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102083- Diversity, Social Justice and Learning

Assessment 1: PART B

ESSAY QUESTION SELECTED:


Critically discuss the statement that to better match beliefs about diversity with
practice, we must examine how our own intercultural sensitivities about difference
and diversity might impact upon students learning.

Education as a profession is one that promises many challenges and rewards. The
outstanding teacher combines pedagogies of reconnection (Hardy & Grootenboer, 2013, p.
699) with well constructed practice to produce ways of learning that are engaging, inclusive
and stimulating. As teachers enter a learning space, it is critical that they detach themselves
from their biased perceptions of the world around them which have been formed through
personal experience. Within the Western world particularly, the diversity of cultures is ever
increasing, and consequently, schools struggle to be sites of genuinely inclusive and
educative practices (Hardy and Grootenboer, 2013, p. 699). This essay will critically discuss
the issue of anti-discrimination in schools, first drawing upon three influential sociological
theories: Structural Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism, and Post Modernism. Paulo
Freires notion that we [as teachers] are beings of praxis (Freire in Naidoo, 2016) will be
the central component around which the discussion is based (Ghali, 2016). Numerous
sources of literature have been utilised to contribute to the discussion of the ways in which
learning can effect change. An examination of two Australian educational policies that
advocate equality will also be undertaken. As a future educator, it is imperative to highlight
that teaching is not just about knowing, but also doing (Ghali, 2016).
Educational practice and pedagogy has come far in that learning was not always
inclusive, nor did it consider the differences of others. For a teacher to effect change, they
must acknowledge the point from which current teaching methods progressed. Society once
functioned like a human body [with] particular organs with specific functions (Sever, 2012,
p.652). This is known as structural functionalism, a way of life that was mechanical and
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highly driven by power. Since education [is] a social institution (Sever, 2012, p.652),
classrooms were also dominated by power and thus, learning was a one-sided experience.
Educators essentially reproduced pedagogy without considering the different identities,
experiences and learning styles of students, who were situated as passive subjects to the
power of the teacher. It is then impossible to assume that any kind of collaborative teaching
strategies were implemented, which is why teaching as praxis is arguably the most influential
notion in education. This is because critical praxis for educators seeks to move beyond the
constraints of formal teaching, knowledge and curriculum and instead encourage
communities, teachers and students to work together in producing new understandings and
practices (Arnold, Edwards, Hooley, & Williams, 2012, p. 28). In progressing from the
bounds of structural functionalism, teachers can change the dynamic of power from being
oppressive to transferable between teachers and students.
As structural functionalism became a greater target of critique, academics and
professionals realised that education which silences the learner is insufficient for personal
growth and development. Thus, sociological theories which advocate the importance of
learner identity were introduced. One such theory is symbolic interactionism, which
encourages the autonomy of individuals, recognising and valuing the knowledge which
students bring with them to school (Bishop, 2012 in Hardy & Grootenboer, 2013, p. 698).
Teachers must acknowledge that while their students may be in the same classroom, the
experiences they offer to the learning space are incredibly diverse. The effective teacher will
harness these very differences and utilise them to unite students as advocates of antidiscrimination. Students and teachers should work together to [map] injustices in education,
tracing [them] to their source, seeking and proposing remedies to those injustices (Sever,
2012, p.655). One of the most prominent injustices in current society is that caused by
bullying in schools. Students place themselves and each other within groups such as the
popular girls or the geeks, resulting in labelling and discriminating anyone who is different.
McGarry (2011) describes that if educators remain silent to discrimination in schools, then
theres a disconnect[ion] between teacher belief and teacher practice (p.57). The solution
then becomes creating new ways for students to comprehend that difference should be
celebrated and through this, they are guided to discover that they arent as different as they
previously thought they were.

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In recent years, students have had a greater opportunity to express themselves in the
classroom as culturally located individuals (Hardy & Grootenboer, 2013, p.698) with their
own perspectives of the world. It was once thought that truth is universal, fixed and
unchangeable, but since society itself is not a fixed entity, we now know that truth is
constructed. This idea is known as post modernism, a sociological outlook which advocates
individual perspectives and ways of being in the world. Identity is at the core of post
modernism, the essence of a human being that should never be repressed, despite the
overarching discourses that interfere with the freedom of individuality. One example of such
discourses is that homosexuality is abnormal. This evidently holds little value as a
preference for the same sex does not justify any kind of discrimination in the classroom or the
environment beyond it. Thus, the solution is to encourage students to take up an
emancipatory knowledge [that] is actively self-reflective [and] liberating (Arnold et al.,
2012, p.285) to advocate for acceptance and freedom of expression. Teaching students to
challeng[e] assumptions and belief systems (Ferfolja, Jones-Diaz & Ullman, 2015, p.12)
while respecting them, is essential for personal growth and an expanded awareness of the
beauty in diversity. By implementing this concept in the classroom, educators become
effective vehicles of praxis, which is important in our current post modern context. The more
educators disintegrate the illusionary rigidity of society, the more students can unlock their
potential to explore each others differences, as well as accept their own.
The ultimate goal of the effective teacher is to evoke change in the minds and hearts
of students who will grow to become the future generations. As mentioned earlier, praxis is
critical because as educators, it is arguably of more importance to understand the power of
pedagogy than to simply deliver content and make a living (Ghali, 2016). Teachers must
also bear in mind that praxis is not only about the students within the classroom, but the
world in which they are situated (Hardy & Grootenboer, 2013). Education is inextricably
linked to many other aspects of life, therefore it is political and social as well as academic. In
acknowledging the different identities, experiences and learning needs of students, Kincheloe
(2008, in Arnold et al., 2012) presents the challenge that teachers face in approaching student
learning:

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Critical pedagogy is a complex notion that asks much of the practitioners who
embrace it. Teaching a critical pedagogy involves more than learning a few
pedagogical techniques and the knowledge required by the curriculum, the standards,
or the textbook. Critical teachers must understand not only a wide body of subject
matter but also the political structure of the school (p.284).
Therefore, a critical reflection of ones self, approaches to teaching, and strategies to invoke
engaging learning must continually be thought and rethought not only to effectively deliver
content, but to push students beyond what they believed they were capable of.
Focusing in on an Australian context, the first thing a teacher will notice when they
walk into a classroom is the diverse range of cultures in the room. Any bias or underlying
thoughts regarding culture must be omitted to ensure that the quality of teaching is not
compromised. Australias multicultural reputation surged from the 1970s as an influx of
migrants arrived to the country seeking a better life. Consequently, it is currently one of the
most multicultural nations in the world. With differences in culture however, comes an
unwritten hierarchy of power that draws upon marker[s] of difference, creating artificial
boundaries between people (Ferfolja, Jones-Diaz & Ullman, 2015, p.150). Discrimination,
whether it is intentional or not (Harlow & Hearn, 1996) is evident in schools when groups of
the same or similar cultures tend to flock together, for example. Therefore, it is the educators
duty to eliminate these barriers which interfere with students accepting each others
differences. One teaching strategy of implementing this is to create group work opportunities,
separating students by something other than appearance, for example, birth order, favourite
sports or the kinds of pets they own. Thus, the teacher is implementing praxis by actively
seek[ing] to value cultural diversity whilst simultaneously challenging inequality in schooling
settings (Ladson-Billings, 1995 in Hardy & Grootenboer, 2013, p. 699). This method does
not intend to force students to quickly form close bonds, but to enforce the first step to antidiscrimination, which is a simple acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the others presence
within a social space (Ho, 2011, p.614).
In addition to the cultural differences between students are the less obvious
differences such as religion, sexuality or ability. Dominant discourses also play an enormous
role in these factors of identity, producing what is constituted in Western societies as the
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normal person- the standard by which all others are judged (Ferfolja, Jones-Diaz &
Ullman, 2015, p.2). It is because of this standard that stereotypes permeate through society,
and the school environment is no exception. When students judge each other through
stereotypes alone, they are essentially looking through a negative [lens] [scrutinizing]
others who look, think, or behave differently (Naidoo, 2016). As educators, it is paramount
to provide new perspectives based on a post modernist way of thinking, informing students
that stereotypes get in the way of valuing people for who they are. For example, an
overarching discourse is that boys who like or practice ballet are gay. Because ballet is
viewed as a feminine dance, it becomes attached to femininity, and any male who
challenges that discourse is judged. An example of a teachers solution to provide perspective
would be to organise a ballet class for males studying PE, with professional male dancers
conducting the session. This will open the eyes of young men to realise just how athletic and
physically demanding dance can be, as well as heightening their understanding of discourses
as contestable rather than rigid. Thus, students are taught that experience is something that is
subjective- it should never be generalised (Dyne & Schuster, 1993 in Harlow & Hearn, 1996)
or reprimanded.
Evoking change through education is a challenge teachers undertake with a network
of support working closely with them. Remaining in the Australian context, the national
government is incredibly supportive of advocating anti-discrimination, diversity and equality
across all areas of life, recognising all people as individuals. Numerous policies have been
implemented in Australian schools to highlight that educators are not isolated from the
social, cultural, economic, political and global realities evident in educational settings
(Ferfolja, Jones-Diaz & Ullman, 2015, p.12). Two policies will be briefly examined, which
are the NSW Government Equity Policy and the Multicultural Education Policy.
The NSW Government Equity Policy states that all students in NSW public schools are
treated equally (Supporting Students: Equal Opportunity, 2007), meaning that funding,
resources and opportunities will be distributed evenly among schools. However, the
noteworthy critique here is that multiculturalism itself is unevenly dispersed (Ho, 2011),
which means that a school with predominantly upper class Anglo-Saxons could be receiving
the same amount of government attention as a school where most students come from a
variety of cultures, from lower and middle class families. The Multicultural Education Policy
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is quite similar in the sense that it arguably aims to celebrate difference through an underlying
means of sameness. This policy states that schools will provide teaching and learning
programs that enable all students to identify as Australians within a democratic multicultural
society (Schools policies and procedures, n.d.). It is inevitable that there is no one size fits
all policy, but the question here is for how long such policies will effectively cater to the
needs of all the different cultural groups across the nation. Thus, Ferfolja, Jones-Diaz &
Ullman (2015) conclude that policies of multiculturalism may need to be rethought, as does
multicultural education (p.158) in order to adjust to the way new generations interpret and
are exposed to the world around them.
Upon looking closely at anti-discrimination in and out of the school environment, this
essay emphasises the importance of praxis in teacher practice to nourish young minds as
advocates of equality and diversity. As educators, it is important to enter the profession
knowing its roots and how far it has progressed. The inclusion of influential sociological
theories in this critical discussion is beneficial to an in depth understanding of teaching
pedagogies. It is even more important however, to connect the pedagogy with a practice of
student learning which is inclusive of all individuals, regardless of what overt or covert
differences they bring. Thus, it is paramount that educators look within themselves to become
self aware of their own intercultural sensitivities so that all students are united despite their
differences. To be an educator is not just about teaching, but it is also about being a role
model, and thus, the effective teacher will, through their own unbiased views of the world,
create generations of open minded, tolerant and anti-discriminatory learners.

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References
Arnold, J., Edwards, T., Hooley, N., & Williams, J. (2012). Conceptualising teacher education
and research as critical praxis. Critical Studies in Education, 53(3), 281-295.
Ferfolja, T., Jones-Diaz, C., & Ullman, J. (2015). The unseen half: Theories for educational
practices. In Understanding sociological theory for educational practices (pp. 1-20).
Port Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
Ferfolja, T., Jones-Diaz, C., & Ullman, J. (2015). Culture, hybridity and globalization:
Rethinking multicultural education in schools (pp. 146-160). Port Melbourne,
Australia: Cambridge University Press.
Ghali, A. (2016). 102083- Diversity, Social Justice and Learning. Assessment 1: PART A.
University of Western Sydney, Australia.
Hardy, I., & Grootenboer, P. (2013). Schools, teachers and community: Cultivating the
conditions for engaged student learning. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(5), 697719.
Harlow, E., & Hearn, J. (1996). Educating for anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory social
work practice. Social Work Education, 15(1), 5-17.
Ho, C. (2011). Respecting the presence of others: School micropublics and everyday
multiculturalism. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32(6), 603-619.
McGarry, R. (2011). Breaking Silences. Educational Leadership, 69(1), 56.
Naidoo, L. (2016). Lecture 1: Introduction to Sociology and Schooling: significance of
diversity, equity and social justice for teaching and learning. Western Sydney
University, Australia.
Schools policies and procedures. (n.d.). NSW Government. Retrieved March 2, 2016 from
https://online.det.nsw.edu.au/policiesinter/category.do?level=Schools
Sever, M. (2012). A critical look at the theories of sociology of education. International
Journal of Human Sciences, 9(1), 650-671.
Supporting Students: Equal Opportunity. (2007). NSW Government Education for Public
Schools. Retrieved March 4, 2016 from
http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/studentsupport/studentwellbeing/equalopportunities.p
hp

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