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Module 8: Cultural Differences

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Cultural Differences – Summary

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A culture is the system of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that constitute the distinctive way of life of a people.
Ethnicity refers to the common language, history, and future experienced by a group within society.
Teachers need to understand diversity and how students’ habitual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours differ from each other, and especially how they differ from the teacher’s.
The majority of children around the world are bilingual, meaning that they understand and use two languages. In classrooms as in other social settings, bilingualism exists in different forms and degrees.
Research finds that language loss limits students’ ability to learn the new language as well or as quickly as they otherwise can do.
Having a large vocabulary in a first language has been shown to save time in learning vocabulary in a second language
Cultures and ethnic groups differ not only in languages, but also in how languages are used.
Aspects of language use that differ across cultures are:
Eye Contact
Social Distance
Wait Time
Asking Questions
In addition to differences in language, cultural groups tend to differ in various other attitudes and beliefs.
Various cultures put different levels of emphasis on the independent self and the interdependent self.
There can be consequences of the difference in how the students respond to school based on their culture.

The following are tendencies, not simple predictions:
Preference for activities that are cooperative rather than competitive
Avoidance of standing out publicly
Interpersonal time versus clock time
Oppositional cultural identity is when students define themselves not by who they are, but by how they differ from or oppose mainstream culture

Accommodating cultural diversity involves more than adding cultural content to the curriculum - it is important to engage students in exploring the culturally based assumptions of whatever subject they are studying.
James Banks has proposed five features of a fully multicultural educational program:
Integrating cultural content into the curriculum wherever possible.
Stimulating knowledge construction to help students understand cultural assumption.
Flexible teaching strategies that give all students access and success with learning.
Encourage prejudice reduction among all students.
Encourage the entire school to be aware of cultural diversity and its effects.