The shift in the demographic of contemporary social challenges the educational systems’ capacity to meet the educational needs of a diverse population within one teaching framework. Multiple theories and approaches are being implemented to address the requirements and needs of diverse populations of college students. However, cultural diversity often omits the needs of undocumented immigrants and their families, who face significantly more difficulties when pursuing education. In this regard, the mere application of the Critical Theory of Love would not suffice since students’ different backgrounds need to be incorporated into the educational approach to validate the experiences and worldviews inherent in each student’s life. Therefore, the introduction to the Funds of Knowledge theoretical framework as a substantial part of the guiding framework will allow for ensuring cultural sensitivity and the recognition of students’ unique backgrounds, thus providing them with needed support and encouraging a learning environment.
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Immigrant students are a growing population in the United States that fails to receive sensitive and competent support in terms of educational opportunities. According to Witenstein and Niese (2020), since the number of such students grows and their ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity intensifies, it is imperative to address the differences and use them for students’ benefits. Indeed, the scholars state that “it is critical to shift the focus toward privileging their acute and routine experiences in concert with their diverse knowledge on U.S. college campuses” (Witenstein & Niese, 2020, p. 2). This assumption is inherently connected with the experiences obtained by the immigrant students prior to entering college education, which validates the application of the theory of Funds of Knowledge.
The theory of Funds of Knowledge is a relatively new approach that has shifted the direction of U.S. education toward diversification and cultural sensitivity. Being introduced several decades ago, this theory is commonly perceived as a basis for “sociocultural orientation in education that seeks to build strategically on the experiences, resources, and knowledge of families and children, especially those from low-income neighborhoods” (Kiyama & Rios-Aguilar, 2017, p. 1). However, when applied to the immigrant college population, the framework allows for attributing cultural diversity to the classroom benefits. Indeed, the benefits of this framework allow for justifying its application to outreach programs for college career centers since this concept has been effective in other educational settings.
In particular, elementary schools significantly benefit from Funds of Knowledge use as the basis for home-school relationships improvement. The early introduction of the Funds of Knowledge approach to the educational system allows for reinforcing students’ learning motivation and capacity, as well as encourages them to use their uniqueness to their advantage when pursuing their future careers (Kiyama, 2011). According to Kiyama (2011), “incorporating parents into outreach programs can be done in a variety of ways: through personalized information focusing on steps in the pathway to college; expansion of families’ social networks related to college options to include educators, alumni, and families like themselves; reinforcement of parents’ sense of self-efficacy; and gathering with other families for support and fellowship” (p. 24). Thus, the variety of methods that derive from the Funds of Knowledge framework allows for a multitude of advanced educational practices to be applied.
Another pivotal aspect of Funds of Knowledge and their importance in the education of immigrant students is the prioritization of humanization and preserving the personhood and dignity of individuals. This idea is based on the above mentioned assumption concerning the usage of immigrant students’ uniqueness as their advantage. Indeed, through Funds of Knowledge, “teachers can easily create an environment that fits the school curriculum while capitalizing on community resources” (Maitra, 2017, p. 95). Integrating learners’ first language, their traditions, background knowledge, beliefs, and family customs might serve as a powerful attribute in educating immigrant students as individuals with an extensive and rich experience. This experience should be used by them as a basis for seeking advanced career paths.
Moreover, this approach might benefit the classroom environment as a whole since it bridges the gap in students’ awareness of other cultures and diversity as a whole. According to Llopart and Esteban-Guitart (2018), Funds of Knowledge allow for acknowledging cultural differences and eliminate discrimination based on unawareness and unintelligence. The scholars state that Funds of Knowledge should be used “to challenge the deficit thinking prevalent in education and the racist policies that misunderstand the inherent complexities of migrant people” in order to dispose of the “variety of skills, knowledge, and competencies forged in their working lives and community history” (Llopart & Esteban-Guitart, 2018, p. 146). Thus, the application of Funds of Knowledge as a substantial integrative part of the guiding framework would be beneficial.
Conclusively, the Funds of Knowledge theory is a valuable approach to address the educational needs of immigrant students in the context of college career center development. The integration of this theory in conjunction with the Critical Theory of Love would allow for addressing the multitude of cultural and experiential particularities of immigrant students. Ultimately, the development of educational systems based on these two approaches would help to prioritize the benefits and advantages of migrants’ diverse backgrounds to empower them to pursue advanced career paths.
Kiyama, J. M. (2011). Family lessons and funds of knowledge: College-going paths in Mexican American families. Journal of Latinos and Education, 10(1), 23-42.
Kiyama, J. M., & Rios-Aguilar, C. (Eds.). (2017). Funds of knowledge in higher education: Honoring students’ cultural experiences and resources as strengths. Routledge.
Llopart, M., & Esteban-Guitart, M. (2018). Funds of knowledge in 21st century societies: Inclusive educational practices for under-represented students. A literature review. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 50(2), 145-161.
Maitra, D. (2017). Funds of knowledge: An underrated tool for school literacy and student engagement. International Journal of Society, Culture & Language, 5(1), 94-102.
Witenstein, M. A., & Niese, M. (2020). Applying guiding principles to resist erasure of immigrant community college students in an ever-changing climate through a Critical Theory of Love. Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 27(1), 1-10.