In current multicultural educational contexts there is an imperative to develop frameworks for addressing cultural diversity in the classroom (Burridge, Buchanan & Chodkiewicz, 2009). Superficial multicultural education perpetuates stereotypes, maintains the imbalance of power and characterises a school culture dominated by white middle class values. Alternatively culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) engages and motivates students. Culturally relevant pedagogy supports learning as “a socially mediated process… related to students’ cultural experiences” (Irvine, 2010, p 58). Schools are institutions in which cultural norms generally match mainstream values and assumptions. Students from culturally diverse backgrounds with differing cultural values can experience alienation, low self-esteem, hostility and potentially education failure.
Culturally relevant pedagogy is a term that describes effective teaching in culturally diverse classrooms, with some teachers finding it challenging and intimidating to implement into their programming and classroom practices. Culturally relevant teaching embeds various representations of knowledge that are connected to students’ home and community, in classroom practice. In order to deliver competent cross-cultural content, teachers need to enable each student to link their own cultural background and experiences to the content of the course (Irvine, 2010).
Many teachers have only a cursory understanding of culturally relevant pedagogy, and their efforts to bridge the cultural gap often fall short (Barnes, 2006), however teachers who are committed to social justice and equity in education realise that it is critical to “teach in culturally relevant ways that take into consideration how all students experience the curriculum (Lopez, 2011, p. 75). Culturally relevant pedagogy centres the experiences and culture of diverse students to increase academic achievement and school engagement, built on the understanding that learning is culturally situated.
In addition culturally relevant pedagogy promotes cross-cultural learning, providing broader student populations with knowledge and understanding about the experiences of others. Intercultural understanding, the tolerance of difference and empathy are the foundations for social justice and global citizenship (Lopez, 2010). It is also critical to build strong interpersonal understandings and meaningful relationships between teachers and students and peers.
With the number of immigrants in Australia remaining steady at 190,000 per year between 2012 and 2015 (Phillips & Simon-Davies, 2016), the need for defining and delivering high quality educational experiences for the children of immigrant families is only going to increase. Pedagogical approaches that support cultural diversity, incorporate cultural strengths, include family and community and build classroom cultures that are holistic, empathic and tolerant of difference, work towards achieving social justice and ensuring that all students are engaged in learning.
Burridge, N. Buchanan, J. & Chodkiewicz, A. (2009): Dealing with difference: Building culturally responsive classrooms, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, (1, (3) pp. 68-83).
Irvine, J. (2010). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Teaching Tolerance: Retrieved from http://www.teachingtolerance.org
Lopez, A. (2011). Culturally relevant pedagogy and critical literacy in diverse English classrooms: A case study of a secondary English teacher’s activism and agency: English
Teaching: Practice and Critique: (10 (4) pp. 75-93). Phillips, J. & Simon-Davies, J. (2016). Migration to Australia since Federation: a guide to the statistics. Retrieved fromhttp://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary