Teaching Students From Multicultural Backgrounds Effectively
The Diverse Classroom
Teachers today face the privilege and challenge of serving incredibly diverse classrooms. Diversity takes many forms; one of the most obvious ways students are different has to do with their culture. In one classroom, you may have students that represent a dozen different cultures.
We get a lot from our cultures, including learning styles. Teachers interested in professional growth and serving all their students properly must consider multicultural learning styles.
It's About Equity
Understanding multicultural learning styles is not just about being "politically correct." It's about equity. Our job as educators is to provide an education for all of our students. In order to do that we need to remember not all our students are the same. They are different in so many ways besides their cultures, but we should consider other cultures. Our natural inclination is to teach to students who are most like us; it's subtle and unconscious, but we do it. An equitable classroom is a classroom that considers the cultural background of its students.
Learning Styles Are Multicultural Too
Each culture is different, and each student is an individual. Teachers should consider and keep track of the learning styles of all their students.
What follows are some general guidelines regarding Latino and African-American students. There will obviously be exceptions and these should not be taken as ironclad rules. If you keep these ideas in mind, however, it will help you better serve all of your students, no matter their background.
Understanding the differences between these cultural learning styles can help educators not only teach more effectively, but also work toward closing the achievement gap. By approaching multicultural students in a way that is appropriate for their culture, we can better serve their needs.
Guidelines for Teaching Latino and African-American Students
- Collaborative work
- Cooperation above competition
- Explain the immediate relevance of what is being learned
- Study of relevant Latino and/or African-American culture (people, art, music, history) in every instructional unit
- Frequent and courageous discussions about race issues
- Opportunities to move, talk, laugh, and enjoy one another
- Opportunities to demonstrate and earn credit for the use of oral language
- Group activities such as reciprocal teaching
By including the above concepts and activities in your diverse classroom, you can better serve the needs of many students. Different suggestions will apply to students from different cultures and different ability levels, of course.
Beware of Stereotypes
While you should consider a student's culture as you do the lesson planning and prepare great activities for your students, you must never reduce your students to stereotypes. Culture plays a role in defining who we are, but it is not the sum total of whom we are. It's also important to remember that just because your student's skin is a certain color, he may not be part of or identify with a particular culture. You must treat every student as an individual and do what you can to meet his or her needs. Still, it is important to keep in mind multicultural learning styles as you plan lessons and assessments and as you develop a positive classroom environment.