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Authentically Multicultural Instruction August 21, 2013

Dr. Mvududu (2013) outlines some major considerations educators should account for when modifying or critiquing their curriculum and its delivery. First, she addressed how students are organized for instruction. Instruction in the typical White oriented mainstream classroom is usually centered around individual achievement and competition. Students learn and work on their own. Non-white students, on the other hand, are more used to a collaborative instruction style. This could be due to the fact that these minority cultures have had to ban together and support each other in a society that tends to “attack” them. Further, low income situations force non-whites into living in larger numbers and extended families. This communal living limits their exposure to individualistic experiences.

Second, Mvududu contrasted cognitive processing styles across cultures. Traditional schools that cater to White European tend to require a more linear and analytic fashion of processing information. Blacks have a tendency to process information more holistically, using open ended questioning strategies, and synthesizing several perspectives. These factors must be considered in order to deliver instruction that levels the playing field for all students.

As I read about the learning styles and instructional strategies that are better suited for non-white students I repeatedly conclude that these styles are better for ALL children. They agree with much of what I have learned in my teacher prep courses, professional development, as well as in my experience as a teacher over the years. The tendency to fall back on the lecture, linear, and analytical style of teaching could largely be due to the fact that it is easier to manage and requires that students remain composed and orderly. It is very teacher centered rather than student centered. This is not the best learning environment for any student.

Mvududu, N. (2013, February 27). Authentically Multicultural Instruction [lecture]. In Connect.SPU. Retrieved February 29, 2013

 

The Need for Multiculturally Literate Teachers

Dr. Mvududu’s lecture for module 2 outlined several factors that lead us to better understand the need for multiculturally literate teachers and what this environment might look like. Multiculturally literate teachers do not need to have a deep knowledge about every culture, this would be nearly impossible. Such teachers should, however, consistently put forth an effort to familiarize themselves with the cultures that make up their classrooms. The term “cultures” includes issues related to poverty and physical characteristics such as skin color, as well as issues related to one’s ethnicity or country of origin. Also, the goal of multicultural education is to create a ”different but equal” learning environment rather than one of “assimilation”. This has led to the difficult task of balancing the value of national unity with the value of diversity and respect for each culture. Multiculturally literate teachers also must address the problem of underachievement of non-White students. The Multicultural Education movement attributes this underachievement to the cultural mismatch that is often present between school and non-mainstream cultures. Teachers must learn to identify and celebrate the knowledge that culturally diverse students bring with them and build upon this knowledge.

An important concept I took from this lecture is that in order to be a multiculturally literate teacher we do not need to study the specific characteristics of each culture but rather we need to recognize the cultures that are represented in our classrooms and create an atmosphere that values and celebrates our cultural differences. At the same time, we need to promote a feeling of unity and recognize all that we have in common. I look forward to learning more about incorporating these values into my teaching practices.

Mvududu, N. (Producer). (2013, January 19). The Need for Multiculturally Literate Teachers. [Screencast]. Retrieved from https://connect.spu.edu/p38697628/

 

Summary and Response to James Banks’ “The Historical Reconstruction of Knowledge About Race: Implications for Transformative Teaching”

Summary

A major theme of Banks’ “The Historical Reconstruction of Knowledge About Race: Implications for Transformative Teaching” is the examination of the construction of racism over the past 200 years. Knowledge about race is influenced by the social, cultural, and political positions and experiences of the people who conceive this knowledge. Racial knowledge is constructed through society and reflects both subjective and objective factors. It also transforms over time.  Banks pointed out that it is important for teachers to help students understand how racial knowledge is constructed and how it also continuously evolves. This will allow them to effectively promote our nation’s democratic ideals.

Response

As I consider the environment surrounding the reconstructed views of W.E.B. DuBois, it makes sense to me why his views of race differ so starkly from those of historians such as Thomas Dixon, Jr. DuBois lived and worked within Black institutions that offered opportunities to African Americans that were similar to Whites – opportunities that fostered education and personal development. This environment allowed Blacks to succeed and countered mainstream ideas of Black inferiority. It supported the notion that it is the environment that produces the differences, not genetics. Thomas Dixon, Jr., on the other hand, was a lay historian who was socialized in North Carolina in the years right after the Civil War. In this environment, Dixon developed sympathy for slave owners and perpetuated the idea of African Americans as less intelligent by nature.

Banks, J. A. (1996). The historical reconstruction of knowledge about race: Implications for transformative teaching in J. Banks, Multicultural education: Transformative knowledge & Action. (pp. 64-84) New York: Teachers College Press.

 

Standard 9 Meta-Reflection: Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural sensitivity in education encompasses much more than being aware of the various cultures and ethnicities that are represented in a classroom. It also involves reflecting on one’s own personal perceptions of cultural identity and understanding what multicultural education looks like in the classroom.

The learning I have obtained through EDUC 6525- Culturally Responsive Teaching has enabled me to map out the progression of my own cultural awareness. I can now use this insight to improve my own professional practice. Some of my earlier perceptions of culture stemmed from a limited exposure to non-white cultures. I can see how this often resulted in misunderstandings and discomfort when interacting in multicultural situations. According to J. Helms’ stage theory of racial development (as discussed in Mvududu’s lecture, 2013), if left unchecked, this perception can lead to discriminatory practices in the classroom. In relation to Banks’ five types of knowledge (Banks, 1996, pp. 11-21), students receiving instruction from teachers with limited cultural knowledge (school knowledge) are also impacted by the information received from the media (popular knowledge). On top of this, students are likely taking in information that is traditional Westerncentric in nature (mainstream academic knowledge). Such knowledge sources will likely conflict with students’ own personal/cultural knowledge if they represent a non-white ethnic group. One way to counter this conflict, at least to some degree, is to broaden my own cultural knowledge as a teacher as well as present transformative academic knowledge. Transformative academic knowledge is information that challenges the mainstream academic knowledge. This, in turn, enables students to better understand how knowledge is constructed and that it often reflects the social context of where it was developed (Banks, 1996).

Currently, I would equate my level of cultural awareness with Helms’ stage IV, pseudo-independence (as described in Mvududu, 2013). As an educator I am purposeful about recognizing the needs of the diverse population in my classroom and will seek out accurate information pertaining to the cultures represented. I strive to foster a classroom that promotes harmony and equality in which students from various cultures recognize that they can both contribute to and benefit from such a society. George Sanchez stated this philosophy well as he referred to the Spanish-speaking culture when he said “…the degree to which two million or more Spanish-speaking people, and their increment, are permitted to develop is the extent to which a nation should expect returns from that section of its public.” (Murillo, 1996, p. 137) It is to the benefit of society as a whole when educators strive to incur change through the educational system.

In my classroom and in my school I will strive to impart transformative knowledge that effectively challenges the basic assumptions of mainstream academic knowledge. I support the notion that knowledge is both objective and subjective and is built by the person who is acquiring the knowledge (Barnett, 1996). I believe that transformative knowledge that is fueled by the experiences and knowledge of diverse cultures as well as by the efforts of a transformative educator can and will weave its way outside of the classroom and into the school, community, and society as a whole. The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History declares that, “[They dream] of the day when the sharing and contributing of all Americans will be so appreciated, accepted and understood that there will no longer be a need for any ethnic group to call attention to its contributions.” (Roche, 1996) I do not believe this could be any better stated.

In conclusion, I would like to share a yearlong multicultural unit that a colleague and I created which attempts to incorporate the power of transformative teaching. This unit, titled Dimensions of Multicultural Education,  aims to bring to the table the knowledge and experiences necessary to foster mutual respect and acceptance that transcends the here and now. I look forward to expanding my professional development in order to continue pursuing such a worthy goal.

Resources:

Banks, J. A. (1996). Multicultural education: Transformative knowledge & Action. New York: Teachers College Press.

Barnett, E. F. (1996). Mary McLeod Bethune: Feminist, educator, and activist. In J. A. Banks (Ed.). Multicultural education, transformative knowledge & action (p. 218). New York: Teachers College Press.

Murillo, N. (1996). George I. Sanchez and mexican american educational practices. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Multicultural education, transformative knowledge & action (pp.129-140). New York: Teachers College Press.

 Mvududu, N. (2013, January 9). Personalizing Cultural Diversity [lecture]. In Connect.SPU. Retrieved January 9, 2013

Roche, A. M. (1996). Carter G. Woodson and the development of transformative scholarship. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Multicultural education, transformative knowledge & action (p. 100) New York: Teachers College Press.