07 SES 10 B, Intercultural Education: Competences of Teachers
Diversity among students in Dutch higher education has increased rapidly in the last decades. Using a broad definition of diversity, we do not only observe an increase in ethnic and cultural diversity, but also in terms of socio-economic status. Additionally, an increase of students coming from intermediate vocational education can be perceived (CBS 2013, Wolff 2013). But even though diversity has increased, differences in student achievement between groups have proved to be persistent. The gap between different ethnic/cultural groups actually seems to be widening instead of narrowing (Wolff 2013, Zijlstra 2013).
There are a number of measures and programs in place to try and increase student achievement of bicultural student groups. These however, mainly use ‘top down’ approaches. The programs have proven to be largely ineffective, partly because the role of the teacher has been largely overlooked (Zijlstra 2013, Van Middelkoop & Meerman, forthcoming).
Research shows that teacher performance influences student achievement. Two meta-studies by leading educational researchers Hattie (2008) and Marzano (2003) show that the influence of the teacher is significant. This creates a need for reflection on the way teacher cope with their increasingly diverse student bodies (Van Middelkoop & Meerman, forthcoming).
In this paper we discuss the way teachers think of and deal with the increased diversity among students in their daily practice. The following research questions are formulated:
- What are the most prevalent teacher attitudes towards diversity in the student population?
- To what extent are these attitudes translated in teacher’s daily teaching practices?
Diversity and student achievement
In order to answer the first research question, we build upon the theoretical notions of Helms (1990), Cox (2001) and earlier research of the authors (Meerman e.a. 2009, Van Middelkoop & Meerman 2014). Not all teachers and teacher teams recognize the importance of taking diversity into account. Based on these notions, four ‘phases’ in dealing with diversity can be identified:
- No recognition of the existence or importance of diversity
- Recognition of the existence or importance of diversity
- Understanding the effects of diversity, in this case on student achievement
- Using this understanding of diversity in work-related situations
Earlier research in the Netherlands suggests most teachers in the Netherlands can be placed in the first phase, in which they do not recognize the existence or importance of diversity (Meerman e.a. 2009). This might be due to the emphasis on ‘equal chances’ and ‘equal treatment’ that stems from the predominantly meritocratic view on education of most teachers. It is argued by many however, (e.g. Bourdieu 1970, van der Broek 2009 and Nussbaum 2011) that by not recognizing differences in students’ starting positions, differences are perpetuated rather than diminished.
In order to answer the second research question, we use the framework for student achievement by Marzano (2003), and relate this to the views of teachers on diversity. Marzano distinguishes three ways in which teachers influence student achievement: instructional strategies, classroom management and classroom curriculum. These teacher-level factors have a high impact on student achievement, which means that whether or not teachers are in the fourth ‘phase’ of diversity as described (and thus take diversity and its opportunities and challenges into account in their daily teaching practice), influences student achievement (Middelkoop & Meerman).
Broek, van den L. (2009), De Ironie van Gelijkheid – over etnische diversiteit op de werkvloer. Tilburg: Ridderprint. Bourdieu, P. & J. Passeron (1970/90), Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage. Cox, T. (2001), Creating the Multicultural Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bas. Hattie, J. (2008), Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge. Helms, J. E. (Ed.). (1990). Black and White racial identity: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Greenwood Marzano, R. (2003), What Works in Schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria: ASCD. Meerman, M., Spierings, J., Segers, J. & N. Bay (2009) Een ontwikkeling in kleur. Docenten leren op de werkplek omgaan met het multiculturele beroepsonderwijs. Amsterdam: CAREM. Nussbaum, M (2011), Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach, Harvard University Press. Wolff, R. (2013), Presteren op vreemde bodem - Een onderzoek naar sociale hulpbronnen en de leeromgeving als studiesuccesfactoren voor niet-westerse allochtone studenten in het Nederlandse hoger onderwijs (1997-2010). Amsterdam: UvA. Zijlstra, W., H. Asper, A. Amrani & M. Tupan-Wenno (2013), Generiek is divers – sturen op studiesucces in een grootstedelijke context. Internet: universonline.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/RapportG5evaluatie2013.pdf (geraadpleegd 28 november 2013).
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