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Course Four: Culture of Understanding

Unit 1: Multicultural Education

Learning Objectives
We live in a time when the appreciation of learning styles and multiple
intelligences on an individual level has deepened our work with our students and
our understanding of education.
We also live in a time when we have unprecedented access to technological tools by
which we can share our cultures on a global level. Ironically, throughout the world, we
are experiencing an alarming decline in cultural richness. Indigenous cultures are
being diminished or wiped out, and with them we lose valuable medical traditions,
solutions to problems, the richness of art. We lose diversity in points of view.
Just as we seek to preserve the biosphere in order to ensure a sustainable planet, we
must seek to preserve the ethnosphere. It is imperative that we consider cultural
learning and celebration as a central feature of our teaching.
In Course Four of the International Certificate of Teaching Mastery, we will address
the following:

The purpose, preparation, and practice of your own multicultural competence

in the classroom, including understanding your role, understanding your
students, developing a sensitive eye, and developing a muscle for paradox.
We will explore tools for understanding and connection on the individual
level, in classrooms, in communities, and across cultures through the use of
multiple intelligences, cooperative learning, service learning, art and storymaking.
We will discuss how to create and sustain connections with classrooms around
the world through technology.

Multicultural Education
Ideals of Multicultural Education
Some discuss multicultural education as a shift in curriculum, perhaps as simple as
adding new and diverse materials and perspectives to be more inclusive of
traditionally under-represented groups. Others talk about classroom climate issues, or
teaching styles that serve certain groups while presenting barriers for others. Others
focus on institutional and systemic issues such as tracking, standardized testing, or
funding discrepancies. Some go farther still, insisting on education change as part of
a larger societal transformation in which we more closely explore and criticize the
oppressive foundations of society and how education serves to maintain the status
Despite a multitude of differing conceptualizations of multicultural education, several
shared ideals provide a basis for its understanding. While some focus on individual
students or teachers, and others are much more macro in scope, these ideals are
all, at their root, about transformation:

Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to her or his full

Every student must be prepared to participate competently in an increasingly

intercultural society.
Education must become more fully student-centered and inclusive of the
voices and experiences of the students.
Teachers must be prepared to effectively facilitate learning for every individual
student, no matter how culturally similar or different from herself or himself.
Schools must be active participants in ending oppression of all types; first by
ending oppression within their own walls, then by producing socially and
critically active and aware students.
Educators, activists, community leaders, and others must take a more active
role in re-examining all educational practices and how they affect the learning
of all students: testing methods, teaching approaches, evaluation and
assessment, school psychology and counseling, educational materials and
textbooks, etc.

(Adapted from Defining Multicultural Education by Paul Gorski and Bob Covert 1996,

Goals of Multicultural Education

The following list of goals of Multicultural Education is adapted from the work of
Hernandez, Multicultural Education: A teacher's guide to content and process, 1989.

To have every student achieve his or her potential.

To learn how to learn and think critically.
To encourage students to take an active role in their own education by
bringing in their stories and experiences into the classroom.
To address diverse learning styles.
To appreciate the contributions of different groups who have contributed to
our knowledge base.
To develop positive attitudes about groups of people who are different from
To become good citizens of the school, the community, the country, and the
To learn how to evaluate knowledge from different perspectives.
To develop an ethnic, national, and global identity.
To provide decision-making skills and critical-analysis skills so the students
can make better choices in their everyday lives.

Course Four: Culture of Understanding

Unit 2: Guiding Principles and Tools
Guiding Principles and Tools
When thinking about creating culturally sensitive course content, the following
principles may serve as a guide:

The selection of subject matter content should be culturally inclusive, based

on up-to-date scholarship. This inclusivity should incorporate opposing
opinions and divergent interpretations.
The subject matter content selected for inclusion should represent diversity
and unity within and across groups.
The subject matter selected for inclusion should be set within the context of
its time and place, and should give priority to depth over breadth.
Multicultural perspectives should infuse the entire curriculum, K-12.
The subject matter content should be treated as socially constructed and
therefore tentative as is all knowledge.
The teaching of all subjects should draw and build on the experience and
knowledge that the students bring to the classroom.
Pedagogy should incorporate a range of interactive modes of teaching and
learning in order to foster understanding (rather than rote learning),
examination of controversy, and mutual learning.

(Adapted from: Gordon and Roberts, Report of social studies syllabus review and
development committee, 1991)

What is Multicultural Education?

Multicultural Education ISNT:
About everyone agreeing and getting
Only applicable to Language Arts and

Multicultural Education IS:

About naming and eliminating inequities
in education.
A comprehensive approach for making
education more inclusive, active, and
engaging in all subject areas.
A process for presenting all students with
a more comprehensive, accurate
understanding of the world.
Related to all aspects of education
including pedagogy, counseling,
administration, assessment and
evaluation, research, etc.
For ALL students and educators.

A process of watering down good

Related only to curriculum reform.

Only for teachers and students from

minority or marginalized groups.
Achieved through a series of small

Achieved through the reexamination and

transformation of all aspects of
Modeled through cultural bulletin boards, Modeled through self-critique, selfassemblies, or fairs.
examination, and cross-cultural
The responsibility of teachers,
The responsibility of culture-based
administrators, and school staff.
student clubs or organizations.
A single in-service workshop for teachers. An on-going commitment.
Adapted from The IS and the ISN'T of Multicultural Education by Paul C. Gorski for

Things I Can Do
As a teacher committed to multicultural education, I should always follow these

It is important to be aware of one's own identity and how one expresses it.
It is important to ask questions of others to find out if I am being sensitive to
their needs. It is important to invite feedback about how I am being perceived.
It is important that I see what the results may be of my actions in terms of
who may be excluded or included. I must consider all my students as equals;
therefore, if my actions favor one kind of student over another, I am
discriminating and must change my behavior.
If I am not connecting with particular kinds of students, it is my responsibility
to find out why and to accept feedback on how to be more inclusive.
I must extend myself to teachers who are different from me (in terms of race,
ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, first language, disability, and
other identities). These can be valuable relationships of trust and honest
I must listen actively to what students have to say about how they view me.
I can always learn more as a student myself, especially of the culture and
background of my students. In doing so, I can include my new learning into
lessons so that students feel included and validated and see how their culture
has value.

It is easy to blame students for failure. A sensitive teacher must take

responsibility for such failure and work extra hard to help that student
succeed. Many of the issues having to do with poor achievement may reflect
inattention to a student's cultural needs.
I can celebrate myself as an educator and total person. I can, and should, also
celebrate every moment I spend in self-critique, however difficult and painful,
because it will make me a better educator. and that is something to celebrate!

(Adapted from Edchange , by Paul Gorki: University of Virginia


Tools and Approaches

Developing a Sensitive Eye: A Teacher's Story

A college student was thinking about changing her major from literature to the study
of world religions. The student's only hesitation was that the religion department's
mode of inquiry was to look at each tradition through the eyes of those who practiced
that religion.
This was a stretch for the student who was used to the academic model of breaking
it down and breaking it apart; comparing and contrasting to find inconsistencies,
etc. She was not used to looking at the world through the eyes of another as a mode
of inquiry.
One day, the student went to see the world religions professor during office hours.
With trepidation, the student ventured, I'm thinking about changing my major from
literature to the study of world religions. I am concerned, though, that if I do, I will
lose my critical eye. The wise professor paused for a moment. Maybe you will lose
your critical eye, she said gently, and instead, maybe you'll develop a sensitive
This story is pertinent to us as teachers, especially in a course entitled, Culture for
Understanding. The question for us becomes: How can we help our students develop
a sensitive eye? First, we must understand the culture from which our students
come. The key to the story above is that the professor understood the academic
culture from which her student came: the break it down and break it apart;
comparing and contrasting to find inconsistencies, etc. mode of inquiry. The
professor knew that the very method of inquiry the student had been accustomed to
was not a useful method of inquiry for seeing, appreciating, or celebrating various
world cultures.
The student had to develop a muscle for looking at the world through the eyes of
another and the student had to experience why and how this was a useful mode of
inquiry. Our goal as teachers is to help students develop this special yet vital muscle.

Compassionate Listening
How many of us really listen?
In conversation, many of us usually only half-listen to another person while he is
speaking. Often we are thinking about what we wish to say, and we listen long
enough to notice when the other person's lips have stopped moving so that we can
jump in with what we wanted to say to share our idea, to make our point, or to tell
our story.

How much silence is there between one person ending and another person starting to
talk? Are you able to say back what someone has said to you after they are done
Try this with your students: When a student finishes talking, ask the other students,
How many people can repeat what your classmate just said? When the students
raise their hands, do not call on any individual student to actually say it back.
Instead, simply give the students time to notice how many hands went in the air.
Continue with I see that about 60% of your hands are raised. As a class, we're
working towards 100%. We really want to listen when someone else is talking. Do
this periodically in your class to let students know that when a student speaks, her
voice is valuable to the group. It will also help students develop greater capacity for
Not only do we want to be able to say back what others have said, but we want to get
to a place where we can take in what others have said with a compassionate mind
and heart. This is where Compassionate Listening comes into play: it's a seed for
dialogue as well as for cultural celebration and understanding. Compassionate
Listening will help us achieve a sensitive eye.

Course Four: Culture of Understanding

Unit 3: Awareness and Visibility
Awareness and Visibility
Culture is acutely aware of attitude. What does it mean to listen, affirm, and enter
in when we speak of multiculturalism? For starters, the important thing is to
encounter other cultures either in person (through our students), through travel,
through reading, or through technology. Then, we must ask curiosity questions and
we must listen with a sensitive ear, in a way that helps us to see the world through
the eyes of another.
To take it one step further, to truly listen, affirm, and enter in to another culture, we
must eat their foods, dance their dances, sing their songs, listen to and learn their

Knowing Your Student is a Lesson Plan

Educator and author, Parker Palmer, wrote a book called To Know as We are Known.
The title says it all: In order for our students to learn, they must first be known.
Their stories, their personal experiences, their learning styles, their intelligences,
their lives within the context of their family and culture must be known (or seen) by
peers and teachers alike.
We began this course with the idea of developing a sensitive eye. Here, that
sensitive eye is vital. We do not engage in the doubting game of tearing down or
tearing apart in order to make our students visible. We engage in the believing
game through which we listen, affirm, and enter in. The sensitive eye we develop
as educators (and the sensitive eye we help our students to develop as learners)
becomes the receptor for knowing about the history, culture, and individual identities
of each of our students.
This is important because multicultural education is the ability to appreciate and
know all learners.

Making Students Visible

Here are some concrete ways to help our students cultural identities become visible
and known in our classrooms and schools:

Ask students to tell a story about a special family object that has been passed
down from generation to generation.
Ask students to share a family recipe, photograph, or a story about one of
their ancestors.
Ask students to share a song or dance from their family or culture.
When students come to school in the morning, or stay after school, listen to
the stories they wish to tell you.
When students share their ideas in class, let there be silence when the
student speaks. When the student finishes talking, ask the other students,
How many people can say back what your classmate just said? Do this
periodically to let students know that when a student speaks, her voice is
valuable to the group.

Do not repeat what a student says to the class; this takes power away from
the student's words and it teaches students that their voices are not as
important as yours. If you want to emphasize a point, ask the student who has
just spoken to repeat what he or she has just said.
Create lessons that engage the mind, heart, and body of your students, and
instruction that allows them to utilize their multiple intelligences (kinesthetic,
auditory, visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, emotional, artistic, etc.). In this
way, each student will be able to participate and enter into the learning
Ask students what they need from you as a teacher and what they need from
their peers. Create opportunities for students to say what they need. One way
of doing this is to have students complete a What I am Looking for in a
Teacher form. Another is to hold class meetings where students can voice
what they need from others in a safe and inviting manner.

Awareness of the Larger World

Once students are known for their individual identity and culture, they will be able to
develop a larger identity for the community in which they live; then their country or
culture; and, finally, they will feel themselves connected as a citizen of this earth.
Rumi, the thirteenth-century poet, once wrote: Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and
right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. There is always common ground.
In Hindi the word is drishtikona, and it implies that one does not have to relinquish
one viewpoint for another. Rather, multiple viewpoints can be held and understood,
simultaneously. We must listen to, appreciate, and celebrate the multitude of
individual, family, societal, and global cultures that we encounter in our students.

Course Four: Culture of Understanding

Unit 4: Appreciative Inquiry and Cooperative Learning
Appreciative Inquiry and Cooperative Learning
Appreciative Inquiry is a process by which students can reflect upon a situation, their
learning, or group dynamics in a way that takes stock of all of the assets and positive
aspects of a situation. It can be a powerful tool for cultural inclusion, appreciation for
plurality, and dialogue. Heres an example of how it works:

Pose a question such as: What is an example of a great team experience you
have had either in or outside of school? Students tell their team experience
Then, ask the students what these stories have in common. What qualities
made each of these teams successful or effective?
From these qualities and stories a rich metaphorical image might arise. You
might even help students to see the metaphorical image: I think the way
we're describing our peak team experiences is like a grove of aspen trees. The
trees look like distinct units, but really underground their roots are
interconnected and the grove is really one living organism. Then, you could
talk about the strengths that each student brings to your learning
environment and how they benefit that environment. Take inventory of these
strengths by listing them on the board.
Whenever students need to work out a challenge or reflect on how they best
learn as a group, they can use the aspen grove metaphor (or whatever
metaphor arose) and apply it to the new learning moment at hand.

Appreciative Inquiry is therefore a process that engages individuals in thinking

critically about their experiences in order to learn from them, and apply their thinking
and reflection to renew and change the way they work or learn. Students who engage
in Appreciative Inquiry learn to appreciate the best aspects of their experiences and
this leads them to discover more ways of effective work or learning.
With Appreciative Inquiry students are heard, seen, and appreciated. It also enables
students to be active participants in the thinking process and encourages them to
amplify what strengths or qualities they already possess towards their learning or
class environment.
Teachers who use Appreciative Inquiry in the classroom often begin by asking
What's the problem? They help students focus their energy on what they want less
of and work on how to fix things and address shortcomings and challenges.
Appreciative Inquiry is about focusing on what you want more of; knowing that what
you want more of already exists; and amplifying what strengths and assets a group
already has.

Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is an instructional technique that uses positive interdependence
between learners in order for learning to occur. It is a way of modeling cooperation
and understanding between individuals and cultures.

Research shows that both competitive and cooperative interactions are a healthy part
of a child's repertoire of behavior. By second grade, however, urban children have
effectively extinguished their cooperative behavior and persist in competition, even
when it's counterproductive. By deliberately developing cooperative techniques,
educators aim to correct the unconscious societal and educational bias that favors
In Cooperative Learning, patterns for student interaction are called structures.
Together, teachers and students develop a repertoire of these structures. When the
teacher announces that the class will use a particular exercise to explore today's
lesson topic, students know what type of interaction to expect. For example, when
the teacher says the class will use the Think-Pair-Share exercise to study African
wildlife, students know they will work independently to write down their thoughts on
elephants or lions, then find a partner, share their ideas with their partner, and probe
each other for complete understanding.
It is up to the instructor to integrate the interactive exercises with the specific lesson
content. The teacher must give careful thought to who should collaborate with whom
and why; how to manage the classroom while engaging students in a cooperative
activity; and how to balance the attention to both content and cooperative skillbuilding.

Features of Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is most successful when the following elements are in place:

Distribution of leadership.
Creation of heterogeneous groups
Promotion of positive groups and individual accountability
Development of positive social skills
Empowerment of the group to work together

Distribution of Leadership
All students can be leaders. They can also surprise you with their ability to rise to the
Creation of Heterogeneous Groups
You can either randomly place students in groups counting off by 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s
and putting all of the 1s together, the 2s in another group, and so on. Another way to
do it is to review the learning styles and create groups that reflect different kinds of
Students need to depend upon each other and work cooperatively. They need to
know their roles, what they are expected to achieve, how to value their piece of the
puzzle, and how to demonstrate that it benefits the group. In this way, materials are
shared, group members create one group-product, group members are given
common tasks, and roles are rotated amongst the members.
Social Skills
Discussion, observation, and understanding are key. From time to time, the
atmosphere in the class must be such that time is set aside to examine what is going


on, how students feel, and what could be the best way of going about conducting the
business of learning.
Empowering the Group
The teacher is not there to rescue students from problems or settle arguments. The
teacher suggests solutions and promotes social skills by having the group itself come
to a fair conclusion.
Cooperative Learning depends upon several variables:

The teacher's sense that the class can take this on.
Just enough structure and just enough freedom. Keep it simple in the
Everyone knows what is going on.
Make certain that methods are clear explaining how the group will work is
Make certain that each individual is engaged.
Make certain that groups do not exceed five students.
Arrange the room so that the environment works well with a group.
Students need to know there is a reward and celebration for working together,
rather than sorting themselves as winners and losers.

How Cooperative Learning Works

Groups of 4-5 students are created.
The teacher describes each role (below), and either the teacher or the group
assigns a responsibility/role to each member of the group:
o Reader: Reads the written instructions out loud to his/her group.
o Time-Keeper: Periodically, tells the group how much time is left for the
o Scribe: Takes notes and writes down each person's response.
o Includer: Actively encourages each person to share ideas in the
o Reporter: Organizes the presentation and shares the group's ideas.
Each group is given a current event, for example. The Reader reads the
written instructions out loud to his/her group.
The group decides how it will provide a response to the current event by
o a) what the event is - for example, crime in the neighborhood;
o b) why they think it may be occurring;
o c) what the current plan is for dealing with the problem;
o d) advantages and disadvantages of that plan and why; and
o e) what they would do.
Each student in the group is given the task of exploring all of the issues
above. Those responses are shared within their group. The Includer makes
sure each person's voice is heard and encourages every member of the group
to participate. The Scribe writes down all of their responses. The Time-Keeper
keeps track of time.
The group decides how the information will be presented to other groups and
the teacher.


The group presents their work, either collaboratively or by selecting one

member of the group as its representative. The Reporter might present the
ideas, or set it up so that several people in the group present the various
ideas discussed within the group.
The group conducts an evaluation of performance.

(Note: You may wish to choose a current event or any other relevant topic for
discussion in this Cooperative Learning activity. Each group can work on the same
issue or different topics).
Rules of Conduct

Teacher must not judge the group or berate individual members.

All positions are respected, whether or not the rest of the class agrees.
No one may force anyone else to agree with their answer.
No negative comments about oneself or others are allowed.
Teacher praises with description, rather than evaluation. In other words, spend
your time focusing on what good things students did, such as giving specific
examples of their courtesy and support. Avoid statements such as You did a
good job or Your group was better than the first group. Intead, focus on
descriptive assessments of what worked well in each group.

The Multicultural Quilt

Imagine a quilt and the various cultures and individual identities of our students as
the individual panels that make up the quilt. Each panel stands on its own, yet, side
by side there is a relationship; they complement one another and create the larger
design of the whole tapestry or quilt.
Multiculturalism is about recognizing and appreciating the individual panels, while at
the same time seeing the larger whole, and how the whole and the parts interplay
and create a kind of dialogue with one another.
How can we meet the other panels and appreciate the entire quilt?


The image you see here challenges us. With our physical eyes, we can, at best,
bounce quickly between seeing the old woman and the young woman in this picture.
When we stand on the ground we can only see one town or village at a time. From an
airplane, however, we can see all of the villages at once. From this bird's eye/airplane
view or view from our mind's eye we can begin to see and appreciate pluralism; we
begin to make room for listening and for dialogue.
Anne Michaels writes in her novel, Fugitive Pieces, about a character who looks
around and sees a world falling apart and out of sync, and realizes that what is
needed is to make love necessary. In our times, we might also add, to make multidimensional seeing necessary. This is at the heart of multiculturalism.


Course Four: Reflection and Review

Part 1: Personal Reflection and Group Discussion
1. Before getting into small groups, take a moment to reflect on the following

School culture

What do they mean to you as an educator? How do they manifest themselves in your
classroom or school? Be specific.
2. Is Multicultural Education part of the curriculum in your country, region, or school?
If not, can it play a more prominent role? Would it be easy to implement? If it is an
approach that is currently used, how can it be made more effective? What is needed
to help teachers make it an integral part of their practice?
3. Do your students have opportunities to define, explore, and share their own
cultural identities in your classroom? Do students have opportunities to explore other
cultures and ethnicities? If so, describe these opportunities. If not, how can they be
brought into the classroom?
We encourage you to write down your answers and discuss your responses in small
groups (three to five participants). Then, also in a group, discuss the following:
One of the ideals of multicultural education states that "Educators, activists, and
others must take a more active role in re-examining all educational practices and how
they affect the learning of all students: testing methods, teaching approaches,
evaluation and assessment, school psychology and counseling, educational
materials, and textbooks." Having completed four of the five courses in the
Certificate of Teaching Mastery, you should now be ready to start thinking about
assuming this active role. Do you feel ready? If so, how would you begin to reexamine educational practices in your own classroom and in your school? What are
some of the key changes that you hope to make? Why?
If you do not feel prepared for this role, is there something that Teachers Without
Borders can provide to help you prepare? Is there something that could be added or
modified in the Certificate program? What kind of support would ensure better
preparation for this role?
Also, consider addressing the following questions:
How would you include your colleagues, the students, and the community in this
process of re-examining current practices? Is there a specific practice that you would
focus on first? Why? Is there likely to be resistance to change among your
colleagues? If so, how would you encourage them to assume a critical stance and
start reflecting on their classroom practice?
Part 2: Review
1. Review the ideals and goals of multicultural education. Which ones resonate most


strongly with you? How can these ideals and goals help learners? How will you use
them in your teaching?
2. One of the key principles of multicultural education is that students must feel
included and validated, and have opportunities to see that their culture and other
cultures around them and around the world have value. How would you accomplish
this in your school? How would you motivate and support all teachers at your school
to work together towards this goal?
3. How would you define the two concepts listed below?
a) Sensitive Eye
b) Compassionate Listening
Develop a lesson plan that would support students in developing both of these skills.
In developing your lesson plan you should draw upon the approaches, theories, and
skills that you have already explored in the first three courses of the CTM.
4. How would you define Appreciative Inquiry? Give two or three specific examples
that you would give to explain its advantages in the classroom and potential impact
on students and their learning.
5. Explain the key features of Cooperative Learning. How would you encourage your
colleagues who are not familiar with this approach to try it in their classrooms? What
kind of support would you provide to the ones interested in implementing it?
6. In your opinion, what are the greatest benefits of Service Learning? How would you
implement Service Learning as part of a course that you teach or as a crosscurricular, school-wide initiative? In your answer, identify the community need that
would be addressed, the learning objectives, and the potential impact of this project
on student learning. How would the students, the community, and the teachers
benefit from this initiative?
7. Building the right culture and climate in classrooms and schools takes time. What
do you think is needed to create a strong professional community and a strong
learning community at your school? What kinds of questions need to be asked? What
kinds of practices and attitudes need to be in place to support this?