How to build culturally inclusive and resilient ELEMENTARY classrooms and what types of supports are in communities that can facilitate student efforts to overcome cultural gaps in the home and in the school (elementary/secondary school level) A culturally inclusive classroom may consist of extremely diverse ethnic composition of students. With new immigration, more and more students are entering school, with little or no knowledge of English and have diverse educational and cultural backgrounds.
A recent study on 400 school children in California shows that only 4% of enrolled children come from a single racial group (Chang, 1993). This has resulted in making of classrooms that have students coming from various nationalities, languages, social and economic backgrounds. The growing diversity is not only a problem to the teachers who are not adequately equipped to handle them, but also to parents, who are not sure whether the child’s adaptation will help him or alienate him from his community. Efforts are made to give prominence to the learning of the children with diverse backgrounds.
Anti-bias curricula, use of home language and culture of the child, is recommended by National Assessment for Education of Young children, to foster learning of English and basic skills. It aims to make the first school experience a positive one. The forum on the Future of Children and Families held a workshop in 1993 in order to frame a sketch, to assess the scope of adequacy of research in early education of culturally diverse children. It tried to assess the most important factors in the early childhood education of a diverse group of students.
Efforts were made to understand the influence of culture on human development and emphasis was laid on examining differences within culture and outside culture. Claude Goldenberg warned against treatment of culture as ‘straitjacket that predetermines the learning experience that children benefit from’ ( Goldenberg . C. 1987). It was observed and accepted that exposure at home influenced the adaptation of the children to school norms and environment. The workshop structured three questions that came up as a result of in depth study. These were-
• What role was played by the culture and home experience in shaping learning opportunities? • How the cultural and linguistic background of children affects the knowledge skills and expectations they bring with them? • How should the nature of instruction vary with learning and motivation from various backgrounds? A child has to learn the rules of two environments – home and school from his pre school days i. e. , age of 3-4 years. Children who face a language and culture thoroughly different at home and school face a lot of conflicts about behavior which might result in incompatibility.
Researchers have found that inconsistency in home and school make learning difficult and adjustments uneasy. The children who do not have some insightful understanding of alphabets and numbers are likely to be left behind in class. Sharon, Griffin and her colleagues (Case and Griffin, 1990, Griffin, Case and Siegler 1992) noticed striking difference in the understanding of maths in low income groups. Claude Goldenberg & his colleagues designed an intervention to improve the early literacy achievement of Spanish speaking children in Kindergarten.
Timothy Shanahan and his colleagues designed the FLAME project to enable parents with limited expertise in Spanish to improve literacy achievements of their children. Both the projects on evaluation showed significant positive effects on the children’s literacy achievement, Goldenberg reported that control group which received structured instructions outperformed those with informal intervention. Research shows that guided learning at home can effect children’s adjustment in classrooms. Children who remain unaware of such guidance become incompatible in learning, may retreat from learning and even become disruptive.
It also showed that there was no proof to suggest that children are constrained by culture in their learning abilities. Social Setting of learning constituted teaching, learning and performance. Research with Hawaiian families showed that ( Gallimore, Boggs and Jordan, 1974) children were accustomed to learning in peer interactions and indirect supervision from teachers exhibited a decline in disruptive and inattentive behavior. Classrooms fostering independent learning seemed alien to these students.
Study made on Navajo children (Vogl, Jordan and Tharp , 1987) brought in the fact that peer group study was less prevalent in this culture. Effective classrooms brought out best performance when the children were allowed to work independently- as they did in their communities. Culture shapes conversations and paces response patterns. Pueblo Indian children give more elaborate responses and have spontaneous participation when given enough response time. (Winterton, 1977). Native Hawaiian students when given long waiting time are inhibited in participation. (White & Tharp, 1988).
Claude Goldenberg found that children learn in accustomed way of entering into a speech- guided by their culture. Latino –American students corroborated this experience, whose mothers use highly directive pattern of communication. Research evidence points to the fact that certain amount of compatibility between home and school culture is required to improve classroom activities. Goldenberg says “with the exception of same studies of cooperative learning and bilingual education, the experimental evidence linking cultural compatible instructions scholastic outcome can be very tenuous”.
Constancy in school environment may not be always wanted. Yet some parents seek it so that the child is exposed to different educational experiences. For a child, the process of adjustment to varied environment at school and home may prove beneficial in future years of schooling and multicultural environment. Differences in the two environments may compliment and reinforce their learning. A culturally inclusive environment requires mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self –reflection. (Flinders University).
In a culturally inclusive environment a student will be allowed to express his opinion freely, participate in classroom’s activities, experience stress free classes with no fear of unfair treatment or abuse. It also facilitates that teachers are approachable and open to concepts and ideas from different culture, allow diversity and promote a relaxed setting of learning. When teaching students from diverse background, a teacher needs to plan out his instruction with attention and care, with skills and strategies, specialized with an array of educational aids and materials.
He has to keep in mind certain facts about his students, their experience in school, home and outside school and design the curriculum in accordance with their exposure. It should also be guided by the strengths and weaknesses of their experience. Teachers need to connect to the experience of his students. Reading about flowers, fruits, animals children are not familiar with in their culture or may not have been exposed to, makes it meaning less for the child. Readings to build vocabulary and comprehension are meaningful, when the child can connect to it.
He also understands that his views are being respected, making him feel secure . Children are intelligent to sense if the support for diverse culture is superficial or genuine. Ysseldyke, Algozzine & Thurlow point out that a teacher needs to ask himself if the curriculum is tailored to the interest of the student, are the study materials used in any way reflective of cultural or ethnic diversity. He also needs to be aware of the learning styles adapted by his students. The curriculum needs to be complete and accurate and have materials for all the students.
It should avoid being symbolic and should not make the underrepresented group feel ‘the other’. Check should be made to see that the curriculum does not discriminate. Teaching materials used should be unbiased and un-oppressive (male centric, race centric etc). The content must explore a large angle of variety, be accurate and complete. Students need to be made aware about the issues of social justice. Lessons on racism, sexism, classism and other forms of oppression need to be facilitated and discussed in class, to enhance the awareness. In the assessment student feedback should be encouraged.
Teachers should work with each other and critically appreciate each others work . Teachers could introduce various awareness activities in the class. Participants can introduce themselves and share their ethnicity, similarities and diversities with other members of the group Students may be encouraged to speak on their multi-cultural experiences . Some activities may include students sharing their identity through a poem. Sharing experiences of prejudices or discrimination as a sufferer or doer, personal experience of gender-bias may be discussed.
Students can be encouraged to relate aspects of their personality, identity. Feeling of inclusion or exclusion in a learning process and multicultural awareness quiz etc may be conducted. A model developed by Australian Ministries of Education, aimed at education of educational equality of indigenous people, focused on three areas- community, school and classroom. Parents, Teachers, care givers, and previous school needed to be involved in a common understanding and adopting new approach to teaching of students from multicultural backgrounds. Strong partnerships between school and homemakers made the study supportive.
School officials had the duty to look after and assist each student in the development of essential skills and attitude of the students to work independently, cooperatively and responsibly. The programs monitoring and assessment provided vital clues to the future direction of the curriculum. It stated the importance of assessment made as a joint effort between students, parents and community members who provide important input in the assessment. The data collected by various workshops and research points out to the fact that there is more room for study to be made on improvising culturally inclusive schools, classrooms.
Very few teachers are trained and equipped to handle such diverse culture classes. Coordination between community and schools are wanted, to make a complete, homogeneous education to students from diverse cultural background. . References Case, R. , and S. Griffin 1990 Child cognitive development: The role of central conceptual structures in the development of scientific and social thought. In C-A. Hauert ed. , Developmental Psychology: Cognitive, Perceptuo-Motor and Psychological Perspectives. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier. Chang, H.
1993 Affirming Children’s Roots: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Early Care and Education. San Francisco, Calif. : California Tomorrow. Gallimore, R. , J. W. Boggs, and C. Jordan 1974 Culture, Behavior, and Education: A Study of Hawaiian-Americans. Beverly Hills, Calif. : Sage. Goldenberg, C. 1987 Low-income Hispanic parents’ contributions to their first-grade children’s word-recognition skills. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 18:149-179. In press. Promoting early literacy development among Spanish-speaking children: Lessons from two studies. In E. Hiebert, ed.
, Teaching Children to Read: The State of Early Interventions. Boston, Mass. : Allyn & Bacon Griffin, S. , R. Case, and R. Siegler 1992 Rightstart: Providing the Central Conceptual Prerequisites for First Formal Learning of Arithmetic to Students at Risk for School Failure. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Education, Clark University. Howard Weiner, Adelphi University, Garden city, New York, Culturally Insulated Students : Assessing the Diversity Disposition Cap in a Predominantly White University with a New Instrument, the Culturally Responsive Educator Test.
Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 1, September 2005. National Association for the Education of Young Children 1989 The Anti-bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. Washington, D. C. : National Association for the Education of Young Children. National Association for Family Day Care 1990 Helping Children Love Themselves and Others: A Professional Handbook for Family Day Care Providers. Washington, D. C. : National Association for Family Day Care.