I have at least half a dozen cultures represented in my classroom. Do I have to learn about the customs, foods, and beliefs of all that half a dozen cultures? This could be a common question from a teacher new to culturally responsive teaching.
To have a reasonable answer, we need to understand that culture is like an iceberg with three layers: the tip of the iceberg is the ‘surface culture’, the visible part of culture. Just below the water line is the ‘shallow culture’, but the largest hidden part is the ‘deep culture’ which grounds the individual and nourishes a person's mental health. It is the bedrock of self-concept, group identity, approaches to problem solving, and decision making. The key to understanding how culture guides the brain during culturally responsive teaching lies in focusing on the DEEP CULTURE. It is not important to emphasise on the visible part of culture i.e. dress, food, holidays, and heroes. We, as a culturally responsive teacher, rather should focus on roots of the culture: worldview, core beliefs, and group values. Although, at the surface level culturally students can be very diversified, in reality, there are universal patterns across cultures. The Hammond called it cultural archetypes. Thus culturally responsive teaching challenges can be narrowed down by investigating only two cultural archetypes: Collectivism and Individualism. Dutch sociologist, Geert Hofstede found that approximately 20% of the world has an individualistic culture, while the other 80% practice a collective culture (Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). Most European cultures were rooted in an individualistic mindset, whole the collectivist worldview is common among Latin American, Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Maori , Pasifika and many Slavic cultures. Let us quickly look at the individualism-collectivism continuum, the Cultural Dimensions Index created by Geert Hofstede: United States, 91%, Australia, 90%, UK, 89% and New Zealand, 79%. Whereas, Singapore the CDI is only 20%. The individualistic culture favours self-oriented, individual effort in business and learning. It also supports competition over cooperation.
Thus, begins the 'conflict' of culture in the classroom. I will write more in the next blog.
Source: Hofstede.G., Minkov, M. (2010)
Culturally Responsive Teaching and the brain by Zaretta Hammond