07 SES 04 B, Teachers' Attitudes and Practices towards Cultural and Social Diversity
Globalization, intra and inter-national mobility have augmented in the last twenty years (OECD, 2017): this determined the growing diversity of European societies, due to the presence in communities of increasing number of languages, backgrounds, cultural and religious practices. The increasingly multicultural environment have become a reality in schools: teachers face diversity’s challenges and opportunities and, in particular, they are asked to apply their competences and their professional capacity in order to create inclusive and accepting classrooms, to welcome newly arrived children, to understand the needs of all students, and to promote respect and responsibility between pupils. Policy documents at national level, as well as several documents on European level reveal policy goals, guidelines and recommendations for these issues.
The goal of this ongoing study is to look at what teachers actually do in intercultural education by comparing empirical data from two contexts (Italy & the Netherlands), in order to understand more of the challenging passage from goals, guidelines and recommendations to actual teaching practices in multicultural classrooms in Europe. Considering an ecological perspective, we consider international documents and national policies, before turning to teaching practices.
The Unesco Guidelines (2006) provide three general principles for intercultural education, and for each principle recommendations for appropriate teaching methods are suggested. Examples of suggestions are: 1) teaching methods are based on practical, participatory and contexualized learning techniques 2) teaching methods that promote an active learning environment, 3) teaching methods that treat the heritages, experiences and contributions of different ethnic groups with comparable dignity, integrity and significance.
The European Council has also been a vigorous promoter of interculturality since 70ies: the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue. “Living Together As Equals in Dignity” (2008) and the Guide for the development and implementation of curricula for plurilingual and intercultural education (2015) are important documents. Moreover, a recent study on teacher education for diversity (2017) provides a framework for teacher competences for engaging with diversity. The competences are divided in three categories; knowledge and understanding (e.g., Knowledge of the range of teaching approaches, methods and materials for responding to diversity), communication and relationships (e.g., Creating open-mindedness and respect in the school community), and management and teaching (e.g., Establishing a participatory, inclusive and safe learning environment).
For national policy in Italy The Italian way for an intercultural school and integration of foreign students (MIUR, 2007) is the most important policy document in this field. Two dimensions are combined here: an intercultural one, involving all students and disciplines, and an inclusive one, specifically aimed at newly arrived students. The Italian educational viewpoint fosters dialogue, mutual recognition and enrichment of people in respect of different identities and belongings through intercultural education (MIUR, 2014). Teachers, therefore, have the responsibility to act in the classroom assuming ‘diversity as the school paradigm and considering it as an opportunity to open the whole system to differences’ (MIUR, 2007).
In the Netherlands, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2017), the aim is preparing pupils from the majority population and ethnic-minority pupils for participating in a multicultural society. Young people should gain knowledge about one another's background, circumstances and culture so as to further mutual understanding and to combat the prejudice, discrimination and racism associated with ethnic-cultural differences. Policy directives on the content of and quality standards in intercultural education are however limited; it is up to schools to set out policy on pedagogy, curriculum materials, and teacher professionalization.
Although national policies differ to some extent, the recommendations on European/international level fit with both general policy lines. But in what way are these recommendations enacted in multicultural classrooms in the two contexts?
The research presented in this paper uses a qualitative comparative research design. The aim is to make a comparison between intercultural teaching practices in two European contexts; Italy and the Netherlands. By comparing two cases, we try to understand if intercultural teaching practices are similar or differ between these contexts. With these analyses, we link to European and national recommendations to see in what way they are translated to actual classroom practices, and if improvements can be made. Context for data collection/research projects For the Dutch context, data for this study was collected during a design-based research project in which teachers together with the researcher planned a 3-week project to bring forward more of the children’s cultural background in the classroom and use these backgrounds as a resource in learning activities. Aim of this project was to make the children more aware of their multicultural (and multilingual) environment and positively influence their intercultural sensitivity/competence. For the Italian context, data for this study was collected during a larger research project examining teachers’ conceptions on cultural diversity and their relation in the transition from theory to practice, seen as fundamental in education. The study also focused on investigating the discrepancy between teachers’ intentions and their teaching activities (Agostinetto & Bugno, 2016). Analysis We used several data types collected during the above mentioned research projects: videotaped and transcribed classroom interactions (Dutch context), observations and field notes of classroom interactions (Italian context), and interviews with teachers (Dutch and Italian context). The analysis of the data for this research is still ongoing, and takes a bottom up approach. We considered similarities and differences between a first analysis of classroom interactions and descriptions of teaching practices from the interviews. These instances were discussed and several similar types of teacher practices arose from these examples. From these types we will show the distance to recommendation on European/international level and make suggestions about how to bring them closer together.
First results of the comparison of the two contexts show a lot of similar ‘weak teaching practices’, practices that do not favour intercultural interactions. Types of weak actions that were found are use of stereotypes, missed opportunities for promoting intercultural aspects, the mistake of considering culture as something fixed and addressing young children as experts of this fixed culture. These first results show unclear concepts lacking practical suggestions for realization, and a vague understanding of "the intercultural" by teachers. Relating these categories to the policy documents, as well as describing the distance between what we observed in real interactions and the intercultural goals and pedagogical recommendations will be the final steps of our work. Discussion One of the targets of this study is to exchange knowledge on interculturality, diversity and schooling by comparing empirical research from Italy and the Netherlands. The first findings reveal the need for a better alignment between European pedagogical recommendations, national policies, intercultural goals, and teaching practices. For this, we need more research on actual teaching practices (Gay, 2015). As intercultural classroom interactions are very complex, they should appear more in empirical research, that is not just focusing on recommending what should be done, but on showing what is happening. This paper focuses on a comparison between the analyses of in-service teachers’ educational actions conducted in small scale research projects in both the countries and even if the analysis is still in progress, similar weak practices were noticed in the two contexts. We believe that peer learning and sharing knowledge could be beneficial for relating theory, perspectives and actions on interculturality. As a first step of a future research collaboration, this study moves toward the internationalization of research about intercultural education at school.
•Agostinetto, L., Bugno, L. (2016). Towards congruence between teachers’ intentions and practice in intercultural education. First results of an Italian qualitative research. Manuscript submitted for publication •European Commission (2017). Preparing teachers for diversity, the role of initial teacher education. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved from http://www.readyproject.eu/uploads/files/1502579119PreparingTeachersforDiversity.pdf •Gay, G. (2015) Teacher’s beliefs about cultural diversity, problems and possibilities. In Fives, H. Gregoire Gill, M. (Eds.) International handbook of research on teacher’s beliefs. (p. 436-452). New York, NY: Routledge. •Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2017) Letter to parlement on strengthening citizenship education (kamerbrief over het versterken van burgerschapsonderwijs). Den Haag. Retrieved from https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2017/02/07/kamerbrief-over-versterking-burgerschapsonderwijs •Miur (2007). La via italiana per la scuola interculturale e l'integrazione degli alunni stranieri. (The Italian way for an intercultural school and integration of foreign students). Retreived from http://hubmiur.pubblica.istruzione.it/alfresco/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/cecf0709-e9dc-4387-a922-eb5e63c5bab5/documento_di_indirizzo.pdf •OECD (2017) Trends shaping Education spotlight 11. People on the Move. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/spotlight11-PeopleontheMove.pdf •UNESCO (2006) Unesco Guidelines on Intercultural education. Paris: Unesco. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001478/147878e.pdf
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