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Playing the role of 'cultural expert' : teachers of ethnic difference in Britain and Australia

Basit, T and Santoro, Ninetta (2011) Playing the role of 'cultural expert' : teachers of ethnic difference in Britain and Australia. Oxford Review of Education, 37 (1). pp. 37-52. ISSN 0305-4985

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Abstract

This article brings together the findings of two separate studies in Britain and Australia that sought to examine the experiences of teachers of ethnic difference. Drawing on qualitative data, we examine how early‐career and mid‐career minority ethnic teachers in Britain and Australia, respectively, understand and take up the role of ‘cultural expert’, a position generated through expectations that they will be mentors and role models for ethnic minority students as well as curriculum and pedagogy leaders within schools. The newly qualified British teachers were generally positive about their positioning as cultural experts because the recognition of their knowledge about minority ethnic cultures, traditions and languages enabled them to develop self‐esteem and, in turn, led them towards self‐actualisation. The experienced Australian teachers, however, perceived their role as ‘cultural expert’ as problematic because the demands and associated increase in workload led to disenchantment and burn‐out and reduced opportunities for their career development on a broader level. We conclude by raising issues around teacher education and the recruitment of minority ethnic teachers.