CRSP Framework

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Pedagogy (CRSP) Framework

Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 3.31.34 PM

The Culturally Responsive & Sustaining Pedagogy (CRSP) Framework provides the pedagogical foundation for our coaching cycles and professional development sessions at Highlander Institute. Inequity by design under-develops students' information processing skills, thereby undermining their confidence. But we can restore natural confidence and competence by bringing the most powerful teaching to students who have been marginalized by systemic inequity. We posit that if we improve student competence and mastery by developing their information processing skills, then self-efficacy and confidence will improve and students will become self-directed learners.

To do this we must first:

  • Examine our own biases and commit to disrupting inequities in our classrooms and schools
  • Learn about affirm the identities, interests, and priorities of students and families
  • Use this knowledge to create a trusting, affirming, and intellectually inspiring classroom
  • Incorporate student backgrounds, interests, and priorities into learning experiences

Read more about the domains of the CRSP Framework below and stay tuned for the aligned practices and strategies within each domain, coming in 2021.






Domain 1: Awareness begins with recognizing that we must start with ourselves as actors within a racist, inequitable system. We must be conscious of the ways we perpetuate dominant norms and narratives and we must be aware of how systemic racism results in compliance-oriented teaching that produces dependent learners. Components of the awareness domain include both sociocultural awareness and awareness of cognitive lift.

Community Building

Domain 2: Community Building encourages educators to use what we learn from the Awareness domain to build community within our learning environments. When an individual student is under the load of a complex and rigorous cognitive task, the community can then support the learner through the challenge. This domain leverages the four key beliefs associated with an academic mindset from Mindset Works:

  1. I belong to this academic community
  2. I can succeed at this
  3. My ability and competence grow with my effort
  4. This work has value for me

Cognitive Development

Domain 3: Cognitive Development emphasizes leveraging relationships to disrupt cultures of low expectations and to shift the cognitive load to students. The Thinking Routine Toolbox from Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education) provides critical strategies for supporting this complex shift. This domain prioritizes routines for decision-making, problem solving, effective reasoning, and perspective-taking.

Critical Consciousness

Domain 4: Critical Consciousness focuses on how educators can support students in understanding how cognitive skills empower them to transform their lives, their communities, and society. “Research has suggested that critical consciousness — the ability to recognize and analyze systems of inequality and the commitment to take action against these systems — can be a gateway to academic motivation and achievement for marginalized students” (El Amin et al., 2017). This domain takes inspiration from Paulo Freire's work emphasizing critical reflection, critical motivation, and critical action (1970).