10 SES 12 E, Experience, Diversity and Critical Thinking
In the Netherlands, classroom demographics are increasingly reflecting diversity. This means that besides differences among students in character, behavior and cognition, teachers have to deal with differences in socio-economic status, native language, world-views and moral beliefs. This diversity within classes puts challenges on teachers to create a positive and supporting classroom climate for all their students.
Many novice teachers feel underprepared for teaching culturally diverse classes. They find it difficult to connect with the social-cultural background of their students (Carter & Darling-Hammond, 2016), feel restrained by their own values, beliefs and identities (Leeman, 2006) and they often have low self-efficacy beliefs regarding dealing with cultural differences in their classes (Gay & Howard, 2000). For teacher-educators it is also complicated to prepare student-teachers for dealing with cultural differences in their class because there is still little insight into how teachers can create a supportive learning climate for all their students in the culturally diverse class. With this study, we aim to fill this gap by describing practices and considerations from experienced secondary school teachers in culturally diverse schools.
Appropriate teacher behavior for culturally diverse classes is often examined from a critical theory perspective where ‘equity’ is the central concept. The term ‘equity’ refers to fairness and social justice (Cochran-Smith, Ell, Grudnoff, Haigh, Hill, & Ludlow, 2016) and focuses on the assumption that social identities, which are based on ethnicity, socio-economic background, culture, gender and language, should not affect educational opportunities. Based on this theory, concepts such as culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995a; 1995b; 2006) and culturally responsive teaching (Gay, 2002; 2010a; 2010b; 2013) have emerged. Culturally relevant pedagogydistinguishes three typesof educational goals: (1) academic achievement, (2) cultural competence and (3) sociopolitical consciousness. Gay (2010a, p. 31) defines culturally responsive teaching as “Using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them”. Therefore, she formulated four general teacher-principles that are required for teaching diverse students: (1) positive attitudes toward culturally diverse students, (2) the use of multiple cultural perspectives, (3) multiple instructional techniques and (4) skills to cross cultural borders (Gay, 2010b).
Another perspective that addresses coping with culturally diverse classes is the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) (Bennett, 2004). This model is based on concepts from cognitive constructivist psychology and communication theories and distinguishes six stages of increasing sensitivity to cultural differences: three ethnocentric (Denial, Defense/Reversal, Minimization) and three ethnorelative phases (Acceptance, Adaptation, Integration). Teachers are considered to be culturally sensitive when they act according to one of the ethnorelative phases, which requires a so-called ‘global mind-set’. The latter refers to teachers’ ability to see their own values and beliefs as just one expression of reality instead of universal values.
Although these concepts propose general theoretical frameworks for what teachers of culturally diverse classes should do, it remains unclear how teachers deal with cultural differences in the complexity of their classroom practices and which related considerations and intentions they have. For example, teachers can struggle with the dilemma of on the one hand focusing on broader socialization goals in heterogeneous classes, and differentiated education, which emphasizes students’ individual development, on the other (Denessen, 2017). It seems reasonable to expect that teachers deal in various ways with cultural diversity in their classes, directed by their considerations such as personal values and norms, practical considerations and intended educational goals.
The central research question of this study is: ‘How do teachers from culturally diverse secondary schools deal with cultural differences in their classes and what are their considerations related to their actions?’
Respondents In this study, 13 Dutch secondary-school teachers from three different culturally diverse schools participated. Four schools with classroom demographics that reflect groups of students from different cultural-ethnic backgrounds were selected from the first author's network as a teacher educator. Three schools decided to participate in this study. Teachers who were known for their expertise in dealing with cultural differences from different educational tracks were selected by the school supervisor, who supervises coaching from student-teachers and novice teachers in the school, and the school principal. Teachers' average age was 50 with a range between 21 and 62. Teachers' years of experience varied between 2 and 36 years with an average of 25 years. Data collection and analysis The 13 teachers were interviewed from a narrative perspective (Kelchtermans, 1993). The interviews were recorded with a voice recorder and then verbally transcribed. Citations were selected based on what teachers said about their actions and considerations related to coping with cultural differences in their classes. These citations were inductively coded with sensitizing concepts from different theoretical frameworks concerning cultural diversity and moral socialization. This coding resulted in thick case descriptions of each teacher.
Preliminary results reveal that teachers' perceptions about their actions toward dealing with culturally diverse classes are primarily focused on realizing their intended subject-related and pedagogical educational goals, which are often related to broader socialization goals as well as the individual development of their students. Practical considerations, such as lack of time and external standards such as exam requirements, standard curriculum and school vision also affected the choices that teachers made in dealing with cultural differences in their classes.
Bennett, M.J. (2004). Becoming Interculturally Competent. In Wurzel, J. (Ed.). Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 62-77). Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation. Carter, P. L., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2016). Teaching diverse learners. In Gitomer, D. H. , & Bell, C. A. (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching (5th ed., pp. 593-637). Washington: American Educational Research Association Cochran-Smith, M., Ell, F., Grudnoff, L., Haigh, M., Hill, M., & Ludlow, L. (2016). Initial teacher education: What does it take to put equity at the center? Teaching and Teacher Education, 57, 67-78. Denessen E.J.P.G. (26 juni 2017), Verantwoord omgaan met verschillen: sociale-culturele achtergronden en differentiatie in het onderwijs [Dealing responsibly with differences] (Oratie, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden). Leiden: Universiteit Leiden. Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (2), 106-116. Gay, G. (2010a). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed). New York: Teachers College Press. Gay, G. (2010b). Classroom practices for teaching diversity: an example from Washington State (United States). In OECD, Educating Teachers for Diversity: Meeting the Challenge, OECD Publishing. Gay, G. (2013). Teaching To and Through Cultural Diversity. Curriculum Inquiry, 43 (1), 48-70. Gay, G., & Howard, T.C. (2000). Multicultural Teacher Education for the 21st Century. Teacher Educator, 36 (1), 1-16. Kelchtermans, G. (1993). Getting the story, understanding the lives: from career stories to teachers' professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 9 (5/6), 443-456. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995a). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32 (3), 465-491. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995b). But that's just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into practice, 34 (3), 159-165. Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). Yes, but how do we do? In Landsman, J. and Lewis, C. W. (Eds.). White teachers, diverse classrooms. A Guide to Building Inclusive Schools, Promoting High Expectations, and Eliminating Racism (pp. 29-41). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing Leeman, Y. A. M. (2006). Teaching in ethnically diverse schools: teachers' professionalism. European Journal of Teacher Education, 29, 341-356.
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