Multicultural education is not something that is straight forward, it is not something that comes easy, nor is it quick. It takes time, it takes discipline, it takes some planning and gaining awareness towards something new. Before this method of teaching can be implemented in a classroom the educator has to take a look at themselves. Through a series of exploration the educator has to be open to examining their own bias and stereotypes towards other races and groups of people different from themselves. Therefore, once these self-assessments have been taken the multicultural educator is able to implement the culture of all students into instructional practices and curriculum in order to meet their needs.
Multicultural education is dynamic, therefore it has several different layers:
The five dimensions of Multicultural Education
- Content integration
- Educators integrate the culture of African, Mexican and Asian Americans into the curriculum. Although this is an important step in making multi-culture matter, it is not the only step. Most teachers stop here believing that they have done enough. It is not enough, our students need more to keep them engage.
- Knowledge construction
- Educators open students eyes to cultural assumptions through a series of investigation, referencing and understanding. This step helps students become aware of their peers and the world around them. It helps them learn how to shed their own bias.
- Equity pedagogy
- This step forces educators to rethink their lessons and curriculum to fit student needs. To meet all students it become imperative that using old methods of teaching no longer work. Instead, educators need to try new things and find what meets the needs of the students they teach.
- Prejudice reduction
- Limiting the beliefs that children have about each other is key. They often come to the school environment with bias and stereotypes towards other races. This may come from their parents, guardians, environment or community that surrounds them. It is important for the educators to step in to change these misconceptions.
- Empowering school culture and social structure
- For the student body to change, the whole school has to change. More teachers have to be dedicated to multicultural teaching. This implementation has to be school wide. The staff of the school needs to represent the outside world, the melting pot we live in. Sending our children messages about culture is not going to stick if the staff isn’t being represented culturally.
How Multicultural education impacts student learning
The education system in America has undergone several changes throughout history due to the changes taking place in our country. With our country being considered as a melting pot or salad bowl, it was evident at one point that the children of this country cannot fit into one box. With permanent residency in place and a growing number of immigration throughout the years, a change in the system was imperative. Reaching “all children” became important because it was obvious that the system that was created to meet the needs of only one type of child was no longer working.
Culture became a topic of discussion as leaders began to realize something else was missing. Prior to this realization culture was not important, nor relevant to the classroom. Other aspects of these children lives outside of school wasn’t being talked about in the classroom, or encouraged among their peers. When culture isn’t relevant, neither is learning. When this is the case learning becomes about numbers, what grade point average does a student have, what grades did they get on a test, and how well they scored on standardized testing. This type of teaching leaves no room for expressive creative learning. Learning takes place through interaction with peers, teachers and relevant discussion. Learning happens when students can be expressive, open, and engaged in topics they can relate to through life experiences.
Action steps: Changing the way we think
The achievement gap in the education system has become a concern for the past couple of decades. Our old way of teaching and learning is no longer working. In order to minimize this gap, the mindset of the leaders, teachers, administrators and community needs to change. Some of these changes include:
High expectations from teachers-Educators must be willing to get to know and understand each individual student in their classroom. So, minimizing their own bias and stereotypes is only the beginning.
Cultural congruence in instruction-Educators have to make their lessons and practices relevant to the children in the classroom. That involves becoming aware of the community they live in, gaining understanding of their likes and dislikes. Therefore, bringing in real world elements into the classroom will help students gain a better understanding of the content being taught.
Teacher knowledge of and respect for cultural traditions-Educators have to gain an understanding of their students beliefs, values, customs and cultural traditions. So, finding ways to implement these experiences into the classroom will increase student engagement.
Teaching strategies that promote meaningful participation-Encouraging students to discuss and collaborate helps build classroom community. Therefore, it is important for students to know that they have a voice and using it on a daily basis can help boost the confidence level of students.
Becoming a multicultural educator
Becoming a multicultural educator today is imperative to the success of the future of our country. So, the faces in our classrooms are starting to change and it is important as educators that we are ready to support these changes. Becoming a multicultural educator does not happen over night, it happens gradually as we begin to pay attention to our thoughts. Educators need to take the time to become educated beyond the classroom through self discovery and exploration, change will begin to happen. As a result, we will then be able to create ways to expand our everyday instruction in order to meet the needs of all our students.