Experienced teachers' perspectives on cultural and social class diversity : which differences matter?

Allard, A and Santoro, Ninetta (2008) Experienced teachers' perspectives on cultural and social class diversity : which differences matter? Equity and Excellence in Education, 41 (2). pp. 200-214.

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Abstract

This article reports on a pilot study that investigated the beliefs, values, and pedagogies of experienced high school teachers who worked with student populations of non-English speaking and economically disadvantaged immigrants or refugees in Australia. Qualitative research methods, including focus groups and in-depth individual interviews with teachers, produced data that were examined using Critical Discourse Analysis. Close reading of the teachers' comments suggests that there are a number of key discourses that teachers use to make sense of differences among culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged groups of students. Specifically, teachers distinguish between cultural groups on the basis of students' life experiences prior to arrival in Australia; students' collective and individual educational experiences; and the different social class positioning of students within the same ethnic group. In their comments, teachers at times categorised students in generalised and stereotypical ways but also were able to critique and reflect on their personal assumptions. An analysis of the teachers' reflections provides insights into how they made sense of “diversity” and how, as teachers, they try to work productively with ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged students.