Within the classroom setting, diversity takes into consideration several characteristics including socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity, giftedness, and student learning disability among others. According to Dack & Tomlinson (2015), cultural differences are more likely to make teachers misunderstand students. When children join the school, they usually have to struggle with comprehending a new language and a socio-economic background they are not used to back at home. When teaching in today’s classrooms, teachers must ensure that the teaching strategies meet the needs of every student. Unfortunately, teachers face various challenging when ensuring that the teaching strategies are appropriate for a culturally diverse classroom. In this context, we identify and acknowledge that one of the challenges teachers face is admitting that there is a difference and children are not the same. The second problem involves establishing a cultural collaboration for the instructional setting and school, and the third challenge includes implementing a culturally responsive teaching strategies. In addition to the above, we will also discuss the cultural problems using the sociological perspective of conflict theory. Lastly, we will use Piaget’s theory of preoperational stage of development and relate it to the cultural challenges and ways in which teachers can address the challenges related to culture in a way that boosts the cognitive advancement and academic success of a child.
Challenges Related to Culture Differences
Acknowledging Student Differences
Students have different levels of understanding, motivation, attitudes and respond differently to the classroom environment and instructional practices. The overlapping variable that influences a student’s behavior include categories of identity such as ethnicity, social class, place of origin, religion, and learning abilities. For teachers to be effective, they must be able to acknowledge that every child in the instructional setting is unique (Moore, 2016). Unfortunately, despite its importance, most teachers are unable to meet the cultural and personal challenges of children. Ideally, what makes it hard is that, teachers are often forced to bend down to the student’s demands, needs, and special interests, which may not align with the interests of the other students.
Establishing a cultural collaboration
Usually, teachers are aware of the disparities that exist among the students. Unfortunately, it is not easy for teachers to nurture a culture of acceptance and students may feel rejected within the instructional setting because of the cultural differences. More precisely, it becomes hard for the teacher to understand the different attitudes, the tone of voice and behavior when interacting with students. Some students may also be hostile towards their peers based on their differences, which becomes hard for the teacher. Establishing a cultural collaboration, where every student needs is acknowledged is a challenge because it may end up hurting others.
Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
Ideally, a culturally responsive teaching strategy plays an important role in connecting students’ cultural knowledge, past experiences, and shaping their thinking process about academic performance (Gay, 2015). By embracing a culturally responsive teaching strategy, teachers negotiate classroom cultures with students and help students to grow reflecting their identity. However, achieving this is challenging since teachers are required to transcend their cultural biases and preferences in order to develop and learning patterns that engage and sustain the participation of the students and achievement. As gay goes on to elaborate, teachers are also likely to encounter ambiguities and uncertainties when engaging in cultural diversity as well as explicit rejection of its value in education.
Sociological Perspective: Conflict Theory
Conflict theorists believe that the educational system in many schools reinforces and encourages inequalities that arise from disparities in social class, age, gender, ethnicity, and race among others (Omer & Jabeen, 2016). Contrary to the functionalist theorists, conflict theorists view the educational system as a tool for preserving the status quo and push people to lower statuses. Ideally, the fulfillment of a child’s education is closely linked to their social class. In this case, an education system that views students as equal and fails to acknowledge their cultural differences seem to favor children from working-class families that do not have to contend with problems. More specifically, in a situation where students are assigned an assignment to work out from home, some students may not be able to complete them within the stipulated time due to challenges and poor study environments. In a situation like this, social class reproduction takes over the classroom setting, and the dominant culture’s values are rewarded. Virtually, teaching strategies should engage all students and should not stereotype children based on their perceptions, previous knowledge, learning abilities, and social experiences among others. In particular, this means that the teacher has the ability to change the conflict theory by developing appropriate teaching strategies by adjusting how they perceive things.
Piaget’s Preoperational Stage of Development
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children usually go through four stages of mental development. The second phase of Piaget is the preoperational stage, which indicates that children think symbolically and learn to use words (Shaffer & Kipp, 2010). At this stage, children may also be egocentric and struggle to view things from other people’s perspective. By being egocentric, it means that children are more likely only to consider things from their perspective and are unable to take in other people’s view. Ideally, the concept of egocentric acknowledges that children abilities to look at things differently are not developed making it hard for them to adapt to a new environment such as a school. With this knowledge, teachers have a responsibility to promote a wider perspective of children’s cultures and ensure collaboration and implementation of a culturally responsive teaching strategy.
Addressing the Challenges Related to Culture Differences
The challenges that teachers usually face in a culturally diverse classroom include implementing culturally responsive teaching strategies, establishing a cultural collaboration, and acknowledging student differences. Teachers can address these challenges by adopting a culturally responsive classroom management and developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) teaching strategies. Ideally, the responsive classroom management is an approach that seeks to manage the classroom in a culturally sensitive method (Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, 2008). The approach aims to use student background as the foundation for learning styles. Teachers also recognize their biases and reflect on how this affects their behavior towards the students. Similarly, by implementing a culturally responsive teaching strategy, teachers understand that the goal is not to achieve compliance, but to allow students with equal learning opportunities. On the other hand, by adopting the effective DAP teaching strategies, teachers are able to choose a plan that fits the specific learning situation (10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies, n.d). The teacher considers what the children already know and designs the learning goals around this case. The teacher also remains flexible and observant to determine the most effective strategy in the learning environment.
Cultural differences will always be there. The conflict theory also asserts that the education system encourages inequalities. However, teachers have a responsibility to learn about the cultural differences that exist among the students and always strive to deliver teaching in a culturally responsive teaching strategy. By doing this, teachers ensure that all students justly feel that they belong to the specific instructional setting and are also able to realize their potentials as students and children.
10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies. (n.d) NAEYC. Retrieved from: http://www.naeyc.org/dap/10-effective-dap-teaching-strategies
Dack, H., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting All Students to Learn. Educational Leadership, 72(6), 10-15.
Gay, G. (2015). Teaching To and Through Cultural Diversity. Curriculum Inquiry, 43(1), 48-70.
Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. (2008). Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Strategies. Retrieved from: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/uploads/005/121/Culturally%20Responsive%20Classroom%20Mgmt%20Strat2.pdf
Moore, A. (2016). Teaching Multicultured Students: Culturalism and Anti-culturalism in the School Classroom. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Omer, S., & Jabeen, S. (2016). Exploring Karl Marx Conflict Theory in Education: Are Pakistani Private Schools Maintaining Status Quo? Bulletin of Education and Research, 38(2), 195-202.
Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2010). Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
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