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Issues around cultural diversity in classroom
Diversity in a classroom can be a rewarding experience for students, as it could increase their awareness of other cultures and teach them how to collaborate with people from different backgrounds. However, diversity can also be challenging for teachers because it requires them to use an informed approach to developing a positive and inclusive classroom environment and adjust the lessons to the needs of all students. When I was in school, there were a lot of students in my class who came from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. For example, we had two students from immigrant families whose first language was not English, as well as several Indigenous students. We also had children from different socio-economic backgrounds, including those from low-income families. As the majority of the students were white and from middle-class families, students from other backgrounds were seen as different and sometimes struggled to communicate or blend in with the rest of the class.
Unfortunately, my school did not address these students’ differences in any formal way. However, some teachers attempted to facilitate communication with students from immigrant families by engaging them in discussion and encouraging them to develop their English skills. This was particularly helpful for one of the students, who had the opportunity to improve her English skills. Others, however, were shy to participate in the conversation and made little progress with their language skills. My classmates did not try to address the cultural, socio-economic, and linguistic differences, which led to students forming several different small groups. There was also a problem of bullying in my school, and students from diverse backgrounds were often targeted by bullies.
Thus, I believe that my school and teachers did not address classroom diversity appropriately. I think it would be more practical if the school has taken action against the bullying of students from minority groups and taught students about cultural diversity and communicating with people from various backgrounds. Providing English lessons for students from immigrant families would also help to promote communication. Finally, I believe that the school could offer extra-curricular activities aimed at improving children’s awareness of other cultures. This could assist in addressing barriers to communication and facilitate a sense of community while also teaching students to respect those who are different in any way.
Overall, if I had to teach a class that has students from diverse backgrounds, I would aim to ensure that all students get equal opportunities to learn. To do that, I would partner with children from all backgrounds and their parents to develop a suitable curriculum. I would also apply teaching methods that promote discussion in the classroom, which would help to engage students from different cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds. I would also partner with school leaders to develop and implement an effective strategy for preventing bullying and promoting cultural awareness in all students through extra-curricular events and activities.
The concept of multiculturalism in Australia
The first topic of the class explored the concept of multiculturalism as it applies to Australia. In particular, the readings focused on political approaches to multiculturalism, as well as on its integration in schools. For instance, Jupp (2002) described some of the criticism of multiculturalism. According to Jupp (2002), multiculturalism raised several issues with the Indigenous peoples, as they were perceived as distinct from other minority cultural groups. Multiculturalism was considered to be an alternative to cultural assimilation, which threatened the identity of Aboriginal people. However, it was also seen as a divisive policy contradicting the notion of ‘one Australia’.
A similar discussion is evident in the second reading, as it discusses the application of multiculturalism to education. Smolicz (1999) raises the issue of dominant versus minority groups, arguing that most approaches to politics and education in these settings lead to cultural reductionism. Another problem with cultural assimilation that is noted by the author is that it does not lead to equal treatment. Smolicz (1999) argues that educational programs promoting multiculturalism should incorporate minority ethnic content into the curriculum. Thus, the chapter shows the necessity of integrating minority cultures into teaching.
Hill and Alan (2004) also describe the relationship between political movements and education in Australia. The authors consider the conflict between cultural assimilation in education and preserving Indigenous identity. Leeman and Reid (2006) reflect on the essence of multicultural education in Australia, showing how it aims to promote cultural assimilation by reducing social exclusion and fostering communication among the students. The article also notes that preserving the Indigenous culture is critical, as the loss of culture can have a profound effect on the youth.
My plan of addressing cultural diversity in the classroom appears to be similar to the approach promoted in multicultural education. However, the readings show that this approach is not always correct. For example, helping students to learn the English language could affect their cultural values and heritage, as culture and language are tightly connected (Smolicz, 1999). My plan would also promote cultural assimilation, which can have a negative influence on the students and their identity. Particularly in the case of Indigenous populations, cultural assimilation does not help to resolve the problems experienced by minority groups (Smolicz, 1999). While various events can help to improve cultural awareness among students and reduce tension between dominant and minority groups, it does not integrate minority cultures into the curriculum. Thus, I can see that my approach is rather one-sided and does not target the cultural needs of minority students.
Based on the readings for Topic 1, I would make some corrections to my approach. First of all, it would be critical to include education about minority cultures in the curriculum. For instance, when studying a topic, it would be beneficial to consider it from the viewpoint of the dominant culture, as well as the minority groups. This strategy would help to engage minority students in the discussion while taking into account their cultural heritage. Secondly, I would also consider additive bilingualism as a strategy for addressing multiculturalism (Smolicz, 1999). Given the importance of language to cultural heritage, it would be beneficial to provide students from minority cultural groups with the opportunity to learn their native language in the same way as they are learning English. This strategy would require a commitment from the school and its leaders, but it could be a helpful solution. Lastly, while I believe that extra-curricular events for promoting cultural awareness are useful, it is also essential to address the minority groups’ needs for cultural separatism. Introducing extra-curricular activities for students of specific minority groups would enable them to retain their cultural identity.
Political and social climate influence on students’ achievements
The readings for Topic 2 explored the impact of the political and social climate on students’ achievement. For example, Cummins (1997) shows that the coercive and collaborative relations of power impact both the educator role definitions and educational structures, thus affecting the interactions between teachers and students and students’ engagement in learning. While coercive relations of power reinforce the relationship between the dominant and the subordinate group, collaborative relations promote empowerment and communication across the boundaries. Delpit (1988) also considers the influence of power structures on learning in culturally diverse classrooms. The author shows how interrelations of power affect students’ learning, explaining how teachers can target oppressive power structures within their classrooms to promote a safe learning environment.
Other authors also consider students’ academic achievement as a result of the roles reinforced by dominant cultural groups. For example, Fordham and Ogbu (1986) state that the problem of underachievement of black students arose as part of cultural stereotypes created by the dominant white culture, which deemed black people less intellectually capable. As a result, academic achievement is often seen as white people’s prerogative, and black Americans began to discourage their peers from “acting white” and striving for academic success (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). The authors thus show that the problem of academic achievement is rooted in stereotypes that were enforced by the dominant culture.
Kohl (2007) offers another viewpoint on students’ lack of academic achievement, arguing that non-learning is a choice stemming from the desire to avoid oppression, racism, and similar challenges. For instance, students from cultural or ethnic minorities might find the majority of textbooks racist and thus refuse to study the material presented in it. The author explains that the best strategy, in this case, is to teach the students how to acknowledge, question, and confront oppression in all settings instead of avoiding it. Finally, Mansouri and Trembath (2005) also highlight the role of the political climate in the minority students’ classroom achievement. The article shows how educators should seek to challenge social inequality experienced by minority groups, thus engaging in a dialogue with students and parents.
After reading the materials for this topic, it became clear that I did not address underachievement and academic struggles as part of my plan for promoting cultural diversity. I believe that this was mainly because I did not acknowledge the effect that social inequality has on students and their academic life. The articles on this topic showed that students from minority groups are often less likely to succeed academically, and their learning is affected by external social and political forces. In particular, I found Cummins’ (1997) discussion of influences useful in explaining minority students’ attitudes towards learning. However, it is also important that all of the articles highlighted the teacher’s role in mediating the relationship between coercive power relations and academic achievement.
Therefore, based on the readings, it would be essential to expand my plan for addressing cultural diversity. In particular, it is critical to establish a collaborative relationship with all students, thus empowering them to achieve academic success. The knowledge of this topic would also help address underachieving students. As an educator, I should allow students to challenge the information presented in textbooks and other readings so that they would learn how to acknowledge and question oppressive systems in real life. Additionally, it would be useful to offer students and parents additional resources for improving achievement. For example, if the student is struggling despite the efforts to address the problem, they could benefit from a minority-friendly psychologist, who would help them to improve motivation.
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Culturally competent and multicultural education
The materials for Topic 3 review strategies for culturally competent and multicultural education. Grant and Sleeter (2003) offer a questionnaire that can be used by teachers to examine the extent to which a classroom or a school is accommodating to the needs of students from minority groups. The assessment considers a variety of learning components, from visuals in presentations to staff resources. Additionally, the questionnaire examines gender equality in education, which is also relevant to the topic of classroom diversity. Based on this activity, educators can determine the gaps in their approach to diversity. Ladson-Billings (1995) reflect on the components of culturally relevant teaching, drawing a link between cultural competence and academic success. In particular, the author argues that teachers should use students’ culture as a “vehicle for learning” (p. 161). The article also suggests some useful strategies for teaching in culturally diverse classrooms, including parent involvement, promoting sociopolitical consciousness, and fostering a collaborative relationship with students.
Other authors stress the importance of comprehensive multicultural education in their texts. For instance, Nieto and Bode (2008) define multicultural education as “a process of comprehensive school reform and basic education for all students” (p. 44). They also describe seven critical features of multicultural education, which can be used by teachers to apply multiculturalism in their classrooms. Pearce (2005) explains some of the main mistakes made by teachers in culturally diverse classrooms, which include avoiding differences and racism. According to the author, teachers should provide a safe environment for critical, cross-cultural discussions to promote diversity. Lastly, Burridge, Buchanan, and Chodkiewicz (2009) offer comprehensive strategies for teachers to respond to cultural diversity. The authors state that teachers should counter racism, promote representations of cultural diversity, and encourage cultural exchange throughout schools.
Overall, the resources for Topic 3 provided useful insights into creating a practical approach to cultural diversity. Looking at the initial essay, I understand that my plan for addressing cultural diversity was somewhat relevant, but not comprehensive. For instance, in terms of school policies, it only considered anti-bullying efforts. However, as shown by Grant and Sleeter (2003), schools are also involved in establishing an inclusive environment for all students. To develop my plan further, I would focus on changes on the school level. For example, it is essential to ensure that the plan for selecting study materials includes the criteria for multicultural education and that the school library reflects cultural and language diversity (Grant & Sleeter, 2003). Special events hosted by the school should also consider diversity and should be relevant to students from all cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
Another essential addition to my plan would be a collaboration with parents in all aspects of learning. Ladson-Billings (1995) note that families are often a valuable cultural resource for young students, and thus involving parents in various events and discussing learning goals with them could improve the school’s approach to cultural diversity. For instance, when planning events for students, I could consult with parents about the aspects of their culture that could be reflected in the event.
Furthermore, the resources also provided a useful framework for resolving diversity-related problems in class, such as cultural differences, racism, and more. As a teacher, I should be active in responding to these problems instead of avoiding them. For example, taking note of cultural differences among the students and challenging racist views or expressions are meaningful strategies for addressing diversity-related issues. In general, all of the approaches explained in the materials for this topic could be successfully incorporated in an Australian classroom. Moreover, these strategies could complement the ones developed after reading the articles for previous topics, thus forming a comprehensive plan for approaching diversity.
Burridge, N., Buchanan, J. D., & Chodkiewicz, A. K. (2009). Dealing with difference: Building culturally responsive classrooms. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 1(3), 68-83.
Cummins, J. (1997). Minority status and schooling in Canada. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 28(3), 411-430.
Delpit, L. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-299.
Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. U. (1986). Black students’ school success: Coping with the “burden of ‘acting white’”. The Urban Review, 18(3), 176-206.
Grant, C. A., & Sleeter, C. (2003). Action research activity 5.2: Classroom and school assessment. In C. A. Grant & C. Sleeter (Eds.), Turning on learning: Five approaches for multicultural teaching plans for race, class, gender, and disability (pp. 213-215). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Hill, B., & Allan, R. (2004). Multicultural education in Australia. In J. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Handbook of research on multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 979-996). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Jupp, J. (2002). The attack on multiculturalism. In J. Jupp (Ed.), From white Australia to Woomera: The story of Australian immigration (pp. 105-122). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kohl, H. (2007). ‘I won’t learn from you!’: Confronting student resistance. In W. Au, B. Bigelow & S. Karp (Eds.), Rethinking our classrooms: Teaching for equality and justice (vol. 1, pp. 165-166). Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools Ltd.
Ladson‐Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165.
Leeman, Y., & Reid, C. (2006). Multi/intercultural education in Australia and the Netherlands. Compare A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 36(1), 57-72.
Mansouri, F., & Trembath, A. (2005). Multicultural education and racism: The case of Arab-Australian students in contemporary Australia. International Education Journal, 6(4), 516-529.
Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2009). Multicultural education and school reform. In S. Nieto & P. Bode (Eds.), Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (5th ed., pp. 42-62). Sydney, Australia: Pearson.
Pearce, S. (2003). The teacher as a problem. In S. Pearce (Ed.), You wouldn’t understand: White teachers in multiethnic classrooms (pp. 29-51). Trent, UK: Trentham Books.
Smolicz, J.J. (1999). Culture, ethnicity and education: Multiculturalism in a plural society. In M. Secombe & J. Zadja (Eds.), J.J. Smolicz on education and culture. Melbourne, Australia: James Nicholas Publishers.