TRAINING OF TEACHERS REGARDING MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION

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THE GRADE R LEARNER

The Grade R learner, also referred to as the Reception Year learner is a five- and six year-old child before going to Grade 1. These early years of children are critical for their development (Department of Education 2008:15). The Reception Year child is currently part of the four-year Foundation Phase but it is not yet compulsory by law to attend Grade R classes. Although the current national plan does not require Grade R learners to attend Reception Year classes accommodated at primary or preprimary schools, these learners who do enroll for Grade R have an advantage above learners who did not complete Grade R before attending formal education in the Foundation Phase.

CREATING AND MANAGING AN UNBIASED GRADE R CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

Derman-Sparks & Ramsey (2006:20) belief that even when teachers do recognize the value of unbiased education, they are often unsure how to integrate it meaningfully in classroom environments. Learners have to be guided in recognizing biased information in its many forms, such as books, pictures, television and video games.
According to Gordon & Browne (2010:309-310), anti-bias classroom environments can help learners to develop positive identities because they value individual differences in race, ethnicity, ability and gender.

Planning an unbiased Grade R classroom environment

When planning an unbiased classroom environment for Grade R learners there are two important principles the teachers must always keep in mind. Firstly, to provide play opportunities which are still the vehicle with which the Grade R learner achieves different cognitive, emotional and social outcomes and secondly to enhance school readiness. The Grade R class is often referred to as a bridging class, preprimary class or preschool class. In the Grade R class learners are introduced to activities that the Grade 1 curriculum will require. Therefore the Reception Year classroom environment should be well-planned in order to support children in becoming school ready.
The term “school readiness” is used by most teachers to describe how prepared their pupils are to begin Grade 1. School readiness is accomplished once the child as a “person-in-totality” can cope with the responsibilities that the formal instruction situations will require (De Witt 2009:170).Therefore it is obvious that a Grade R classroom environment should accommodate learning material and learning activities that support school readiness. As some teachers say that learners in Grade R need to become school ready, it is also true that schools need to be “child ready”. Especially the environment, and for the sake of this dissertation, the classroom environment is crucial. If the classroom environment is filled with opportunities to learn about and experience diversity, learners will benefit and will have a definite advantage over learners who are not exposed to multicultural learning events. This means that schools need to focus on the educational needs of Grade R learners (Davin & Van Staden 2005:5).
An unbiased classroom environment is much more that just pretty pictures and bulletin boards reflecting diversity. The classroom environment should be planned to be non-judgmental as it is a space where many different ethnicities are represented (McIntyre 2008:1).
When planning an unbiased classroom environment for Grade R learners, it is important to keep in mind that an awareness of different cultural groups starts in the early years. According to Clauss-Ehlers (2006:9-10), learners who experience an unbiased classroom environment are more likely to excel in school because the different needs of the diverse learner population are addressed in a proper way.
Classroom environment, if well-planned, becomes a very powerful tool and can be used as “a knowledge building instrument” to promote diversity (Derman-Sparks 1989:33). To organize the physical space for a Grade R classroom, teachers must show an appreciation of cultural, racial and ethnic differences and acknowledge differences in learners. It is crucial to discover the diversity within the classroom which means that teachers must know the learners and their cultural backgrounds. Grade R teachers should demonstrate a sound knowledge base about cultural pluralism and be able to see the world of the learner through multiple perspectives. An unbiased classroom environment must promote multiculturalism, goodwill and acceptance (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:17).
According to Gordon & Browne (2010:389-308), learners will be able to see that culture consists of different ways that people do the same activities if the physical and interpersonal environments are well-planned. An anti-bias classroom environment provides a more inclusive approach by incorporating the positive aspects of a multicultural curriculum.
Furthermore, children learn lessons early in life about identity and attitudes concerning language, age, race, gender and disability. Teachers can prevent or counter stereotyping by arranging an anti-bias physical environment and by creating an atmosphere of problem-solving. An anti-bias environment encourages boys and girls to play together, respecting differences and including others in new ways. A well-planned anti-bias classroom environment promotes principles such as a positive self-concept, respect for similarities and differences, and communication skills (Gordon & Browne 2010:289-290).
Grade R classroom environments are greatly influenced by parents as well. Teachers need to work with families to create an anti-bias and self-help focus in learners’ education and care (Gordon & Browne 2010:305).
Kendall cited in Richey & Wheeler (2000: 211), outlines the following five principles that are important when planning unbiased classroom environments. An unbiased classroom environment must . . .
• teach learners to respect other cultures and values as well as their own.
• help all children to function successfully in a multicultural, multiracial society.
• develop a positive self-concept in those children who are most affected by racism.
• support all children to experience both their differences as culturally diverse people and their similarities as human beings in a positive way.
• allow children to experience people of diverse cultures working together as unique parts of a whole community.
Against this background the different areas in a Grade R classroom needed to enhance an unbiased classroom environment for Grade R learners can be introduced.

Different areas in the Grade R classroom

Learner’s play is strongly influenced by the settings and materials that adults use to create the environment. The design of indoor spaces may foster or discourage imaginary play, social interaction or independence (Gordon & Browne 2010:301-302).
Classroom space should be arranged in different play areas, such as the fantasy play area, the book area and writing table, the block area, the toys and games area, the creative art area and the discovery table (Gordon & Browne 2010:347-348). All these areas need to be unbiased and teachers must focus on collecting multicultural materials even if it is over a period of time.
The fantasy play area needs to have cloths and objects representing all the cultural groups in the class. In this make-believe area different materials to dress up and to pretend to be someone else should be available and there must be no room for prejudice and stereotypes. Differences should be recognized and celebrated. Multiracial dolls, clothing, shoes, hats, scarves, belts, rugs and mats from different cultures can be displayed in this area (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:12).
The book area also has to represent stories and pictures concerning diversity. This area is usually situated in a quiet area. Books are important because from books they learn about their own culture as well as other cultures. Books about themselves and their families and also books with story tapes, including ethnic background music are appreciated in an unbiased classroom environment. Moreover, books on different lifestyles, alphabet and counting books of other cultures, journals, magazines and newspapers in different languages are prerequisites in classrooms. Introduce as many books as possible that reflect the culture of all the Grade R learners (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:7, 9).
The block area must include posters of buildings and environments representing multiculturalism. Furthermore, lots of different types of toys must be provided. These toys must reflect diversity. Games help Grade R learners to develop skills to sort, match, compare and to fit pieces together. These skills are important for mathematics and science. Diversity must also manifest in their games.
Playing in the creative art area requires decision making skills. Therefore, Grade R learners must feel free to use colour and to paste, to tear and to cut as they wish. Different cultural groups will reflect different identities with regard to creative art which must be fostered and not criticized (Gordon & Browne 2010:348). Art materials for the creative art area include the following: skin colored markers, dry fish scales and coral rocks, craft paper, skin tone papers, collage materials from different cultural groups, scraps of imported cloth, origami papers, rice papers, dry gourds, coconut shells, red clay, feathers, and raffia. Visual displays, such as posters of art and artifacts have to be accommodated in the creative art area (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:5).
The discovery table must offer a wide range of different objects in order to stimulate the interests of all the learners from all the different races in the same classroom. The Grade R learners’ interest about themselves and the local community can be a point of departure (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:3).
Music and movement are excellent tools that enhance respect for diversity. Folk songs, ethnic music, vocal music and instrumental music from all over the world contribute towards a positive understanding of multicultural classroom environments. Songs with simple words and melodies that encourage differences between, acceptance of and cooperation with other cultures are expressions of appreciation for diversity (Robles de Melendez & Ostertag 1997:11).
The overarching goal in creating an anti-bias classroom environment is to provide a climate of positive self and group identity development through which every child will achieve his or her fullest potential (http:www.teachingforchange.org).

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Classroom culture

Classroom culture is formed with the different cultures of teachers and learners. This type of classroom is called a microculture (Lemmer et al 2008:19). According to Hernandez (1989), cited in Lemmer et al (2008:19), teachers and learners bring their own set of experiences, values and beliefs into the classroom. Cultural transmission and socialization take place in classrooms. Classroom culture is an extension of the dominant school culture. Therefore, learners whose cultural backgrounds are different from the dominant school culture can experience cultural alienation and discontinuity. Some learners fail or drop out of school because of extreme cultural discontinuity. Learners succeed academically if their culture is closer to the teacher’s culture. The teacher has to bridge the cultural gaps in the classroom. This can be done by using the teaching and learning process to show respect for the cultural differences amongst learners and to be knowledgeable about their backgrounds.
The following suggestions, introduced by Lemmer et al (2008:20) can be used by teachers to learn more about their learners:
• Meet learners and their families of different cultural backgrounds.
• Meet community leaders.
• Conduct workshops and information evenings.
• Invite parents or members of the community to address learners in the school.
• Allow learners to write their autobiography.
• Become knowledgeable about a culture by collecting and reading resources.
According to Saville-Troike (1984) cited in Lemmer et al (2008:20), classroom culture can be enhanced when teachers know about their learner’s cultural backgrounds with regard to family roles, communication in families, discipline, food, and traditions.

Table of contents :

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION AND ORIENTATION
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
1.2.1 The interest of the researcher
1.2.2 The influence of adults (Grade R teachers) on learners’ perceptions
1.3 PROBLEM FORMULATION
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS
1.5.1 Multicultural education
1.5.2 Unbiased
1.5.3 Unbiased classroom environments
1.5.4 Grade R
1.5.5 Learner/child
1.6 DEMARCATION OF THE RESEARCH
1.7 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.7.1 Literature review
1.7.2 Empirical investigation
1.7.2.1 A qualitative approach
1.7.2.2 Setting
1.7.2.3 Sample
1.7.2.4 Interviews
1.7.2.5 Observation by using field notes
1.7.2.6 Data analysis procedure
1.8 CHAPTER DIVISION
1.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
2.2.1 The nature of multicultural education
2.2.2 Characteristics of multicultural education
2.2.3 Stereotypes
2.2.4 Prejudice
2.2.5 Racism
2.2.6 Coping with diversity in South African schools
2.2.6.1 The South African Constitution (1996)
2.2.6.2 The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996
2.2.6.3 Report on the Gender Equity Task Team (1997)
2.2.6.4 Report on the study on racism in schools by the South African Human Rights Commission (1999)
2.2.7 The language barrier in multicultural schools
2.3 TRAINING OF TEACHERS REGARDING MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
2.4 THE GRADE R LEARNER
2.5 CREATING AND MANAGING AN UNBIASED GRADE R CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT
2.5.1 Planning an unbiased Grade R classroom environment
2.5.2 Different areas in the Grade R classroom
2.5.3 Classroom culture
2.5.4 Riehl’s model for analyzing classroom environments for an anti-bias approach
2.5.4.1 Everyday and everywhere
2.5.4.2 Mirrors to self-esteem
2.5.4.3 Windows to diversity and balance
2.5.4.4 Culturally appropriate, historically accurate, and non-stereotypical
2.5.4.5 Critical thinking and activism
2.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 LITERATURE STUDY
3.3 THE RESEARCH DESIGN
3.3.1 Qualitative research approach
3.3.2 The role of the researcher
3.3.3 Settings
3.3.3.1 School A
3.3.3.2 School B
3.3.3.3 School C
3.3.4 Sample
3.4 DATA COLLECTION STRATEGIES
3.4.1 Focus group interview
3.4.1.1 The nature of a focus group interview
3.4.1.2 Advantages of a focus group interview
3.4.1.3 Conducting and recording a focus group interview
3.4.1.4 The interview schedule
3.4.2 Observation by using field notes
3.5 DATA PROCESSING AND ANALYSING
3.5.1 Assembling and organising data
3.5.2 Method of data analysis
3.5.3 Reporting the findings
3.6 VERIFICATION
3.6.1 Validity
3.6.2 Reliability
3. 7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.7.1 Informed consent
3.7.2 Approval
3.7.3 Confidentiality and anonymity
3.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4: PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 RESEARCH DESIGN IN BRIEF
4.3 PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
4.3.1 Grade R teachers’ understanding of an unbiased classroom environment
4.3.2 Participants’ training opportunities
4.3.3 Challenges Grade R teachers are currently experiencing with regard to an unbiased classroom environment
4.3.3.1 The reality of stereotypes
4.3.3.2 The problem of learners speaking different languages in the same classroom
4.3.3.3 Teachers’ ignorance of the nature of different cultural groups
4.3.3.4 Learners’ lack of respect for teachers and peers (racism)
4.3.3.5 Teachers’ prejudice and discrimination
4.3.4 Strategies currently employed by Grade R teachers to deal with the identified challenges
4.3.4.1 Addressing the reality of stereotypes
4.3.4.2 Addressing different languages in the same classroom
4.3.4.3 Addressing teachers’ ignorance of the nature of different cultural groups in the same
classroom
4.3.4.4 Addressing learners’ lack of respect for teachers and peers (racism)
4.3.4.5 Addressing teachers’ prejudice and discrimination
4.3.4.6 Addressing teaching media in the classroom
4.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH
5.2.1 Literature review
5.2.2 Empirical investigation
5.2.2.1 Grade R teachers’ understanding of an unbiased classroom environment
5.2.2.2 Participants’ training opportunities
5.2.2.3 Challenges Grade R teachers are experiencing with regard to an unbiased classroom environment
5.2.2.4 Strategies currently employed by Grade R teachers to deal with the identified challenges
5.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.3.1 Additional strategies for Grade R teachers to create and manage unbiased classroom environments
5.3.1.1 Addressing the reality of stereotypes
5.3.1.2 Addressing different languages in the same classroom
5.3.1.3 Addressing teachers’ own ignorance of the nature of different cultural groups in the same classroom
5.3.1.4 Addressing learners’ lack of respect for teachers and peers (racism)
5.3.1.5 Addressing teachers’ prejudice and discrimination
5.3.1.6 Addressing teaching media in the classroom
5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
5.4.1 Formal training programmes for tertiary teacher education
5.4.2 Pre-service training (PRESET) and in-service training (INSET) for teachers
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
5.6 CONCLUSION
BIBLIOGRAPHY

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