Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Multiculturalism/Responsibilities

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How has our multicultural world changed the responsibilities of teachers?
Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.

—R.D. Clyde

Teachers are facing new challenges everyday due to an interdependent, technologically advanced, global society that we now live in today. Traditional teaching methods are being challenged to focus more on the needs of students in today’s society. One factor that teachers must learn to adjust to is the more multicultural dynamic that classrooms deal with now. Wikipedia asserts that multiculturalism is, “The idea that modern societies should embrace and include distinct cultural groups with equal social status.” Students are diverse; they come from different backgrounds, families, lifestyles, environments, and locations, and some don’t speak English. The task for teachers today is to adapt their teaching style to encompass all the diversity they may have in the classroom.

School Accountability[edit]

Schools are constantly changing and teachers will see students from all walks of life in their classrooms. The problem is that teachers may not be adjusting to the fact that students from a different culture may need an alternative style of teaching to bring them to their full potential. An article in the Journal of Cases in Education Leadership points out that the government has taken steps in the recent past to make schools accountable for achievement among all of their students. In 2002, the government signed the No Child Left Behind Act. This document requires that schools are now measured by “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). This calls for a measurement of five categories, all students, racial/ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency. This law is important because it holds schools and teachers accountable for how well each category of students does rather than an average of everyone lumped together.

Identifying the Problem: Resistance and Training[edit]

Schools that are beginning to attempt a change toward encompassing all students’ needs have the challenge of convincing teachers it is necessary. The Educational Administration Quarterly presents in an article that many teachers believe that minority students or low income students have behavior problems or are slow learners. The problem is that teachers are unwilling to see that they must change their style to help these students realize their full potential. For example, a principal attempting to incorporate school justice found that teachers thought minority or low income students to be a distraction rather than a challenge. He commented on resistance from staff and parents, ‘There was this nostalgic feeling, that “if-we-only-had-those-good-students-again’ mentality, and what that meant was ‘if we had all White middle-class students again the way it used to be’ a lot of resistance to doing things differently to looking at our need to change, to being reflective, to planning together…” With principals like these however, schools are starting to help teachers and parents realize that these kids need the same opportunities to learn as their white counterparts. This attitude is partly not teachers’ fault due to a lack of training in diversity during teacher education. In an article in the Journal of Early Childhood Research the author points out that most teachers feel that they have not been trained to address multiculturalism in the classroom. This is something that must be changed; teachers must be educated in ways to deal with the special needs of their students. Teachers should also interact with the community to get a better understanding of the cultures they are dealing with in the classroom. Once they begin, there can be more progress in this issue.

Advocating Change[edit]

Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.

—Allen Bloom

Many schools and teachers have gotten the message and have begun to advocate change for students and teachers alike. In the journal Educational Policy, the author researches a program whose purpose is to educate teachers in multiculturalism and help them to change their teaching practices. This article claims that the project’s goal is “to establish more inquiry based, gender-inclusive, and culturally relevant learning environments.” Maxima was a project created to educate teachers in diversity in their classrooms and how to manage it. Teachers were selected in the Southwest border states of the United States. Each summer there was a two week long institute and teachers also met every month where the participants would attend and discuss the curriculum they were using in their classroom to address this issue.

The requirements and ideas that were contributed to these educators’ new style of teaching came from something called Sociotransformative Constructivism (STC). The article defines STC as being, “drawn from multicultural education (a theory of social justice) and social constructivism (a theory of learning).” There are three major guidelines that the project hoped to include into teaching practices. They are

"1. Being responsive and theoretically explicit: Professional development experiences that promote multicultural understanding are responsive to teacher needs while explicitly acknowledging the theoretical underpinnings of the facilitators of the experiences. School and university agendas are shared and merged to create meaningful professional development experiences that include the modeling and naming of curricular and pedagogical practices that align with the theoretical orientation of the project, in this case, sociotransformative constructivism (STC).

2. Ongoing and on-site support: Professional development experiences that promote multicultural understanding provide ongoing and on-site professional support including modeling STC activities, making resources and equipment readily available, and supporting STC activities in the teachers’ classrooms.

3. Reflexive approaches to collaboration: Professional development experiences that promote multicultural understanding provide reflexive2 approaches to collaboration, building a community of learners, including teachers, student teachers, university professors, and graduate students, that provides continuous opportunities for professional dialogue across and within school contexts."

In this attempt, the researchers tried to give teachers the training and development needed to address diversity in their classrooms. They followed up with support and activities that would reinforce these practices so that they could be implemented in the classroom.

Next the researchers interviewed the participants three times a year. They wanted to know how Maxima had helped them, how had it changed their teaching, their classes, and how it affected learning overall. They wanted to know how this experience compared to other professional training and what the teachers believed would improve the project or should be changed. They found that teachers felt like they had support in their endeavor and that they were able to share ideas and see how they work. They also felt that the project helped to raise awareness about multiculturalism in the classroom. The participants thought that they were able to become motivated to address diversity and they were given the right tools to incorporate STC in the classroom. The main element that teachers responded to the most positively was that the project incorporated models of how to apply the STC methods. They found that in training they are rarely shown how to incorporate what they are learning in the classroom rather they were just being taught a method and sent on their way. This way, they can see examples of how to use their new learning in their classrooms.

This project is just one way that teachers and teacher educators are changing their responsibilities in the classroom to address every type of student they may encounter. This is just one step in a direction to help teachers learn to recognize diversity as another goal to achieve in their mission to educate every child as best as possible.

Conclusion[edit]

Now that multiculturalism has become a part of every day life and that we are living in a global environment it is imperative for teachers to adapt to a new style of teaching to encompass this factor. Teachers must not only recognize that diverse students will have different needs they must realize that they must change themselves to address it. Higher education must bring in projects and classes devoted to teaching educators how to take the next step and implement a style of teaching that will fulfill the potential of every student.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

What does multiculturalism mean?
A. There are lots of cultures in the world.
B. Some cultures are better than others.
C. Different cultures must be recognized as equal and important.
D. There are only different cultures in different countries .

C. Different cultures must be recognized as equal and important.

The No Child Left Behind Act says:
A. Students must get a certain average to be able to graduate.
B. School achievement is measured by the progress of every type of student.
C. Students cannot be in the school building after hours.
D. Students that have bad grades cannot be treated worse than students with good grades.

B. School achievement is measured by the progress of every type of student.

What are two example of problems schools are facing while trying to adapt to the diversity in their classrooms?
A. Teachers are resistant because think students are just doing poorly because they don’t try not because of their teaching style.
B. Teachers don’t care if their students do well.
C. Schools try to separate the different students into a different class
D. Teachers don’t know how to teach their class in a way that diverse students can learn just as well because they are not trained to do so.

A and D.

What makes students diverse in the classroom?
A. Speak a different language than the teacher.
B. Different lifestyle than most of the students in the class.
C. Have different ideas about what is important to learn.
D. Want to learn more about things in their own culture.
E. All of the above.

E. All of the above.

What is one effective way that educators can train teachers to deal with multiculturalism in the classroom.
A. Make them move to a different school that has different kids.
B. Tell them to look it up on the internet and figure out how to teach differently.
C. Just teach them that different kids will need some different teaching styles.
D. Teach them methods to teaching different students and show them examples of how to incorporate those methods.

D. Teach them methods to teaching different students and show them examples of how to incorporate those methods.

Minorities or low income students need to be viewed by the teachers as
A. Bullies rather than victims.
B. Challenges rather than distractions.
C. Followers not leaders.
D. All of the above.

B. Challenges rather than distractions.

What does STC stand for?
A. Student-teacher communication.
B. Student-teacher confrontation.
C. Social and technological constants.
D. Sociotransformative Constructivism.

D. Sociotransformative Constructivism.

What are guidelines teachers can include in their practices according to project Maxima?
A. Being responsive and theoretically explicit.
B. Ongoing and on-site support.
C. Reflexive approaches to collaboration.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

Mrs. Williams have a very diverse classroom, this means that her students
A. Come from different backgrounds, families, lifestyles, environments, and locations, and some don’t speak English.
B. All come from middle class families.
C. Are of one religious background.
D. All come from a single parent household.

A. Come from different backgrounds, families, lifestyles, environments, and locations, and some don’t speak English.

You are a new teacher at a school that is culturally diverse, what should you do to get a better understanding of the cultures you will be dealing with?
A. Avoid them at all cost.
B. Just teach in the best way you know how.
C. Interact with the community, so that you can better understand their cultures.
D. Ignore the children who are not of you ethnic background.

C. Interact with the community, so that you can better understand their cultures.

Mr. Abrams have a few students in his class that come from low income families, what should he do to motivate them to become better learners?
A. Put them all in the back of the class and ignore them.
B. Pair them up with students who are at the top of the class.
C. Tell them that they will never succeed at anything.
D. Tell them that you are not responsible for their learning.

B. Pair them up with students who are at the top of the class.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Why do schools need to address multiculturalism in the classroom? What are the problems facing schools that are trying to deal with diverse students? What are some of the ways that the school system can improve on this issue.

Schools are facing an issue that is fast becoming imperative to address. Students are not all the same and different students require different needs. Students from different backgrounds, who speak a different language, or come from a low-income family may not understand the subject matter as well as students that come from the same type of lifestyle as their teacher. Schools are beginning to recognize this as a problem but they are unable to make progress because of resistance from teachers as well as a lack of training. Some teachers believe that students in their class that have special needs or do not have a complete understanding of their style of teaching are behavioral problems or are a distraction to other students. These teachers must realize that these students may just need a different style of teaching to comprehend. However, if teachers wish to address the diversity of their students, they may not be able to because they lack the training to do so. Teacher Education does not address methods and ways that teachers can address the diversity of their students. One way to do this is for higher education to incorporate classes for teachers to learn how to teach in different ways that may help all of their students comprehend the class on the same level. Also, schools can create programs to train their existing teachers some methods in addressing diversity as well. Language training for teachers as well as education about different cultures can help them gather a better understanding of their where there students are coming from. Lastly it is important for teachers to get involved with parents and the community to promote further understanding.


It is important that every education facility and instructor address the issue of multiculturalism. Schools are becoming more and more diverse as time goes on and every instructor should know how to effectively teach all types of students without discrimination, prejudice, or hesitance. Some schools face problems with diversity because of the lack of education on the teachers’ parts. Their employees may not be knowledgeable of the differences in cultures of their students, and children are often left out of instruction by pure accident. It is important that schools handle this issue in order to effectively teach students. Schools should make it mandatory for their teachers to attend classes on multiculturalism and make sure that each teacher is aware of the differences in students. Schools would be more successful if this issue was addressed more openly. —Ellen Grau

References[edit]

  • Hughes, Patrick, Macnaughton, Glenda. “Teaching Respect for Cultural Diversity in Australian Early Childhood Programs: A Challenge for Professional Learning.” Journal Of Early Childhood Research, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 189-204, June 2007.
  • Salmonowicz, Michael J. “Scott O'Neill and Lincoln Elementary School: Preventing a Slide From Good to Worse.” Journal Of Cases In Educational Leadership, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 28-37, June 2007.
  • Schuerholz-lehr, Sabine. “Teaching for Global Literacy in Higher Education: How Prepared Are the Educators?” Journal Of Studies In International Education, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 180-204, June 2007.
  • Theoharis, George. “Social Justice Educational Leaders and Resistance: Toward a Theory of Social Justice Leadership .” Educational Administration Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 221-258, April 2007.
  • Zozakiewicz, Cathy; Rodriguez, Alberto J. “ Using Sociotransformative Constructivism to Create Mutlicultural and Gender-Inclusive Classrooms: An Intervention Project for Teacher Professional Development.” Educational Policy, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 397-425, May 2007.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism