The US is a culturally diverse nation. Nowhere is this more clearly reflected than in workplaces and learning environments. Cultural diversity adds value to learning environments and enhances the school experience for students. Population experts have pointed to the need for students to embrace cultural diversity as this facilitates positive learning outcomes. Embracing different cultures involves learning how to accept and interact with others in an ethnically diverse environment. The increasingly multiethnic composition in schools presents teachers with a major professional challenge.
For students enrolled in various learning programs, academic success now involves learning how to cope with each other. For teachers, effective instructional strategies must be culturally responsive for all students. It is vital that one group of students does not feel privileged over other groups. Below are some ways in which teachers can build cultural awareness and sensitivity among students.
Emphasizing Mutual Respect
Teachers must play a lead role in establishing ground rules for students in classrooms, with regards to cultural awareness and sensitivity. They should also encourage students to participate in establishing these rules, to promote individual responsibility in promoting cultural tolerance. Teachers must make it very clear that there is no room for disrespect of different cultures in the classroom. This helps to promote respect for diversity in learning environments.
Fostering Emotional Safety
If students are to be active participants in classroom activities, emotional safety is crucial. Teachers must encourage students to respect each other’s opinion and show sensitivity for different cultures represented in the classroom. Once students understand the need to be respectful to each other, it fosters a feeling of emotional safety, which facilitates positive learning outcomes for all.
Multicultural Education Activities
By including more multicultural activities in learning activities, teachers can encourage students to embrace diversity. When students are able to identify their culture and recognize other cultural groups in the classroom, they begin to think more critically about the need for cultural tolerance. Multicultural activities also allow students to play a more active role in the learning process. Teachers need to continually encourage the active participation of all students during discussions.
Structured Classroom Activities
When teachers employ structured instructional techniques, it helps to promote cultural awareness amongst students. For teachers, this entails acknowledging the diverse learning groups in the classroom and devising activities that require the contribution of each student. This is an excellent way of promoting the students’ awareness of diversity in the classroom. By being active participants in various learning groups, students begin to appreciate that each member in a group can engage positively in the learning process, regardless of ethnicity.
When training for the field, teachers must meet various requirements. In California, one of the training requirements involves earning a single or multiple subject teaching credential, depending on the level of schooling. Along with other requirements, a subject teaching credential qualifies you for the California teaching credential. Although teachers take courses that prepare them to teach ethnically diverse student bodies, the majority of teachers report challenges when teaching in the classroom. Teaching tolerance is a vital principle in fostering cultural diversity in schools. This necessitates having an open mind to new ways, beliefs and thoughts.
In the multicultural classroom, teachers must shed old practices, modify their outlook and change traditions. Teaching diversity also entails asking open-ended questions. Rather than present questions to students which compels them to respond in terms of just one cultural group, teachers need to be more inclusive in asking questions. This works more effectively in subjects such as history and geography, which allow for a focus on various cultural groups. When teachers ask open-ended questions, it also encourages all the students to participate in the learning process as each student feels that they can identify with the subject matter. By embracing these principles, teachers can play a crucial role in creating a climate of diversity and fostering cultural awareness in schools.
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How important is cultural diversity at your school? (2012) Great Schools.