How to create a culturally diverse classroom
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Culturally responsive educators can recognise that reality might be perceived in many ways and that those perceptions are influenced by social and cultural status. They also have affirming views of diverse students and families and see diversity as a resource for learning rather than a deficit. They consider themselves responsible and capable of teaching in ways that respond to their diverse learners’ needs. The goal is to understand how learners construct knowledge, learn about the students’ lives, and use that knowledge to design effective instruction. A curriculum that acknowledges and responds to primary cultures offers full, equitable access to education for students from all cultures.

Some of the characteristics of culturally responsive teaching are:

  • Positive perspectives on parents and families
  • Communication of high expectations
  • Learning within the context of culture
  • Student-centred instruction
  • Culturally mediated instruction
  • Reshaping the curriculum
  • Teacher as facilitator

9 Steps to Creating a Culturally Diverse Curriculum

  1. The first step to accomplish this goal is for teachers to find useful information on students’ and families’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Teachers can implement activities that they direct or those that allow students and families to take the lead. 
  2. Keep parents informed of activities offered by the school:
    1. Send weekly/monthly newsletters informing parents of upcoming school activities.
    1. Conduct quarterly meetings with parents to keep parents up to date on their child’s progress.
    1. Host family nights at school to introduce parents to concepts and ideas children are learning in their classes and share interactive journals.
  3. Gain cross-cultural skills necessary for successful exchange and collaboration:
    1. Research the cultural background of students’ families.
    1. Participate in local events and tours to discover the students’ cultural activities and beliefs.
  4. Communicate clear expectations:
    1. Be specific in what you expect students to know and be able to do.
    1. Encourage students to meet expectations for a particular task.
    1. Offer praise when standards are met.
  5. Vary teaching strategies:
    1. Use cooperative learning, especially for material new to the students.
    1. Assign independent work after students are familiar with the concept.
    1. Use role-playing strategies.
    1. Assign students research projects that compare and contrast their cultural group to other cultural groups.
    1. Provide various options for completing an assignment.
  6. Bridge cultural differences through effective communication:
    1. Teach and talk to students about the differences between individuals.
    1. Show how differences among the students make for better learning.
  7. Devise and implement different ways for students to be successful in achieving developmental milestones: 
    1. Ensure success by setting realistic yet rigorous goals for individual students.
    1. Allow students to set their own goals for a project.
    1. Allow the use of the student’s first language to enhance learning.
  8. Use resources other than textbooks for study:
    1. Have students research aspects of a topic within their community.
    1. Encourage students to interview members of their community who know about the topic they are studying.
    1. Provide information to the students on alternative viewpoints or beliefs of a topic.
  9. Learn about students’ cultures:
    1. Have students share artifacts from home that reflect their culture.
    1. Have students write about traditions shared by their families.
    1. Have students research different aspects of their culture.

These tips offer educators the opportunity to affirm and validate those approaches and strategies they are already using. These tips create an openness to accept the reality that today’s students need more—embedding culturally responsive instruction in the full curriculum yields positive learning outcomes for many students.

Additional Sources on Culturally Responsive Curriculums

 Here’s a list of sources that are good introductions to culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum and pedagogy. Some have a K-12 focus, but many of the ideas can be adapted for higher education.

Branche, Jerome., Mullennix, John W, and Cohn, Ellen R. Diversity across the Curriculum: A Guide for Faculty in Higher Education. Bolton, Mass.: Anker Pub., 2007

Gay, Geneva. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice. 2nd ed. Multicultural Education Series (New York, N.Y.). New York: Teachers College, 2010. 

Banks, James A. Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching. Sixth ed. New York, NY; Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2016. 

Quaye, Stephen John, and Harper, Shaun R. Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations. Second ed. New York: Routledge, 2015. 

Lee, Amy; Poch, Robert; Shaw, Marta; Evans, Rhiannon. Engaging diversity in undergraduate classrooms a pedagogy for developing intercultural competence. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley Periodicals, Inc.; San Francisco, Calif. : Jossey-Bass, 2012. 

Thomas, Cornell. Inclusive Teaching Presence in the Classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning; No. 140. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014. ONLINE 

Davis, Bonnie M. How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press, 2006. 

Littleford, L. N. (2005). Understanding and expanding multicultural competence in teaching: A faculty guide. Ball State University.

Brown-Jeffy, S., & Cooper, J. E. (2011). Toward a Conceptual Framework of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: An Overview of the Conceptual and Theoretical Literature. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(1), 65-84.

By: Katina L Walton

Katina L. Walton Ed. S. Currently holds the position of Academic VP of kindergarten at Kingdom International Schools in Saudi Arabia. With over twenty years of teaching experience in elementary and university tenure, whose motto is “The legacy we leave behind, is based on the quality of education we provide.”