Responding to linguistic and cultural differences in a multicultural classroom

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Language and culture have been identified as important factors when one is considering school-based literacy. They become more important when issues relating to multicultural classrooms are discussed. In this situation, teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching linguistically and culturally diverse student populations. In such classrooms, students who differ in culture and/or language often do not enjoy equal educational opportunities, and as a result they fail or drop out of school for reasons not entirely of their own, but rather from those related to schools not accommodating their differences. In a pluralistic society, this situation is undesirable and demands informed change. This study, therefore, attempts to document the efforts of a teacher to accommodate linguistic and cultural differences in his multicultural classroom and how his students respond to his strategy. A fifth grade multicultural classroom in the Philadelphia School District was used for the purpose of the study. Data was generated through participant observation, interview, and document analysis. The data was analyzed using motivation, purpose, text and interaction Hornberger's (1990a) framework. The findings confirm that the ecological environment, in which teaching and learning occurs, influences the quality and quantity of learning achieved by students. The teacher of the study was able to create a successful learning context for his multicultural students through an environment which was responsive to the differences in his classroom. The students, on the other hand, became active participants while teaching and learning became shared responsibilities between the teacher and his students. It is hoped that the findings will provide an alternative to dealing with the existing problem of diversity in multicultural classrooms, such as in Nigeria, the place of my future involvement. The implication of the findings of the study is that teachers can make a difference in the struggle to correct inequality of educational opportunities in schools. Their teaching strategies can empower their students if they are responsive to their needs.






University of Pennsylvania