Mirror Work: Impacting Culturally Responsive Practices Through Racial Literacy, Cultural Competence, and Professional Learning

Denise Louise Williams, Fordham University


The inconsistent roll-out of New York State’s Culturally Responsive Sustaining Education (CRSE) Framework left principals in a Bronx district with insufficient capacity to fully leverage the framework. Taking an Improvement Science approach, the aim of this mixed methods case study research was to deepen the racial literacy and cultural competence of principals in service of implementing shared and inclusive curricula aligned with the Framework. The study used three change ideas implemented in a single six-month Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle: 1) building healthy racial identities through conversations about race, 2) building cultural competence through culturally responsive lessons, and 3) implementing district professional learning on Culturally Responsive School Leadership (CRSL). The study addressed the lack of instrumentation to measure racial literacy and cultural competence by creating two innovative instruments, available for other scholars, using evidence-based frameworks in the research literature: the CRSE Self-Reflection Survey and the Cultural Competence and Racial Literacy Reflection Survey. The study found that a collectivist approach to building the racial literacy of school leaders increased principals’ critical self-awareness and fostered the use of common language to engage in difficult conversations about race. Designing opportunities for leaders to authentically connect to the community deepened their understanding of how school policies must serve as a catalyst to affirm the identities of students and their families. Using teams as a shared site of learning, providing opportunities to critically self-reflect, and providing job-embedded support empowered principals to immerse themselves in the vision of the Framework. The researcher advocates that equity is integral, not optional.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Williams, Denise Louise, "Mirror Work: Impacting Culturally Responsive Practices Through Racial Literacy, Cultural Competence, and Professional Learning" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30575760.