What Is Multicultural Education
What is a multicultural classroom? First and foremost it is a classroom, characterized by an ethos of caring and equity. The pedagogy supports active participation through role-plays, simulations, and hands-on activities. Students learn, through their own experiences, that people’s actions make a difference. Education that is multicultural is a continuous, integrated, multiethnic, multidisciplinary process for educating all students about diversity. Diversity factors include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, region, religion, gender, language, socioeconomic status, age, and individuals with disabilities.
It encompasses curricular infusion and instructional strategies in all subject areas. Education that is multicultural prepares students to live, learn, interact, and work creatively in an interdependent global society by fostering mutual appreciation and respect. As ethnic diversity increases in our society and our schools, programs that offer learning in a multicultural and international context help students to value their own heritage and to value and appreciate people from other cultures.
As schools continue to increase their commitment to equity for all students, and to deepen and enrich their programs in multicultural education, there is also increasing interest in communicating with students in other countries. The aim of multicultural education is to ensure equity in education for all students and to help
Teaching that is limited to strategies the teacher has found effective during his or her own education may not reach all students in ways that make it possible for them to learn. Therefore, teachers need to broaden their teaching strategies and renewing their enthusiasm for teaching, as their students become more successful at learning. The school curriculum needs to reflect our full history, including the contributions and experiences of people of color and women.
Thereby, all students can see themselves in history and students of all races can develop a greater respect and appreciation for each other. School policy and pedagogy should promote cooperation among students of all races to prepare them for life in a pluralistic, multicultural, and global society. The native language of non-native English speakers and their parents should be treated as an asset, not a weakness For many, learning can be facilitated with charts diagrams, mind-maps, computers, video, or other kinds of visual aids. People have their own individual learning style.
Individual differences such as the preference for learning alone or in groups, concretely or abstractly, completing teacher-generated projects or creating original ones can be accommodated in any classroom where there is a variety of learning activities. Also, improved student performance and self-esteem are often the result of learning in different environments. We need to consider the role that schools and society in general have in creating low self-esteem in children. Multicultural education encompasses all aspects of school life. The values of multicultural education must be modeled throughout the school environment.
In a school, there may be posters in the hallway that celebrate diverse cultures. There might be welcome signs in multiple languages. Multicultural education is designed to help unify a deeply divided nation rather than to divide a highly cohesive one. Multicultural education may bring problems to the surface, giving the appearance of creating conflict. But if a school’s entire staff and faculty are committed to working through that conflict, then unity based on new, more equitable relationships can be achieved. There are many different ways teachers can incorporate multicultural education into their lesson plans.
A teacher can collect pictures that challenge the biases and stereotypes that children are subjected to. Some of the categories may include: Some of the categories may be: economic, physical ability, family, race, gender, nationality, cultures, and age. Within each of these categories, consider the stereotypes children are most typically exposed to and look for images, which emphasize all cultures’ humanity. For example, children are currently exposed to stereotypical images of Arabs, which impact their attitudes about the Middle East and toward Arab Americans.
To address this, include pictures in your collection of Arabs in all walks of life-with family members, shopping, worshiping, and at work. Include in every collection images of students, their families, and the school staff. This tells children that they and their families are an integral part of the school’s instructional base. It also keeps children’s attention. Most importantly, it demonstrates that students and teachers are part of the diversity, not outside of it. Linguistically diverse students often face special difficulties in their daily lives. This can easily lead to frustration.
Teachers need to find ways to keep students hopeful. Traditional textbooks can make students (and teachers) feel pretty small compared to the heroes that “made history. ” As teachers and as linguistically diverse students, we are pushed to the margins of the textbooks. Multicultural education seeks to present a larger and more social history of this country. Multicultural texts bring out the stories of women, working people, and people of color who have traditionally been ignored. Share stories of how events in history have dramatically impacted your own life.
Have students think of ways in which historic events or developments have impacted their lives. An important skill in the multicultural education is the ability to read critically for biases in textbooks and the media. An arts-based method is a productive path to follow in education for social justice. It helps us to address the issue of what constitutes knowledge. It engages our emotions and imaginations in teaching and learning. The arts have been powerful forms of teaching and learning since the beginning of humankind. Every civilization has used memorable visual symbols, stirring songs, and eloquent poetry to instill national pride.
For individuals, the arts provide the means to express their feelings and ideas in creative ways, and make any learning experience more memorable. In schools when symbol systems are limited to words and numbers, students become limited in their understanding, communication, and self-expression. Schools that incorporate music, art, drama, dance, and creative writing into the basic curriculum have observed improvements in student success by all measures, including test scores, use of higher order thinking skills, student promotion, dropout rates, student and teacher attitudes, disciplinary measures, and parental satisfaction.
In most of these schools the arts are not only taught as separate subjects, but also integrated throughout the curriculum. Educators are finding that a full arts program does not take away from other basic subjects, but enhances them, as is the case in the following schools. Perhaps cultural diversity impacts assessment more than any other facet of instruction. One’s cultural value system shapes one’s view of self, relationship with others, nature, time, action, society, and logic itself.
The manner in which students acquire and process information is deeply rooted in culture; hence, educators must better understand, respect, and adapt to these cultural variations and preferences, particularly in this enlightened age of “authentic assessment. ” Teachers need offer the mean to recognize and value a broader range of intelligence, thereby pointing to new directions for educational planning and practice. These and other kinds of intelligence can be developed through many of the multi*sensory, experiential learning.
Myers-Briggs assessments indicate that students with the highest grades in school tend to have “Introverted-intuitive-Thinking-Judging” personalities. Low-achieving students tend to have “Extroverted-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving” personalities. A teacher’s sensitivity and responsiveness to students’ diverse learning styles best informs instruction and assessment. By better understanding, respecting, and using diversity toward the end of academic excellence, educators are turning what unfortunately has been a cliche into something quite functional: equity and excellence for all students.
Key Components of Educational Equity Access Access: All students should be provided equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the educational process. Access refers to both physical and institutional access to learning facilities, resources, and curricular programs. Access problems still occur even though virtually all districts have taken measures to comply with nondiscrimination laws. To meet the diverse needs of all students, some of whom require specific skills to access the school curriculum, compensatory policies and practices are necessary to ensure equal participation in school programs by all groups.
There are many ways educators can provide access to all students. Make additional computer time available at school for those students who don’t have access to a computer at home. Give extra encouragement to female and minority students, especially in subjects such as math, science, and computers, where they may be less confident. Give high-needs students the extra time and instruction they need to succeed. Support the social and academic resiliency of high-needs students. When students work together, make sure their groups are diverse and that all members have an opportunity to take active roles.
Ensure that all students have a chance to answer questions that require reasoning or problem solving. Avoid asking technical questions only of certain students. Instruction Instruction: this includes and extends beyond materials, interactions and language. Although teachers are required to follow the adopted texts when planning their lessons, they have latitude in how the material is presented, what topics are emphasized, what assignments are given, and what supplemental materials are used. Teachers’ lack of awareness about equity concepts can result in promoting a biased perspective.
An equitable outlook can be sustained through the use of instructional materials that promote positive images of diverse groups and the strong commitment to an equitable approach to teaching and learning. Equity and multicultural education are not separate subjects to be added to a multifaceted curriculum and busy workday, and do not add more content to the curriculum. Rather, equity and multiculturalism require teachers to rethink and reconceptualize the content being taught, and to use bias-free instructional methods to create inclusive lessons in every subject area.
By respecting and celebrating diversity, all students have a broadened appreciation of culture and experience the positive side of diversity. Students also experience an affirmation of their own cultures and can take pride in sharing with the rest of the class. Materials Textbooks, audiovisual, and other materials should be reviewed to minimize bias in their content, graphics, pictures, and language. Examples of subtle and not-so-subtle bias in materials range from science textbooks illustrated with only White male researchers to absent or minimal discussion of the historical contributions of some cultural groups or women of all races.
Some teaching strategies that help to minimize bias and the effect of bias in materials include: Screen all materials used in class for bias. Replace biased materials with bias-free materials. If bias cannot be eliminated, note its presence and use it as an opportunity to discuss bias and stereotyping in class. Include contributions from non-European sources to provide a balanced study of world cultures. Include the past and present experiences of people of color and women in studies of current events, economics, government, history, social studies, and science. Attitudes Ingrained attitudes are not changed overnight.
Biased or prejudiced attitudes may be unintentional but nevertheless can result in discriminatory behavior that can affect student performance. Such attitudes may be exhibited on the part of everyone involved in the educational process. Holding lower expectations for some students can perpetuate lower academic performance and inhibit student success. Examples of biased attitudes that can result in low performance include: Most lower-income, ethnic minority, LEP, and lower-achieving students will not go on to college Boys are more interested in mathematics, science, computers, and other technology than girls.
Lower-achieving students aren’t really interested in school and consume valuable class time that could be more profitably spent on serious students. Some strategies to minimize the impact of biased attitudes are: Make a conscious effort to prevent biased attitudes from influencing your interactions with students. Examine problematic relationships with students to determine whether bias is a factor. Educate yourself on how biased attitudes are formed. Seek out examples that counter stereotypes and biased attitudes. Model appropriate behavior and confront biased remarks and actions of students. Interactions
Interactions are perhaps the greatest influence on self-esteem, self-confidence, and motivation. Interactions with classmates, staff, especially teachers, can have a profound effect on a student’s enthusiasm and ability to learn. Interactions are shaped by attitudes, and teachers are often unaware that they may relate to students differently depending on their race, gender, ethnicity, ability, or other factors. Examples of biased interactions include: Displaying lower expectations for students of color or female students, Praising girls’ work for neatness while remarking on the content of boys’ work.
Taking disciplinary action that is more frequently directed toward particular groups of students or avoiding discipline of certain groups. Inconsistent and disproportional discipline can lower morale. Some teaching strategies to avoid bias in interactions are: Demonstrate the same high expectations for all students. Communicate these expectations regularly and challenge all students equally in terms of both performance and effort. When asking questions in class, don’t always call on the first students to raise their hands. Give less confident students more time to raise their hands and to respond.
Also call on students who never raise their hands. Establish a routine for class discussions so that all students participate on a rotating basis. Encourage students to speak up if they feel excluded. Language Bias in language is a subtle but powerful influence in creating or reinforcing prejudicial attitudes. Bias occurs in both vocabulary and usage. For example, using generic masculine occupational titles and pronouns presents an unreal picture of the workplace and can limit aspirations because people, especially children, tend to take language literally. Language can convey biased or ethnocentric attitudes.
For example: Identifying people by race or ethnic group unless it is relevant. One doesn’t usually point out that an individual is White or have European American heritage. The same rule should apply to all groups. Using the term “non-White” for people of color, which sets up White culture as the standard by which all other cultures should be judged. When appropriate, use “non-minority” to refer to Whites. Using “culturally disadvantaged” and “culturally deprived. ” These terms imply that the dominant culture is superior to other cultures or that other group’s lack a culture.
Some strategies for minimizing bias in language are: Watch your own language and usage in class — for example, using “girls” to refer to adult women Become informed about nonbiased alternatives and use them at school Screen materials used in class for biased Take advantage of opportunities to point out biased language in a productive and no blaming way. Assessment Ensuring both equity and excellence in school settings requires the use of assessment that accounts for variances in student learning styles and cultural backgrounds and is effectively aligned with school curricula, instruction, and systemic improvement goals.
Traditional, uniform measures of assessment alone, such as standardized tests, are not sufficient to gage the full breadth of students’ skills or to use as a basis for formative, “high stakes” educational decisions. Depending solely on these indicators often presents an inaccurate reflection of student performance due to inherent bias in test questions or to the unintended measurement of certain skills, e. g. , a math test designed so that success depends not only on the skills the school intends to measure, but also on other skills, such as language proficiency.
Following are strategies for implementing equitable assessment and using assessment outcomes to achieve equity and excellence school wide: Use multiple assessment strategies and combine traditional forms of assessment with alternative or performance-based models. Various forms of performance-based assessment include teacher observation, oral assessment, work sampling, student portfolios, and student self-assessment. Ensure all assessments are developed to measure the skills intended and to guard against outcomes reflecting differences in student experiences, cultural values, language abilities, or the quality of education received.
In conclusion, these concepts take root in educational practice; it will be possible to create educational systems that are truly appropriate for our times. Despite the fact that education in the United States has been structured around assimilations ideologies (Gordon, 1999), the shift is moving toward multicultural education that reflects cultural pluralism and the notion that all styles of life are to be celebrated.
Multicultural education strives for equity regardless of race, gender, culture, or national origin. Both school and society shape students’ lives. So, in order to be successful, multicultural education encompasses both the effort to create more equitable schools and the involvement of teachers and students in the creation of a more equitable society. Educators need to keep in mind that everyone can learn.