Cultural Inclusivity: more than curriculum content

Monday, 10 April 2017
By Renee Kobelt
Cultural Inclusivity: more than curriculum content
Teaching in a multicultural classroom can be challenging for a variety of reasons.

This can be particularly so when students or parents don't speak English well, when they come from circumstances of conflict or cultures dramatically different to our own, or when racism and political issues are highlighted in the media.

With most classrooms these days being so culturally diverse, we have to be asking the question - do our teachers have the skills needed to navigate our modern classroom demographics?

As reported in a recent Pro Bono post, PhD research undertaken by Jessie Williams, a teaching graduate at Edith Cowan University, suggests that while teachers feel confident in the cultural content of their teaching, the generalist nature of their pre-service training may have left them under-prepared for dealing with the culturally diverse children themselves. 

According to Williams, the pre-service teachers who were interviewed for the study indicated that while the content of their degree studies trained them in Indigenous culture and students, they were left with a 'one size fits all' model for other students.

An attitudes section of study revealed that there is a great divide in how younger teachers relate cultural inclusivity to the social aspects of the classroom, not just the curriculum content.

When asked the questions like "if the parents of the student cannot speak English should I have to meet with them?’ or ‘should we be taking more refugees into Australia?'" the answers differed significantly. “For some of them it was fifty-fifty –  50 per cent said that those statements were abhorrent and of course we should meet with parents and meet them through an interpreter and others said ‘No way it’s not my job to have to deal with people who can’t speak English.’"

Williams explains why the results are concerning; "the problem with that is that if these are your attitudes going into a classroom it’s a concern as to what your attitudes are going to be towards your students and is that going to affect your teaching."


So, how can we foster cultural inclusivity in the classroom?
Saga Briggs, editor at InformED, has some very helpful suggestions on how to overcome some of these attitudes, not just developing teachers inclusivity, but also integrating it into the classroom to develop understanding in other students as well.

The first step is learning more about your students; when you know their background, you can understand how their responses and actions will be different and will help your comments and decisions in the classroom.

The second step is ensuring that the other students learn about each other, including their cultural background. Making sure that you include resources about other places and cultures that make up your school demographics, is a great way to do this. Programs like the Just Like Me resources are a great way of introducing students to life experiences that differ radically from their own, and participating in an experience like Just One Day helps the students develop compassion for people who look and do things differently. Check out the Just Like Me resources here.

Read Saga Briggs post 30 Ways to Become a Culturally Sensitive Teacher here.

Williams study is expected to be released by the end of the year. To read the original article in Pro Bono news, click here. Comments
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