Paige Wawzonek, Dereck Hick, Madison Petryna, Christie Rowley, Vagia Tsangari
Please cite this page as:
Tsangari, V., Wawzonek, P., Petryna, M., Hick, D., & Rowley, C. (2022, April 1). Embracing multiculturalism in primary/junior classrooms. Classroom Practice in 2022. Retrieved [date], from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/educ5202/chapter/embracing-multiculturalism-in-primary-junior-classrooms/
As of 1956, Statistics Canada roughly estimated that half of the Canadian population held a ninth grade education; yet, by the early 2000s, Canadians surpassed this hurdle with 77% of the population earning a complete high school diploma. Ultimately, the Canadian education system continuously strives to offer a better and more impactful learning experience for all students. In its rise and continued efforts to support Canadians, pedagogical inquiry in education and early years learning has evolved into examining how multiculturalism can be embraced in practice. The article Multicultural Education: Teachers Perceptions and Preparations by Sunita Sharma gives the explanations of the purpose in making this a prominent praxis in classrooms is to foster and encourage the ability to reflect and appreciate differences in the community, which encourages opportunity and shared equal rights for all social groups. Furthermore, a 2009 document by the Ministry of Education noted Ontario’s education system has been working towards higher educational achievements and lower opportunity gaps for students and families of marginalized groups. This essay aims to critically examine literature that explores remedies to support nondiscriminatory pedagogy in the primary/junior education system. Evidence will be established through the analysis of standards of practice set out by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), in conjunction with approaches to creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable environments in teaching and learning at the preparatory academic level.
Standards of Practice
Multiculturalism, civil rights and diversity are essential principles in Canada. However, there are continuous events of bias in society that demand ongoing concentration. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada in 2005 acknowledged that racial prejudice against visible minorities was so notorious and indisputable that its existence needed to be treated as a social fact. Equity and greatness go hand in hand. Ontarians believe in the necessity to evolve students as beginners and make them ready for their role in the community as involved, creative, and accountable citizens.
All pupils, parents, and other staff of the school community are accepted and beloved, every student is braced and encouraged to achieve in a culture of big anticipations for learning. To manage a fair and inclusive school atmosphere, school boards and schools will aim to assure that all crew of the school are protected, pleasant, and welcomed. Schools want all members and pupils to cherish diversity and to display dignity for others and a responsibility to provide a loving community. Therefore, it is very important for primary junior educators to establish an inclusive environment early, so students can understand and learn the rules and their role in creating an embraced and safe classroom that advocates and promotes diversification.
In 2008, the Minister of Education called for the establishment of an equity and comprehensive education approach for Ontario schools that will carry on progressing three core preferences of increasing student success, minimizing performance gaps, and expanding public courage in the education system. The upcoming equity and inclusive teaching method demands the ministry to contribute guidance, assistance, and navigation to the education field so that every student has an effective learning status in which to succeed his or her best ability. Moreover, each school board needs to expand and complete an equity and inclusive learning procedure and directions for the board and its schools. Lastly, every school must develop and inspire a conclusive school environment that promotes difference, comprehensive learning, and equity (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2009).
The province of Ontario plans to advance diversity as an asset. The intention is to develop inclusive learning, as well as to comprehend, analyze and eradicate the prejudices, barriers and power acts that restrict the educational growth of students as well as their full commitment to society. Systemic limits may also interfere with equal process with appreciation to promotion, employing, succession planning and guiding. Boundaries may be associated to the following ranges of diversity and their crossing: culture, language, race, ethnicity, sex, ancestry, socio-economic status, gender, religion, and others. The principles of justice, dignity, and equity are declared as fundamental values of the provincial education system.
In an increasingly diverse society, the importance for teachers to incorporate culturally responsive practice in the classroom is only becoming more crucial. The increase in diversity relates to more than just race and ethnicity; it includes religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and language background.
As stated in the article, The Importance of Diversity & Cultural Awareness in the Classroom by Drexel University School of Education, fostering diversity and overall awareness surrounding multicultural education and taking a culturally responsive approach to teaching benefits all students. In addition, it prepares students to thrive in the exponentially diverse society in which we live in.
Drexel University’s article communicates that there are 6 important steps in fostering and managing diversity in the classroom. First, it is crucial that as a teacher you get to know your students. A teacher’s role in fostering diversity is to take the time to learn about each and every student in their classroom. By demonstrating a genuine interest in your students you not only establish a foundation for trust, but you create a bond and encourage students to feel valued. If students feel comfortable with their teacher, they will be more inclined to respectfully communicate with their peers in the classroom.
Second, teachers should maintain ongoing communication with their students. Consistent communication in the form of “check-ins” will assist in continuously improving the classroom’s accessibility. These 1-on-1 meetings can help identify issues and ways to improve the overall classroom experience for both the students and the teacher.
Third, it is important that teachers acknowledge and respect their own diverse background, as well as each student’s diverse background. Incorporating opportunities for students to research and discuss the unique aspects that they bring with them into the classroom allows students to better understand their own background as well as their peers. However, it is important to ensure that these differences are acknowledged in a safe space to promote understanding. Highlighting cultural celebration and appropriation, while teaching students how to discuss other cultures in a respectful manner is significant.
Fourth, while promoting an open dialogue for students to explore diversity is important, it is equally important to ensure that students are being sensitive to other cultures, beliefs, and languages. Providing students with interactive learning experiences that encourage collaboration can assist in practicing cultural sensitivity.
Next, while fostering diversity in the classroom is the goal, it is important that as teachers we foster diversity in our actual lesson plans. This can be accomplished by bringing in diverse speakers to give context to course material. Connecting lesson plans to real life experiences will assist in promoting cultural awareness and provide students with an experience to relate to.
Last, provide students with freedom and flexibility. While taking an authoritative approach to classroom management is easy, valuable lessons often stem from learning from experience. As a teacher, it is important to provide students with the freedom to engage with course material, make connections to curriculum, and participate in healthy debates. A teacher’s role is to facilitate and expose students to diverse perspectives, while allowing them the opportunity to construct their own beliefs.
Drexel University’s article concludes that fostering diversity in the classroom assists students in becoming more empathetic, gain a better understanding of lessons and people, become open-minded, feel comfortable and safe, and feel prepared to engage in respectful collaboration.
Equity in the Classroom
To be equitable is to understand that no two individuals are the same and therefore they may require different resources in any given situation. To be equitable means that each individual receives what they as an individual requires, rather than everyone receiving that exact same resources. Equity acknowledges individual differences in any given situation.
With our society becoming increasingly diverse, classrooms are becoming more diverse and as a teacher, it is important to acknowledge this. Equity in the classroom is understanding that not every student has the same privileges, resources, or support. As Maria Kampen noted in her article titled 8 Powerful Ways to Promote Equity in the Classroom, promoting equity in the classroom means making sure that each and every student has the resources and support they as an individual need in order to be successful.
Implementing equity in the classroom begins with the teacher. It is the teacher’s responsibility and duty to create an environment where each student receives the resources or opportunities they need depending on their individual situation. Brian Soika’s article titled Seven Effective Ways to Promote Equity in the Classroom, Brian discusses seven ways teachers can create an equitable classroom. Equity in the classroom begins with the teacher. The teacher must be reflexive of their own beliefs. Next, as the teacher, it is important to be accommodating with your students and their needs. Whether it be with respect to their learning styles or with respect to their beliefs or religion. As a teacher, it is important to be accommodating with your students. Brian also noted in his article the importance of establishing an inclusive environment from the start. Establishing rules that allow for an equitable classroom early in the school year actions that are ok in the classroom as well as actions and behaviours that will not be tolerated. In an article written by Kimberly Tanner, titled Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity, she wrote about the importance of explicitly promoting access and equity for your students. As a student, it is vital that you hear from your teacher directly about their intentions of creating an equitable classroom.
Implementing equity in the classroom is important for many reasons. Equity creates an environment where each and every student is able to thrive. As Maria also noted in her article, a student in an equitable classroom is not held back by factors such as race, culture, gender, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. In an equitable classroom, each student is able to reach their full potential.
The idea of promoting inclusion is essential when embracing multiculturalism in the classroom. Oxford Languages has defined inclusivity as “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups”. According to Homa Tavanger, creating an inclusive classroom not only fosters a safe classroom environment but also promotes unity among students. Therefore, we must make inclusivity a priority to truly embrace multiculturalism within P/J classrooms. Tavanager provides multiple suggestions for how to create an inclusive classroom. Some of these suggestions include, curating your news feed, building an inclusive vocabulary, valuing experiences and perspectives and lastly classroom presentation. By creating an inclusion based news feed, educators can learn valuable skills on how to be better equipped to facilitate diversity conversations as well as confront their own personal biases. When facilitating these diversity and inclusion conversations it is important to be mindful of our own verbiage and language. The way an educator communicates with their students is critical as they are largely influenced by the day-to-day actions of their teachers. Therefore, by using inclusive language in the classroom, students will begin to incorporate the use of more inclusive wording as well. Another meaningful way to develop an inclusive classroom is by placing value on the experiences and perspectives of marginalized, minority, or oppressed groups of people. For example, in the reading Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit Battiste provides us with an understanding of the value in sharing personal experiences. According to Battiste, “…Women of oppressed groups have stories to tell, and telling those stories is an act of resistance”. I feel as though this quote by Battiste reflects the value of learning about minority groups from someone who identifies with a minority group and their personal experiences, rather than someone who has not lived that experience. Lastly, one can construct an inclusive classroom simply by the way they choose to display or present it for their students. For instance, by adding posters, symbols or classroom objects that are representative of minority groups it can help those marginalized students to feel more comfortable and welcome in the classroom. Ultimately, this helps to foster a sense of safety and cohesion creating a better learning experience for all.
Embracing multiculturalism fosters and encourages the ability to reflect and appreciate differences in the community, which further supports opportunity and shared equal rights for all social groups. Evidence established through the analysis of standards of practice, fostering diversity, creating equitable classrooms, and inclusive learning environments, communicates that embracing multiculturalism in primary/junior academic settings further prepares students for positive life long learning experiences.
Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Possibilities ofeducational transformation. (10), 175-191.
Egbo, B. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: A pedagogy of inclusion – OECD. https://www.oecd.org/education/school/7-4th-Forum-EGBO.pdf
Drexel University. (2021). The Importance of Diversity in the Classroom. School of Education. https://drexel.edu/soe/resources/student-teaching/advice/importance-of cultural-diversity-in-classroom/
Kampen, M. (n.d.). 8 powerful ways to promote equity in the classroom. Prodigy Education. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/blog/equity-in-the-classroom/
Maeda, J. (2021, June 20). Design in tech report 2019: Section 6: Addressing imbalance. Design in Tech Report. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://designintech.report/2019/03/11/%F0%9F%93%B1design-in-tech-report-2019-section-6-addressing-imbalance/
Ministry of Education. (2009). Realizing the promise of diversity: Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy. Ontario Ministry of Education. https://www.deslibris.ca/ID/221965
Ministry of Education. (2009). Realizing the promise of diversity: Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy. Ontario Ministry of Education http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/equity.pdf
Oxford Language. (n.d.). Retrieved on February 27, 2022, from https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
Scheinder, J. (2019). Education and Learning Resources. How to create an inclusive
classroom. Retrieved February 27, 2022, from https://www.steampoweredfamily.com/education/create-an-inclusive-classroom/
Sharma, S. (2005). Multicultural Education: Teachers Perceptions And Preparation. Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC), 2(5). https://doi.org/10.19030/tlc.v2i5.1825
Soika, B. (2020, March 19). Seven Effective Ways to Promote Equity in the Classroom. USC Rossier School of Education. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://rossier.usc.edu/seven-effective-ways-to-promote-equity-in-the-classroom/
Statistics Canada. (2006). Education. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-402-x/2006/1821/ceb1821_000-eng.htm
Tanner, K. D. (2013). Structure matters: Twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12(3), 322–331. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.13-06-0115
Tavanger, H. (2017). Education Equity. Creating an inclusive classroom. Retrieved February 27, 2022, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/creating-inclusive-classroom