Teaching diverse populations is a reality of education today.
Education is not just a process of communicating information, but it can shape the major thinking processes of individuals and groups. Educators have a responsibility therefore to acknowledge, respond to and celebrate all cultures represented in their classrooms, and to provide culturally responsive teaching to diverse students.
What is culturally responsive teaching?
Some of the characteristics of culturally responsive teaching include; the communication of high expectations and establishing positive perspectives on parents and families; reshaping the curriculum to include learning within the context of different cultures and establishing student-centered instruction with the teacher as facilitator.
This may seem a little daunting to a novice teacher and fortunately many resources are available to help the elementary school teacher address the differing challenges of teaching diverse populations. The eBook, Diverse Teaching Methods for Diverse Classrooms, by Dr. Patricia Fioriello is an extremely useful guide to help teachers reshape their curriculum so that it is integrated, interdisciplinary, meaningful and student-centered. Ongoing multicultural activities in the classroom bring a new awareness of cultural history, value and contributions, in an environment that encourages multicultural viewpoints.
For example, students need to understand there is more than one way to interpret an event, action or statement. By sharing perspectives based on their own cultural and social experiences, diverse students become active participants in their own learning process. It may help decrease tensions in the classroom where unacceptable behavior is prompted by students who are frustrated with instruction not meeting their needs. And it may be helpful for students from more academically able cultural groups to have a more balanced perspective and to think of others without stereotyping.
Characteristics of a diverse learning environment.
In a multi cultural society, teaching diverse populations is democratic and learning is cooperative, collaborative and community-oriented. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning projects so that they become self-confident, self-directed and proactive. When children are encouraged to interact with adults and more knowledgeable peers they learn to experiment with new ideas and receive feedback, to reinforce concepts and move towards realizing his or her potential.
All students should understand that they are expected to attain high standards in their schoolwork. Effective and consistent communication of this message helps students develop a healthy self awareness and fosters an environment for success. A teacher must be careful not to express sympathy over failure, lavish praise for completion of a simple task or offer unsolicited help as this may send messages of low expectations.
The community plays an important role.
Parents’ hopes, concerns and suggestions need to be incorporated in teaching diverse populations. Parent teacher organizations can work collaboratively for the benefit of students and home visits should encourage parents to speak freely about their expectations and concerns for their children. Communication about school activities and family nights in the parents’ first language increases the cross-cultural skills necessary for successful exchange and collaboration, and when families share information with the school community, teachers get a better idea of how their students learn. Teachers who use diverse students’ home cultural experiences as a foundation for developing knowledge and skills have found this a key criterion in teaching content and developing competence.
Educators can use the resources available in a student’s community by inviting parents or members of the community to visit the school to give a presentation or a demonstration. Have students bring artifacts from home that reflect their history and culture and have them write about their traditions. Encourage the students to start their own book clubs or discussion groups, and develop expression and participation that meets the needs of English learning students.
Teaching is a holistic approach.
Teaching diverse populations should be recognized as a holistic approach that enriches the lives of all children in the class, and the personal and academic relationship between students and their teachers is probably the most influential factor affecting success. This core relationship can be fostered by certain behaviors and instructional strategies, helped by the school already having in place a good atmosphere and strong attitudes towards diversity, community involvement and a culturally responsive curriculum.