Education Inequity dissertation

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Educational Inequity

Culture and education are inherently linked (Adams, 1992; Gay, 2000, Jones 2004; Wlodkcowski & Ginsberg, 1995 in: Guo and Jamal, 2007) In order to understand impact of diversity in the educational setting, Guo and Jamal write that it appears necessary to "first define some key terms, including culture and cultural diversity. Culture can be defined as a dynamic system of values, beliefs and behaviors that influence how people experience and respond to the world around them. For many, cultural diversity can be referred to as 'distinctions in the lived experiences, and the related perception of and reactions to those experiences that serve to differentiate collective populations from one another." (Marshall, 2002, p. 7)

Culture plays a key role in forming the manner in which students learn and communicate,"…how they relate to other students and instructors, their motivation levels, and their sense of what is worth learning." The extent to which students are comfortable in the classroom is dependent upon "the congruence between their cultural background and the dominant culture of the educational institution." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) The traditional classroom culture is of the nature that many times excludes students in ways that are subtle in terms of the curriculum or the instructional practices. (Guo and Jamal, 2007, paraphrased)

The roots of the response to cultural diversity by the education system and community are reported to be in "the intercultural education movement of the 1920s and 1930s with the goal of promoting tolerance and understanding among different cultural and ethnic groups (Banks, 2005 in Guo and Jamal, 2007).Chavez et al. (2003) proposed a model specifically the Individual Diversity Development Framework which is a holistic approach to the development of individual diversity and is effective in suggesting a method for education staff to reflect on their personal development and for encouraging and assisting student development. Dealing with the complex nature of the indentify of people is generally through an essentialist approach in order to grasp an understanding of the members of different groups and does so through using the individual's experience or their lack of experience to assign a set of characteristics.

There is then an extension of these characteristics, which is often incorrect, which serves to describe the individuals in the group. Because the individual is complex and often contradictory, the assigning of identities based on characteristics of the group is often erroneously interpreted. However, the individual diversity development framework illustrates how the individual can better understand the identity complexities and progress toward the validating of these characteristics. This change is reported to occur at three levels: (1) the cognitive level; (2) the affective level; and (3) the behavioral level. (Guo and Jamal, 2007) It is reported that the change may or may not be linear but will occur through gradual practice. The diversity framework is reported to have five dimensions which can be used in the process of learning to value specific difference through moving some or all of these dimensions which are inclusive of those stated as follows: (1) unawareness; (2) dualistic awareness, (3) questioning and self-exploration, (4) risk-taking, and (5) integration. (Guo and Jamal, 2007) The following illustration is that of the 'Framework of Individual Diversity Development'.

Figure 1

Framework of Individual Diversity Development

Source: Guo and Jamal (2007)

In the category of unawareness of lack of exposure, individuals are not aware that a specific difference exists, would therefore show no feeling concerning this difference, and would provide not response to the differences in behavior. At this level, it is possible to encourage the individual to consider differences that they are familiar with and to motivate them in considering other types of differences with which they are not yet familiar. In the category of dualistic awareness, the differences are viewed by individuals in a dualistic manner such as being 'good' if familiar or being 'bad' if not familiar. The individuals in this grouping have yet to have their beliefs questioned and can receive a benefit from their exposure to various views or issues, which will serve to move them away from the dualistic thinking modes.

In the category of questioning/self-exploration individuals start to move further away from dualistic modes of thinking enables them to see the valid nature of other views. This process is often characteristics by fear because personal beliefs which have been held as true for a long time are challenged. This is especially true when the individual has an association with a specific group but as the individual is more comfortable with other views, they find excitement in this pursuit.

In the category of risk-taking and exploring others individuals are ready to challenge their own thinking in order to understand the views of other individuals and this is accomplished through both internal and external reflection as the individual seeks new ways of thinking and attempts to engage in situations where they must give consideration to other's views.

The integration/validation category is one in which the individuals who see difference through use of this dimension do not any longer view others as having a "fixed set of characteristics based on group membership but recognize their multiple and complex identities. Individuals using the integration/validation dimension have a stronger sense of self, and are therefore able to interact comfortably both with people having different values and beliefs and in a variety of settings and contexts." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) These individuals have integrated their own sense of self "…with their perception of the other, and continue to strive towards valuing and validating difference wherever they encounter it." (Guo and Jamal, 2007)

Multicultural education is a field of study reported to have emerged in the 1960s "as a response to issues of social justice and equity in the education and was based on principles of cultural pluralism and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination in the education system. The principle of cultural pluralism asserts the right of different ethnic and cultural groups to retain their language and cultural traditions within a climate of respect for the traditions and values of different groups." (Guo and Jamal, 2007)

These principles are stated to within the framework of the education system to be accomplished through affirmation of the "… importance of culture in the teaching and learning process, and by providing opportunities for equity and academic excellence for all students, regardless of their racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds." (Bennett, 2001 in Guo and Jamal, 2007) This is not achieved through establishment of equality for all students but through acknowledgement that students "…come to the learning environment with diverse backgrounds and needs, and that curriculum and teaching practices should respond to this diversity." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) Multicultural education has as its goal the "change at the individual and classroom level and can be achieved by transforming pedagogical practices, reforming the curriculum, and encouraging multicultural competence." (Bennett, 2003 in: Guo and Jamal, 2007) Included in the pedagogical practices of multicultural education are those of: (1) instructional strategies, (2) teacher expectations, (3) classroom climates, and (4) practices so that all students can achieve academic excellence. (Guo and Jamal, 2007) In order to bring about Curriculum reform the Eurocentric content of the curriculum must be changed to one that is more inclusive of "multicultural and multiethnic knowledge and perspectives." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) The multicultural education model can be used to bring about changes in the response to cultural diversity. This model is one formulated by Banks (1997b) and is reported to include five specific dimensions as follows: (1) content integration, (2)knowledge construction, (3) prejudice reduction, (4) an equity pedagogy, and (5) an empowering learning culture (Banks, 1997b) The following figure illustrates the model of Banks for multicultural education.

Figure 2

Multicultural Education Model

Source: Banks (1997b)

Content integration "refers to the need for inclusion of knowledge and perspectives form a variety of cultures into the subject areas of every discipline." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) Four approaches to content integration exist: (1) the contributions approach; (2) the additive approach; (3) the transformative approach; and (4) the social action approach. (Banks, 1997b, in Guo and Jamal, 2007) The transformative approach is a radical approach that makes the assumption that "knowledge construction is not neutral but is value laden, and that in order to include knowledge from multiple perspectives, it is necessary to make structural changes in the curriculum that provide additional and alternative perspectives in all disciplines." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) The knowledge construction process haws as its basis "the frames of reference, perspectives and assumptions that are used when constructing and validating the knowledge that is produced in each discipline." (Guo and Jamal, 2007) Students are encouraged in the knowledge construction process to take an approach that is more critical and to ask questions of a complex nature about the content and for enhancement and improvement of their skills and abilities and specifically those related to critical thinking.

The prejudice reduction factors of the multicultural model serve to change the students' attitudes and beliefs which have as their basis such as racism…[continue]

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