Every educator enters the classroom with their own cultural experiences, traditions, and biases. Effective educational leaders can acknowledge their blind spots and implement instructional strategies that embrace the cultural diversity of their students and cultivate understanding across differences.
Through the Emporia State University (ESU) online Master of Science (MS) in Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) – National Board Certification PreK-12 program, graduates gain insights into how students of various cultural backgrounds interact with the curriculum, allowing them to create an environment where all students can achieve their academic goals.
What Is Culture in Education?
To understand how culture influences an educational setting, educators must first learn the elements that comprise “culture.” Culture is the context through which humans understand the world through daily activities, customs and social routines. Whatever one person considers a “normal” morning routine may be completely foreign to someone who follows cultural practices from another country or religious tradition.
Educational settings often reflect the cultural norms of their particular localities, education researcher and teacher Nicole Biscotti writes. While there is no single best approach to effectively teaching students the curriculum they need to succeed, most people grow up believing that their beliefs and values are the “right” ones, according to Biscotti.
Classrooms are often where students’ attitudes about society are simultaneously challenged and reinforced. For instance, a student may have never met another child who speaks another language or whose lunch box includes rice and kimchi instead of a sandwich and chips.
These experiences can be startling, but educators can play a key role in disrupting racial or ethnic stereotypes and ensuring students learn how to appropriately respond or even respectfully inquire about their peers’ backgrounds. Moreover, educators can find ways to celebrate different cultures through lessons about holidays and religious traditions.
Ways Culture Influences Educational Experiences
In many cases, the cultural practices a student experiences at home may directly contrast with the norms they encounter at school. These cultural differences can directly affect how a child approaches their education, especially regarding parental expectations to succeed. If parents stress the need to focus on academic achievement, students may internalize that message by devoting themselves to their studies and spend less time socializing and making relationships with their classmates. This dynamic can pose challenges for educators who want to ensure that students improve their social skills.
Culture also influences teachers’ perceptions of their pupils and how they respond to student needs. For instance, educators often create reward systems and publicly praise students who volunteer to participate in group activities. However, many cultures place a higher value on what a person contributes to the collective good rather than celebrating a person’s achievements and knowledge.
In turn, some students may be reluctant to speak up or feel embarrassed by the prospect of being singled out in front of their peers. Educators must resist the urge to only reward the students who meet their expected cultural norms and find other ways to engage young learners.
Most of all, educators must be attuned to how language barriers shape students’ ability to engage with classroom material and master objectives. Even if the student has demonstrated proficiency in English and can meet academic standards, they may still struggle with cultural norms or slang used in a classroom lesson. These cultural differences can keep students with English as a second language from feeling fully supported or accepted in the classroom environment.
Develop Cultural Competency Skills With Emporia State University
As part of ESU’s online MS C&I – National Board Certification PreK-12 program, students learn crucial cultural competency skills in courses like Cultural Influences & Educational Practices and Beliefs, Values & Issues in Educational Practice. Graduates leave the program with a newfound understanding of how U.S. culture shaped the modern education system and strategies for connecting with students across differences.
In addition, ESU graduates will receive guidance to develop a portfolio and supportive personal documentation necessary to become a National Board Certified Teacher. Upon completion of the program, educational leaders will be ready to pursue careers as teacher leaders, instructional coordinators, and curriculum specialists.