Dealing with Difference: Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms

Nina Burridge
John Buchanan
Andrew Chodkiewicz


Australia continues to develop as a multicultural society with levels of immigration increasing significantly over recent years as a result of government policies. More recently, the new period of financial turmoil, continuing threats from terrorism and environmental concerns, have all exacerbated the challenges of dealing with difference in our society. In response, schools continue to face the challenges of the impact of a range of different cultures, languages and religions among their student and school communities. How effectively schools deal with difference and how well they are supported in their endeavours to build culturally response classrooms is a perennial issue for both teachers and educators. A major challenge for teachers is to at a minimum, understand cultural differences as they manifest in their particular school settings and to draw on approaches that support student learning in culturally appropriate ways so to assist them to better realise their full potential. In this paper we will consider cultural diversity in the context of recent school policies, highlight a number of frameworks for addressing cultural diversity in the classroom, in particular the approaches by Kalantzis and Cope’s (1999) and Hickling-Hudson (2003). We also draw on the findings from a recent qualitative study of representations of cultural diversity in a number of Sydney metropolitan schools to discuss the need for more greater resource and policy support for progressive teaching approaches that support the development of a more tolerant and inclusive multicultural society. Key words: cultural diversity, schools, teacher education, classroom practice, social inclusion

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