Today’s classrooms are diverse and you will be expected to meet the needs of all of your students. Many of our students come from different cultures, which affects how they learn. We must take this into consideration when developing our lesson plans, making our role as an educator even more complex. As a result, we must be informed of our students’ cultural backgrounds as this includes another element of cognitive understanding that will guide our instructional practices. By understanding student culture, we can gain insight into learning preferences, interests, motivation, and prior knowledge.
Based on the important features of multicultural education found in Figure 4.6 of our text and selecting a specific content standard from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), develop a learning activity that includes these key features of multicultural education:
a. Integration of content – How does your learning activity incorporate content from different cultures?
b. Reducing Prejudice – How does the learning activity attempt to minimize any of your own prejudices as well as your students?
c. Making Teaching Equitable – How does the instructional approach to your learning activity meet the needs of all your students by recognizing learning styles, interests, and motivation to help achieve academic potential?
d. Empowering Learners – How does the learning activity empower all students to work toward their academic potential?
e. Construction of Knowledge – How does your learning activity promote different perspectives that validate how culture influences knowledge and beliefs?
Be sure to first provide your content standard from the CCSS followed by your learning activity. Then explain how your learning activity meets each element of multicultural education by providing evidence to justify and support your assertions. Then reflect on your K-12 school experience. Was a multicultural education part of your schooling? What factors may have contributed to the inclusion or exclusion of a multicultural education in your own early schooling? Make sure to incorporate the five key features of multicultural education in your reflection.
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table 4.6 below
The Goals of Multicultural Education
Multicultural education is a loosely defined concept that reflects the attempts of educators to take into consideration the cultural diversity oftheir classrooms and communities. And because it is very difficult to separate culture from language, in the majority of cases, multiculturaleducation is also multilingual—that is, it involves instruction in more than one language.
Ideally, explains Banks (2006), multicultural education accomplishes several tasks, each of which is reflected in the five key features ofmulticultural education shown in Figure 4.6.
Important features of multicultural education.
Adapted from Banks, J. A. (2006). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations,curriculum and teaching (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
First, it integrates information and examples from a variety of different cultures, making all students, in a sense, culture literate. This feature ofmulticultural education might involve modifying the curriculum to include units on different cultures.
Second, it helps students understand how knowledge and beliefs are influenced by cultures (and by social class and language). One example ofthis, the construction of knowledge dimension of multicultural education, might involve having learners view historical events, such as thediscovery of the American continent, from many different points of view. How might the indigenous people already here view this event? Howabout the discoverers? The people still in the old countries who financed the voyages of discovery? The missionaries who soon followed? Yourgrandparents? Your parents?
Third, and extremely important in an increasingly tribalistic world, it reduces racial prejudice by increasing understanding and tolerance of otherpeople and other belief systems.
Fourth, it reduces racial, social-class, and gender inequities by making teaching equitable. That is, it looks for instructional approaches thatprovide each child with the greatest probability of achieving at the highest potential level.
And fifth, it empowers all students so that even those from disadvantaged backgrounds, or very different cultural groups, can acquireinformation and skills and the confidence and sense of personal power necessary to succeed.
The Second-Language Debate
Multicultural education, as we saw, is often multilingual—or, more precisely, bilingual, because in many North American schools there is aclearly identifiable main second language. As a result, numerous bilingual, immersion, or English as a Second Language (ESL) programs havebeen established. Multicultural education is enormously challenging. In particular, the question of which language—or languages—should beused and taught in schools has been intensely controversial. As Ginn (2008) puts it, “Many Americans have an opinion on bilingual education,and for most it is a matter of strong conviction” (p. 7). In the United States, there have been powerful movements toward doing away withbilingual programs and throwing all children into the same “sink or swim” classrooms (see, for example, Duignan, 2008).
Ironically, support against bilingual programs comes from two sources: parents of English-speaking students who fear the education of theirchildren is being shortchanged as a result of too many resources being thrown into the education of cultural minorities; and parents of Hispanicstudents who fear their children aren’t learning English fast enough or well enough in bilingual programs. In addition, as Wyman and colleagues(2010) point out, the “high stakes testing” that accompanies the No Child Left Behind Act (and that underlies the Race to the Top initiative)present additional incentives for school systems to present English-only programs. That’s because bilingual schools are accountable for the samecurriculum as English-only schools, but they face the added responsibility of developing or maintaining proficiency in a second language.
Not surprisingly, the debate over second-language programs has strong advocates on both sides. On one side are powerful, well-funded, andhighly vocal groups of English-only advocates who argue that English should be designated the official language, as it has now been in at least25 states (English-only movement, 2011). Many members of English-only movements are firmly opposed to the use of public resources forbilingual education.
On the other side of the second-language debate are those who believe that education should be multicultural and multilingual. They argue thatfocusing exclusively on English-only programs does a disservice to bilingual learners and violates their civil rights (Reyes & Kleyn, 2010).Theirbeliefs are expressed in the English-plus movement, which arose in response to the English-only movement. Its goals are to promote languagediversity primarily through multicultural and second-language programs.
The most highly developed second-language programs in the United States are the dual-language immersion programs (also called two-waydual language programs) (García, 2008). In these programs, instruction is split between two languages, sometimes on a 50-50 basis andsometimes according to some other predetermined ratio. In dual-language programs, classes include all students: native English speakers,nonnative English speakers, and those who are bilingual. As illustrated in the case “Buen Amigos and False Friends”, in dual-immersion classes,instruction sometimes takes place in both languages simultaneously. At other times, one language may be used for one lesson or subject, andthe second language for another (Reyes & Kleyn, 2010).
Cases from the Classroom: Buen Amigos and False Friends
The Place: Miss Robinson’s seventh-grade dual-immersion (Spanish-English) class
The Situation: A language lesson
Miss Robinson: Who knows the Spanish word for one billion?
Juan: No. Es mil millones.
Miss Robinson: Right, Juan. But that was a good guess, Edward, billón es una buena palabra española. But it means one trillion, not onebillion! That’s what we call a false friend—un amigo falso.
Tamara: You mean like a word that sounds the same but means something else. Like carpeta that sounds like it should mean carpet but itdoesn’t.
Miss Robinson: Good example. ¿Tienen otros ejemplos de amigos falsos?
Students quickly come up with a short list: constipación (which doesn’t mean constipation); compromiso (which doesn’t mean compromise);éxito (which is not the exit); largo (which doesn’t mean large); ropa (which is not a rope); sano (which doesn’t mean sane). . . .
Miss Robinson: Now can you think of words that sound or look the same in both languages and have the same meaning? ¿Palabras que sonbuen amigos?
Roberto: Clima and tarifa and juvenil
Marcela: And subterráneo and tranquilo and ocupado . . .
Miss Robinson: Escribamos en la pizarra una lista de amigos falsos y otra de buen amigos ¿Vale?
In this Chinese bilingual school, a warm, humanistic touch is usedwhere pupils select the smart board “face” that indicates how theyfeel in the morning and place it next to their Mandarin names.Note the scowling face on the left. When the teacher asked, “Whydid you choose an unhappy face?” the boy replied, “Because I’mmad at my brother.”
Also very common are total language immersion programs. In essence, totallanguage immersion involves entering an environment where only thelanguage that is to be learned is spoken. Among the different kinds ofimmersion programs are what are sometimes called “elite” programs forspeakers of the dominant language who want to develop proficiency in asecond language. These are a form of linguistic enrichment typically offered forchildren of well-educated, higher socioeconomic status parents. Immersionprograms for nonspeakers of the dominant language are usually programs forchildren who need to learn the dominant language as rapidly and as well aspossible. These are programs typically provided for children of immigrantparents. They are very common in states such as California, which has a veryhigh Hispanic population.
The results of research on the effectiveness of second-language programs aresomewhat contradictory—perhaps because of the highly emotional nature ofthe issue. Some studies suggest that bilingual programs for children whospeak a different native language are not always very effective, especially indeveloping proficiency in the dominant language. As a result, parents ofminority-language children sometimes advocate for English-only instruction(Freedman, 2008).
In general, however, the research indicates that immersion programs can behighly effective for teaching a second language (García, 2005). Manyparticipants quickly reach high levels of proficiency in understanding andspeaking the second language, as well as in reading and writing; although,most do not reach as high a level of proficiency as native speakers. Giftedlearners, in particular, can quickly excel in both languages (Green et al., 2011). And most of the research supports the notion that lateracademic performance is not impeded by early exposure to language immersion (Cobb, Vega, & Kronauge, 2009).