Cultural Sensitivity in the ClassroomCultural sensitivity in the classroom is one of the biggest factors in deciding the class' openess towards cultural differences, and whether the class can operate on an equal basis in a class of multicultural students
. This issue is becoming more important as the globalization continues to spread, and students
are more likely than ever to share a class with those of different countries and cultures in this world of lowered boarders between countries. Although multiculturalism may become the basis of the greatest conflicts in the classroom, if managed properly, may be one of the greatest assets that the class has. This is an issue in the classroom that needs to be taken into consideration both by the students
and the teacher, for all levels of learners, young and business students
of English alike.
Some of the issues that a class may face if the teacher and the students
are not sensitive to cultural differences could be misunderstanding some of the students
, alienating certain students
from the rest of the class, and stereotyping and mockery (Dale). This could be more vulnerable in a class with a majority of students
from one culture and a few students
from a different culture. It takes sensitivity in the cultural differences of the classmates to overcome these issues.
The teacher plays a large role in shaping how the class looks at the cultural differences in the room (Dale). Just the teacher's attitude of equality to all of the students
and understanding to differences will just by itself give an example for the students
to follow. The teacher takes a great role in making sure that he or she makes a class that is open to differences. This can be done from choosing textbooks that are used to complimenting on the different aspects of the students
' cultures (Dale). The teacher needs to be aware of the differences in each of the students
' cultures, in order to make sure they are taught equally, and without misunderstandings. Even actions as little as the amount of eye contact or the physical space between the student
and the teacher, may communicate different messages to students
depending on their culture (Martin and Nakayama, p.284). For example, in a very generalized notion, students
from south eastern Asia may be more used to being taught in classes where there is a great power distance between the teacher and the student
. The decisions are expected to be given by the teacher for the students
to follow without question (Ellis and Johnson p.18). On the opposite side of this spectrum, students
from western countries in general may be more used to opening up their opinions to the class, and being in a more equal level with the teacher (Martin and Nakayama, p.279). If the teacher is not aware of these differences, he or she may hold the wrong expectations from the students
and misunderstand them. A student
from south east Asia may not be open to discussing a topic on the same level with the teacher as much as a western student
may be, and a western student
may not be as used to simply receiving orders from the teacher without discussion or stating their opinion. These are all things that the teacher needs to be sensitive about in order to teach effectively in a multicultural class.
It is not only the teacher who needs to be aware of these differences, but the students
also must be attuned to them to make sure that multiculturalism does not become an issue in the class. Take a class with a majority of students
from one culture with a few students
from Japan, for example. A generalized cultural mannerism of japanese students
is sensitivity towards differences of age between the students
(Ikeda). If a student
is older in age, more is expected of them there is a relational gap between them and the younger students
(Ikeda). japanese students
are also known to strict in finishing all the assignments given to them and be highly respective of the teacher (Ikeda). These attributes may be misunderstood by other students
who are not aware of these cultural norms as them not wanting to make friends who are younger or older than them by a few years, or being too rifurous about the assignments of the class. Although this may be an exaggerated example, it may be very likely that these students
would be alienated along with their different culture by the rest of the class. Although the teacher can guide the students
, it takes cultural sensitivity from the students
to open up to these differences and make constructive relationships with each other.
If handled correctly, multiculturalism in the classroom could be one of the greatest assets in the class. However it takes both the teacher, by setting an example, and the students
, by opening up to the differences, to make it work effectively. If managed correctly, the students
would be able to learn one of the most important lessons they could take from a class, which is being able to open oneself to different cultures. It is not only a lesson about English, but about what it means to be a global citizen, in a world that is increasingly becoming more interdependent on different cultures (Martin and Nakayama, p. 38). Although these differences may be difficult to manage, cultural sensitivity lies at the core of what is needed to make it a positive strength in the class.
Dale, Laura. "Cultural Sensitivity in the Classroom". Tefl Articles. 2007 Jan 15. http://www.teflonline.net/tefl-articles/cultural-sensitivity-in-the-classroom-38/
Ellis, Mark, and Johnson, Christine. "Teaching Business English". Oxford University Press. 1994. Print.
Ikeda, Miki. "Teaching English to japanese students
". Brigham Young University. http://humanities.byu.edu/elc/teacher/japanesestudents.html
Martin, Judith N., and Nakayama, Thomas K. "Intercultural Communication in Contexts Fifth Edition". McGraw-Hill Companies. 2010. Print.