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Interrogating practice in culturally diverse classrooms : what can an analysis of student resistance and teacher response reveal?

Santoro, Ninetta and Forghani-Arani, Neda (2014) Interrogating practice in culturally diverse classrooms : what can an analysis of student resistance and teacher response reveal? In: European Conference for Educational Research, 2014-09-01 - 2015-02-05.

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Over the last two decades, classrooms in many places in the world have become increasingly diverse. The movement of people within the 'borderless' European Union, the forced migration of those escaping war and/or political turmoil and education markets attracting international students mean that culturally heterogeneous classrooms have become increasingly common (Council of Europe 2011; European Commission 2013).There is significant body of research that suggests many teachers enter the profession because they want to make a positive difference to the material and social aspects of students' lives through education (eg., Kiriacou et al. 2010). However, there are tensions between teachers' desire to teach for social justice and the educational experiences of students from some ethnic minority groups who continue to underachieve in comparison to their 'mainstream' peers. In many cases, the educational outcomes of some groups of culturally diverse student lag behind those of students from the hegemonic mainstream (OECD 2012). In general, first and second generation immigrant youth, are more likely to leave school early, less likely to access university education and consequently more likely to be unemployed or employed in low paying jobs (Portes and Rivas, 2011). While some students and their parents have been born in the country where they live, they may have been marginalised by racist and discriminatory practices that have worked to marginalise them, sometimes for generations. For example, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups are likely to experience education disadvantage (Wilkin et al., 2010).There are many reasons for the disparity between the educational outcomes of some groups of students and the rhetoric of equality. One reason is that teacher education has not adequately prepared teachers to be culturally responsive practitioners. Many teachers are simply ill prepared to teach students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Eg. Gay, 2010; Darling-Hammond, 2012). In this presentation we draw on data from a large scale longitudinal study conducted in Austria that aimed to limit marginalizing processes and practices and improve transitions and trajectories within an inclusive school setting for all. Here, we present interview data from one teacher in a case study school to highlight how mandatory swimming classes are a source of tension between Muslim female students and their teachers. We examine how the curriculum and associated teacher practice in this particular multicultural context reflect the values, beliefs and cultural practices of the dominant majority and can marginalise minority ethnic students. Drawing on theories of student resistance (Russell 2011; Soleranzo & Bernal 2001) we examine the interplay of student resistance and teacher authority as demonstrated during swimming lessons. We conclude that students' strategies of resistance enable them to exercise personal agency and to shape institutional structures and discourses. We suggest that by being assisted to analyse student resistance and their own responses to such student resistance, teachers can gain greater skills of reflexivity and awareness of the complexities and the effect of curriculum and pedagogies on culturally diverse students.