Culturally Relevant Problem Solving Models

Culturally responsive practices should begin in the general education classroom, at the Tier 1 level, but there are times when students will not respond to Tier 1 instruction and interventions. In these cases, culturally responsive models should be used to assess the problem and to create effective interventions, based on the cultural values of students. The following is an example of culturally responsive problem solving models.

1. Identify cultural clashes in the classroom (student’s cultural values versus classroom culture, rules and expectations). We transmit cultural characteristics by the rules and norms we create in our classrooms. Research shows that African-American students are often punished for demonstrating behaviors in the classroom that are associated with their cultural values.


2. Analyze/Review data on student engagement and performance during activities that did not integrate the student’s cultural values, and compare that data with culturally responsive practices. This process includes keeping a running record of performance to compare to intervention data.


3. Implement instruction/intervention in a culturally relevant manner. Identify values that reflect cultural characteristics that represent your students’ culture. For example, communalism is valued among students. Thus, when working with students who value communalism, teachers will create classroom environments where students feel they can depend on one another to achieve in the classroom; they will create classroom environments where students feel a sense of belonging, are praised for working interdependently, and are able to depend on one another for academic and socioemotional support.


4. Determine the effectiveness of the culturally relevant intervention(s). This component requires team members to compare the culturally relevant intervention(s) data to the baseline data (that was not culturally relevant). The goal is to determine if behaviors or performance increased, decreased, or remained the same when culturally relevant interventions were implemented. If behaviors were positive, continue to use the instructions/interventions. If behaviors were negative, go back to the drawing board. If engagement does not increase when culturally relevant interventions are delivered, overtime, then team members may conclude that culture is not a primary factor to the students’ disengagement. Quality of teacher-student relationship is most important in this process; if students don’t trust their teachers, chances are that they will not engage, no matter what kind of intervention is administered.


Research shows that when educators create classroom environments where students feel comfortable and feel a sense of belonging, students are much more willing to engage academically. During your next problem solving meeting, encourage your team to consider cultural factors that might interfere with learning and engagement in the classroom.


Utilizing culturally relevant problem solving models require team members to become proficient at being able to identify characteristics that are valued within their students’ culture(s). Professional training on understanding myths that are related to race and culture is critical to problem solving using sociocultural factors.