How Can A Student's Cultural Knowledge and School Knowledge be Contextualized Within the Classroom?

How Can A Student's Cultural Knowledge and School Knowledge be Contextualized Within the Classroom?
Anne, a 15 year old Vietnamese American student stared out the window
while the teacher droned on in the background. Her thoughts centered on
lunch and her friends, and family. On a deeper level, her thoughts were
about friendship, loyalty, kinship, and how children gain status and
acceptance in the social structure of the school. Anne?s attention was
brought back into the classroom when the teacher announced that ?this
information will be on the test?. Mechanically, Anne began to write as the
teacher dictated notes. When the teacher had finished dictating the notes,
Anne?s thoughts wandered back to her own concerns.
This true story is about me as a young girl trying to identify with the
experiences of school knowledge and real life knowledge. Most of us as
students have been in my shoes can readily identify the occasional moments
of boredom and daydreaming in an otherwise interesting and engaging school
experience, and in other occasions, this is the main reality of the
classroom life. Traditionally, the educational community has tended to
view culturally diverse students as coming from a deficit model, that
somehow these students lacked the right stuff, the educational experiences
for success in school. Rarely have schools and educational institutions
viewed culturally diverse students as being culture rich and not at risk.

When children are not allowed to incorporate their prior knowledge with new
experiences provided in the classroom, learning is slowed and the child
constructs a disjointed view of the world. This paper explores the
multicultural and diversified world of the students and juxtaposes it along
the knowledge the students are encountering in the classroom. It explores
knowledge in respects to the traditional notions of commonsense knowledge
of school, and knowledge that centers on the interests and aims of the
learner. Multicultural learning needs to build on student?s regenerative
(prior knowledge) along with their reified (school knowledge)knowledges,
the knowledge must be in relation to the student?s home and community, the
information must be personally familiar to the child, the understanding
must come through a connection with culturally familiar stories and
materials, knowledge needs to create a meaningful linkage to give
children control over their learning, and multicultural knowledge needs to
address the histories and experiences of people who have been left out of
the curriculum (Dewey, 125).

What I experienced as a little girl was a conflict between two different
kinds of knowledge, which R.B Everhart has distinguished as reified and
regenerative knowledge. Regenerative knowledge ?is created, maintained,
and recreated through the continuous interaction of people in a community
setting? and is " contextually based, meaning that understanding comes out
of the specific historical context in which the actors are immersed"
(Everhart, 124-5). It comes from the desires, experiences of the
individuals who create it, and guides their thinking and behavior.

Regenerative knowledge is also forged in the home and community. For
example, a student of Spanish, Asian, Jewish, Polish, or European
background may attach to certain vocabulary words, showing how those
meanings derive from the cultural context of their home and community. It
is knowledge that is learned within the context of everyday life structures
how students think about themselves, their world, and experience.

Reified knowledge, on the other hand, ?is knowledge that while abstract,
tenuous, and problematic, is treated as if it is concrete and real? (
McLaren, 15). Students encounter reified knowledge as being a boundary
between their emotions and knowledge, and it is knowledge that the
student?s cannot control, it is rather a student role that must conform to
the teacher?s script. This knowledge is already formed and must be
verbally delivered to the students and they are expected to absorb preset
formulations spoken by the teacher. School knowledge empowers to the
extent that it connects with and augments student?s regenerative knowledge.
But teacher?s knowledge and student?s knowledge overlap in a range of
commonplaces. Seeking out these commonplaces and then engaging students
from there provides a starting point for meaningful education. This is
empowering because it engages students in dialogue with their community,
enhances their abilities to reflection and action and permits them to learn
how to control change on the basis of values and principles that they have
worked out in their comm

Students who achieve in schools experience a meshing or overlap between
the knowledge taught in school and the knowledge that has personal meaning
to them. Someone once said that knowledge is power. However, in schools
the curriculum of the school usually has very little to do with the
students. The most common way educators select curriculum is to turn to
traditionally accepted knowledge that has been encoded and passed down, in
the belief that the schools exist like the Cartesian model of teaching:
?Knowledge as information is passed on from the teacher to the student as
if it were a basket of eggs. Effective teaching and learning are achieved
if the eggs are conveyed safely, intact, and without damage? ( Pickles,
234). We need to make the classrooms a culturally familiar environment. For
many children, the classroom is a culturally unfamiliar environment, a
place where the familiar people, sights, sounds, smells are not recognized.

A cultural content can be woven into the curriculum by choosing from the
everyday lives of the students through culturally familiar stories that
students in the class are aware of and familiar class materials can be used
to illustrate concepts taught in the classroom. When we teach with
culturally based materials, tangibles items from the environment, whether
these material are worksheets, textbooks, milk cartons, tires, origami
paper, we bring the familiar environment of home into the classroom. When
teachers bring real materials from student?s lives, they may not only be
more comfortable but they may also be more interested instruction.
Culturally familiar materials can be paired with materials from the school
curriculum. This serves as an affirmation of the student?s community
while engaging the child in mainstream education (Wigginton, 60-4).

The importance of merging both student?s cultural knowledge with school
knowledge is to give students the control over their own learning, to
realize that they have the power to create, and understand life, and that
power is not restricted to their own localized neighborhoods and peer
groups. Most importantly, student?s won?t feel that their own cultural
knowledge has to compete with school knowledge. Students will not see
school as a public institution in which students learn to comply with the
requirements of authority figures and experience subject matter that is
boring and not made relevant to their lives. Rather they will see that
knowledge is a doorway to the broader society and its culture (Dewey,
182). This is the heart of learning: negotiating the meaning, comparing
what is known to new experiences and resolving the discrepancies between
what is known and what is learned by new experiences.

Multiculturalism is advocating bridge to school knowledge with the
student?s own cultural knowledge and encouraging students to analyze
their interaction and then use the knowledge learned to take charge of
their lives. Pickles argues that the commonplaces of student?s worlds
exist so they can ?understand them and hold on to the commonplaces which
are significant, and transcend those commonplaces which are constraining,
and change those commonplaces which they judge to be wrong.? (Pickles,
67). For example, a research study conducted by C.A. Grant and C.E.
Sleeter (1986) came to understanding of what was in the student?s head
while they sat in most of their classrooms, and to investigate the
student?s cultural knowledge. The students studied were very willing and
able to tell us what concerned them, interested them, motivated them. They
could express in rich detail about their world, and their dreams. Many of
them considered much of the content they were learning to be irrelevant,
student?s reported being bored in class, and some said they forgot what
they had learned once they had been tested on it, and this was true
regardless of the grades they were getting or the academic ability teachers
thought they had. Students spoke candidly about their peers, events they
could control like social parties, or hobbies, things sometimes considered
frivolous by adults. The students were never given a chance to
manipulate and recreate the knowledge learned in school into the meaningful
sector of their own lives. The commonplaces of their world were never
challenged, reformed, altered, or reaffirmed, and thus they found no
importance to school knowledge.

Part of multicultural knowledge is addressing the histories and
experiences of people who have been left out of the curriculum. It is a
perspective that allows us to get at explanations for why things are the
way they are in terms of power relations, and equity issues. And it does
so without focusing on what those expressions of culture mean: the values,
the power relationships that shape the culture. In a culturally diverse
curriculum, we look at and change those things in school and society that

prevent some differences from being valued. It is in the children?s
interest to be open in mindset, especially in finding out how things really
are. Otherwise, they will constantly have an incomplete picture of the
human behavior. The other thing is, if we don?t make it clear that some
people benefit from racism, then we are being dishonest. What we have to
do is talk about how young people can use that from which they benefit to
change the order of things so that more people will benefit. If we say we
are all equally discriminated against on the basis of racism, that?s not

The purpose of this paper is to better understand how important it is to
structure learning experiences in order to help students develop linkages
with mainstream school and their multicultural knowledge. It is important
that all children have the opportunity to learn within the comfort of what
they know best and to be affirmed in who they are. Culturally diverse
students are especially at risk of not knowing the culture of power.
Teachers can empower all students in using their own culturally familiar
strategies and content in order to help them be successful in mainstream
schools. Culturally diverse students are culture rich and we must affirm
our children?s families and cultures by building bridges between what they
know with the dominant mainstream knowledge. Multiculturalism also
broadens the horizons of young people, to give them skills to change a
world in which the color of a person?s skin defines their opportunities,
and where some human beings are treated as if they are inferior.

Reflection on Practice

When it came time to decide on an inquiry project, I knew right away that
multicultural education was something I felt deeply passionate about, and
had not experienced as a child in school. To gain ideas for my teaching
unit, I read books, journal articles, and talked to my cooperating teacher
Patty Owens and the multimedia instructor, Mrs. Yost about ways I could
implement the pedagogical theory I had researched into real life practice.
I began reading extensively over spring break about the unit I would be
teaching, the history of Holocaust and The Diary of Anne Frank, and I
realized that multiculturalism was intrinsically in the nature of the
topic, and that I could foster activities that would promote multicultural
ideals of diversity of cultures as well as diversity of styles of learners
within the three week unit plan.

To begin meshing out the structure and framework of the unit, I began
speaking to those within Park Forest, Mrs. Yost and Patty, on how I would
reach my goals in bridging school knowledge of the Holocaust, Anne Frank,
and diversity of cultures to their world. The activities and the
culminating project that I chose had to incorporate my goals and help
support me in teaching the kids what my cooperating teaching hoped to
accomplish as well. During this time, I had a sneaking feeling that I was
trying to do too much, trying to accomplish a larger task at hand with my
novice background in teaching, and that I probably could not reach each
student multiculturally. This view changed when I took a good look at the
room full of students, and I realized how homogeneous most of the student
body consisted of, but also the diversity of learning styles and
personalities in the class I would later take lead in. I knew I wanted to
try something that would channel the energy the kids had into a project
that they could be proud of, that connected with their lives, that allowed
them to pursue their own special academic preferences in a media, and would
show the relationship between what they had learned to some aspect of the
multicultural studies. I chose to bring into the classroom hypermedia, a
multimedia program that would provided many forms of media, included many
academic preferences, would allow students to make a personal connection in
their own way, and to integrate diversity of cultures. I used this project
to structure the unit on discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping for
the activities within the classroom.

With the support of Mrs. Yost, I was able to conceptualize in my mind what
I wanted the assignment to be, to write this down, and to present to the
class in the beginning of my first teaching week so they could also have a
goal set in mind when they would hear, see, or read about the Holocaust.
In the assignment sheet, I explained what a hypermedia program is. That it
consists of computer cards that can be filled with information in the form
of pictures, photos, drawings, graphics, voice, music, and even videos. To
get the students ready in thinking about the project, I told them to be
aware of everything that they have seen, heard, or read about the
Holocaust, and to find a visual text, which could be a picture, photo,
images from web sites, a drawing they?ve made; along with a creative
response that was also open ended. The creative response may have been in
the form of explanation, voice commentary, or poetry; and had to focus on
the emotion that the visual image conjured within the student. After
giving this assignment, the task began in learning how to use the program,
inside and out, and backwards and forwards. I also had to think about how
I would get the resources for the project-books for the kids to find
pictures, computer time to work in the computer lab, where they would
obtain computer disks, and the time extents that I was willing to devote in
accomplishing the project, the deadlines, and the possible problems that
may arise.

With this goal in the student?s minds, we began to read the The Dairy of
Anne Frank the first week, focusing on prejudice, discrimination, and
stereotyping. The diversity portion of my inquiry project began to take
shape the first day I taught with Melissa. We both kept silent as we
handed each of the students a circle shaped piece of paper or a square
shaped piece of paper. We instructed each group of their responsibilities
in class: the squares were not as worthy as the circles, they had to take
notes, could not utter a sound, and did not get any candy; the circles were
more privileged, they could talk, have candy, did not have to take notes,
and were always told that they were better than the squares. Then, we
talked about fairness, discrimination, stereotyping, and injustice in
relation to the activity. Following this, we watched ?Eye of the Storm?, a
movie documentary that explores the nature of prejudice in a dramatic third
grade classroom experiment conducted by the teacher to her third grade
class. Mrs. Elliot decides to help her students understand the nature of
prejudice by pretending to be prejudice herself. She divides the class
into two groups, the blue-eyed and brown-eyed children. The kids watched
the documentary and compared it to the activity that happened that day in
class. The students responded to the activity and had much to say about
what had occurred to them and how that was linked directly to the ideas of
discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping. I spoke to them about how
prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination and how it is in every corner
of our world. No group seems to be exempted. Violence, prejudice, and
discrimination aimed at one group or another is rampant. This prejudice
and discrimination has its roots in the beginning of mankind, and its
branches have become so widespread and have extended into the heart of the
twentieth century. I explained how these branches have woven a web so
strong that it created a Holocaust in which an entire people was virtually

This theme of prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping continued the
following day with our class discussion on the Star of David. I explained
to the students the significance of the star with racial identification,
and in the justification of prejudice towards the Jews. The students
linked this with labeling of individuals in their world: homosexuals,
jocks, preps, cheerleaders, boys who wear purple. It stimulated them to
look beyond the boundaries of their world, to see that racial
discrimination occurs so subtly in our everyday lives and how important it
is to be aware of diversity and cultures and respect them. The students
discussed this, and many of them had much to say about this topic. This
linked to the reading of The Dairy of Anne Frank in class that day.

My goal was to have the students take with them the philosophy that
multiculturalism is respect for diversity that must become the spirit that
motivates people of color, white ethnic groups, and other marginalized
groups of people to believe in the American creed. The American creed
guarantees dignity for every individual, equality for all humankind, and
unalienable rights for freedom, justice, and equal opportunity for every
American. These beliefs must be genuine because they are the very
cornerstone of democracy in this country. I wanted them to able to link
the characters they would be reading that day with the idea that
prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping can be overcome. I tried to
link prejudice with the idea of a virus that eats away at our very beings,
like a cancer that destroys the spirit and kills the soul. But like a
virus or a cancer, prejudice can be destroyed, and education is the best
cure for resistance, as well as standing up when we see injustices
occurring. So, I presented the students with a question: ?If you were
confronted by a coworker, friend, relative, or neighbor, and asked to help
hide their family, would you do it? Where would you hide? What would be
the sacrifices, and the consequences of your actions?? We discussed this
and I tried to link how Miep was a resistance fighter, she reminds us of
the sanctity of life. She shows us how courage, compassion, and kindness
can change history. And I explained how Miep and Mr. Kraler are a
testimony to the fact that had resistance was more widespread, the Nazis
could never have accomplished what they did. Had people individually and
collectively refused to allow Hitler?s Final Solution the Holocaust could
never have happened. Perhaps, in the final analysis, these heroes and
heroines will inspire the kids to stand up for what is right-to make a
difference in this world. The majority of the students found themselves in
the position of Miep and Mr. Kraler, helping the Jews and breaking the
law. They couldn?t see not helping their own family members, friends, or

For the last week, the focus on diversity was culminated with a guest
speaker on the Holocaust and a collage on the theme of prejudice. Trudy
Lipowski, who was born in an internment camp, and whose parents were both
survivors of the Holocaust came to speak to my class about her experiences.
The students were able to empathize more with the issues we had been
talking about because Trudy was a living testimony. She described her
visits to the concentration camps with vivid detail and clarity and gave
the students an inside perspective to those who deny the Holocaust and why.
Since the students have been working on Anne Frank, she described the
Annenex and the proportions, and also revealed the emotions conjured up
when she walked through the attic. The students had many questions on the
contemporary issues of discrimination, the swastika, and the lessons we had
to learn. They were very quiet and silence filled the room when Trudy
spoke. The kids connected by showing sadness, madness, and also becoming
inspired with Trudy?s words. They were able to identify and give a face and
name to the Holocaust with Trudy?s expressions and her words. They also
spent some time working on a collage that week, which focused on prejudice.

The students had a fun time with the project, and the seriousness of the
project was lost somehow. I had given the assignment: "If prejudice was an
animal, what would it be? If prejudice was a shape, what would it be? If
prejudice was a number what would it be? If prejudice was a color, what
would it be? The students had a party for Melissa and I that day, so they
chatted with their friends, glanced through magazines for different
pictures, and munched on chips, and doughnuts. I found many of the
students choosing images that they felt could embody prejudice, but they
didn?t justify it a manner that was appropriate. At the end of class, I
realized that my goal of having them think of diversity from a different
standpoint was not accomplished.

Almost one week after the beginning of the unit, the class ventured to the
computer lab, taking with them all their ideas from The Diary of Anne
Frank, their books they?ve been reading independently, and our class
activities and discussions. The hypermedia project helped to develop
literacy. From this inquiry implementation, I truly believe that learning
happens in socially relevant environments and is constructed, that students
actively create, experience, and organize the knowledge they have, and this
is true learning. This literacy includes the ability to represent
information in a variety of ways, to think with the information, and to
use technology to extend these abilities. I loved working with this
program because it got the kids in my class actively engaged with various
forms of information (text, graphics, pictures, animation, sound), to
create and link that information and provide a support for higher level
thinking. The kids in the class used the program to extend their abilities
as readers, writers and thinkers. To prepare for this day, I brought the
kids to the library and had a work day in which there was a variety of
sources available for them to look into, and some students started their
creative responses. Time was devoted in class to the instruction of basic
skills to create a card, add a graphic, and a button. Mrs. Yost helped
extensively. In addition, instructional sheets were given to the students
with step-by-step instructions to help them in creating the cards, and
alleviated us from having to answer many of the questions. This seemed to
be an excellent way to introduce the students to the possibilities and
tools of hypermedia. The actual cards had been created for them but needed
to be filled out. The focus was therefore on helping the students learn
how to use all the tools by scanning in photos, creating graphics,
recording sound, and eventually creating buttons to link a network of
completed cards. As students were introduced to various hypermedia, I was
overwhelmed. It seemed like there were five hands waving in the air at all
times. The students presented their works to the class in the following
week, sharing visual images, and creative responses. We talked about each
card, why the student chose this particular visual image, how they
interpreted the story behind the picture, and what were the emotions and
the level of discrimination that were apparent in the image. I was
surprised by how many of the students volunteered to share their projects.

Reflecting upon the hypermedia project, I noticed that a lot of time was
spent on trivial aspects of the computer process. To alleviate this, I
could of created instructional sheets so that the students could scan in
the photos themselves, this would of freed me of more time to help
individual students. In addition, the hands waving in the air and the
wait time wasted much time and energy, I needed to create a system that
still allowed the students to be productive and allowed me to
systematically tackle each of student?s questions in an orderly manner.

Ideally, I would of liked to have spent more time on the hypertext, I felt
like it was crunched into a time spot. Overall the hypertext program was
highly motivating for the students, because they could connect in their own
personal way to the Holocaust, and it allowed them the choices and freedom
to work in a media that they created. The program provided endless
possibilities and new challenges. If we had more time, I would of liked to
focus on the writing that the students accomplished and different
techniques to peer edit. The program allowed the students to read and
connect themselves with the information they found, analyze the visual text
they chose, be self designers in representing and reflecting seriously on
the information and design, and presenting to their classmates, teachers,
and guests the diverse projects they?ve createdand how this connected to

Reflecting upon my implementation of the inquiry project on
multiculturalism, I feel sure that the students have reached the goals
created at the beginning of the unit. I look back on the vignette that I
wrote about in my original theoretical paper, and I realize that each of
my students were able to identify in some way with the experiences of
school knowledge and real life knowledge, that the knowledge they acquired
empowered them to analyze their interaction and then use the knowledge
learned to take charge of their lives, making the classroom culturally
familiar by providing knowledge that personally meaningful for them, and
providing them with a broader view of people, and their multicultural world.

How Can A Student's Cultural Knowledge and School Knowledge be Contextualized Within the Classroom? 9.7 of 10 on the basis of 834 Review.