A multicultural society is best served by a culturally responsive curriculum.
Schools that acknowledge the diversity of their student population understand
the importance of promoting cultural awareness.

Teachers who are interested in fostering a cultural awareness in their classroom
should actively demonstrate to their students that they genuinely care about their
cultural, emotional, and intellectual needs. To this end, there are several
strategies that you can use to build trusting relationships with diverse students.
To incorporate cultural awareness into your classroom curriculum, you should:

1. Express interest in the ethnic background of your students. Encourage your
students to research and share information about their ethnic background as a
means of fostering a trusting relationship with fellow classmates. Analyze and
celebrate differences in traditions, beliefs, and social behaviors. It is of
note that this task helps European-American students realize that their beliefs
and traditions constitute a culture as well, which is a necessary breakthrough
in the development of a truly culturally responsive classroom. Also, take the
time to learn the proper pronunciation of student names and express interest in
the etymology of interesting and diverse names.

2. Redirect your role in the classroom from instructor to facilitator. Another
important requirement for creating a nurturing environment for students is
reducing the power differential between the instructor and students. Students in
an authoritarian classroom may sometimes display negative behaviors as a result
of a perceived sense of social injustice; in the culturally diverse classroom, the
teacher thus acts more like a facilitator than an instructor. Providing students
with questionnaires about what they find to be interesting or important provides
them with a measure of power over what they get to learn and provides them with
greater intrinsic motivation and connectedness to the material. Allowing students
to bring in their own reading material and present it to the class provides them
with an opportunity to both interact with and share stories, thoughts, and ideas
that are important to their cultural and social perspective.

3. Maintain a strict level of sensitivity to language concerns. In traditional
classrooms, students who are not native English speakers often feel marginalized,
lost, and pressured into discarding their original language in favor of English.
In a culturally responsive classroom, diversity of language is celebrated and the
level of instructional materials provided to non-native speakers are tailored to
their level of English fluency. Accompanying materials should be provided in the
student’s primary language and the student should be encouraged to master English.

4. Maintain high expectations for student performance. Given that culturally
responsive instruction is a student-centered philosophy, it should come as no
surprise that expectations for achievement are determined and assigned
individually for each student. Students don’t receive lavish praise for simple
tasks but do receive praise in proportion to their accomplishments. If a student
is not completing her work, then one should engage the student positively and
help guide the student toward explaining how to complete the initial steps that
need to be done to complete a given assignment or task.

5. Incorporate methods for self-testing. Another potent method for helping
students become active participants in learning is to reframe the concept of
testing. While testing is usually associated with grades (and therefore stress)
in traditional classrooms, in a culturally responsive classroom frequent
non-graded tests can be used to provide progress checks and ensure that students
don’t fall behind on required material. Teaching students to self-test while
learning new information will help them better remember and use what they’ve
learned in class and will help them realize on their own when they need to study
a topic in greater depth.

6. Maintain an “inclusive” curriculum that remains respectful of differences.
A culturally responsive curriculum is both inclusive in that it ensures that
all students are included within all aspects of the school and it acknowledges
the unique differences students may possess. A culturally responsive curriculum
also encourages teachers’ understanding and recognition of each student’s
non-school cultural life and background, and provides a means for them to
incorporate this information into the curriculum, thus promoting inclusion.

Schools have the responsibility to teach all students how to synthesize cultural
differences into their knowledge base, in order to facilitate students’ personal
and professional success in a diverse world. A culturally responsive curriculum
helps students from a minority ethnic/racial background develop a sense of
identity as individuals, as well as proudly identify with their particular culture
group. Teachers can play a big role in helping these students succeed through the
establishment of culturally responsive classrooms.

6 Ways Teachers can Foster Cultural Awareness in the Classroom




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