for students broken down by subgroup.
The racial and ethnic subgroups below are identified in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
  • American Indian
  • Asian
  • Black
  • Hispanic
  • Multi-Racial
  • White


Scholars of Education & Culture

Major Reports