ERIC Identifier: ED435147
Publication Date: 1999-11-00
Author: Burnette, Jane
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Critical Behaviors and Strategies for Teaching Culturally
Diverse Students. ERIC/OSEP Digest E584.
There are many school factors that affect the success of culturally diverse
students--the school's atmosphere and overall attitudes toward diversity,
involvement of the community, and culturally responsive curriculum, to name a
few. Of all of these factors, the personal and academic relationships between
teachers and their students may be the most influential. This relationship has
been referred to as the "core relationship" of learning--the roles of teachers
and students, the subject matter and their interaction in the classroom.
Certain behaviors and instructional strategies enable teachers to build a
stronger teaching/learning relationship with their culturally diverse students.
Many of these behaviors and strategies exemplify standard practices of good
teaching, and others are specific to working with students from diverse
cultures. A number of these behaviors and strategies are listed below.
* Appreciate and accommodate the
similarities and differences among the students' cultures.
Effective teachers of culturally diverse students acknowledge both individual
and cultural differences enthusiastically and identify these differences in a
positive manner. This positive identification creates a basis for the
development of effective communication and instructional strategies. Social
skills such as respect and cross-cultural understanding can be modeled, taught,
prompted and reinforced by the teacher.
* Build relationships with your students.
Interviews with African-American high school students who presented behavior
challenges for staff revealed that they wanted their teachers to discover what
their lives were like outside of school and that they wanted an opportunity to
partake in the school's reward systems. Developing an understanding of students'
lives also enables the teacher to increase the relevance of lessons and make
examples more meaningful.
* Focus on the ways students learn and observe students to identify their
Once students' orientations are known, the teacher can structure tasks to
take them into account. For example, before some students can begin a task, they
need time to prepare or attend to details. In this case, the teacher can allow
time for students to prepare, provide them with advance organizers, and announce
how much time will be given for preparation and when the task will begin. This
is a positive way to honor their need for preparation, rituals, or customs.
* Teach students to match their behaviors to the setting.
We all behave differently in different settings. For example, we behave more
formally at official ceremonies. Teaching students the differences between their
home, school and community settings can help them switch to appropriate behavior
for each context. For example, a teacher may talk about the differences between
conversations with friends in the community and conversations with adults at
school and discuss how each behavior is valued and useful in that setting. While
some students adjust their behavior automatically, others must be taught and
provided ample opportunities to practice. Involving families and the community
can help students learn to adjust their behavior in each of the settings in
which they interact.
* Use a variety of instructional
strategies and learning activities.
Offering variety provides the students with opportunities to learn in ways
that are responsive to their own communication styles, cognitive styles, and
aptitudes. In addition, the variety helps them develop and strengthen other
approaches to learning.
* Consider students' cultures and language skills when developing learning
objectives and instructional activities.
* Facilitate comparable learning opportunities for students with differing
characteristics. For example, consider opportunities for students who differ in
appearance, race, sex, disability, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, or
* Incorporate objectives for affective and personal development.
Provide increased opportunities for high- and low- achievers to boost their
self-esteem, develop positive self-attributes, and enhance their strengths and
talents. Such opportunities can enhance students' motivation to learn and
* Communicate expectations.
Let the students know the "classroom rules" about talking, verbal
participation in lessons, and moving about the room. Tell them how long a task
will take to complete or how long it will take to learn a skill or strategy, and
when appropriate, give them information on their ability to master a certain
skill or complete a task. For example, it may be necessary to encourage students
who expect to achieve mastery but are struggling to do so. They may need to know
that they have the ability to achieve mastery, but must work through the
* Provide rationales.
Explain the benefits of learning a concept, skill, or task. Ask students to
tell you the rationale for learning and explain how the concept or skill applies
to their lives at school, home, and work.
* Use advance- and post-organizers.
At the beginning of lessons, give the students an overview and tell them the
purpose or goal of the activity. If applicable, tell them the order that the
lesson will follow and relate it to previous lessons. At the end of the lesson,
summarize its main points.
* Provide frequent reviews of the content learned.
For example, check with the students to see if they remember the difference
between simple and compound sentences. Provide a brief review of the previous
lesson before continuing on to a new and related lesson.
* Facilitate independence in thinking and action.
There are many ways to facilitate students' independence. For example, when
students begin their work without specific instruction from the teacher, they
are displaying independence. When students ask questions, the teacher can
encourage independence by responding in a way that lets the student know how to
find the answer for him- or herself. When teachers ask students to evaluate
their own work or progress, they are facilitating independence, and asking
students to perform for the class (e.g., by reciting or role-playing) also
* Promote student on-task behavior.
Keeping students on-task maintains a high level of intensity of instruction.
By starting lessons promptly and minimizing transition time between lessons,
teachers can help students stay on-task. Shifting smoothly (no halts) and
efficiently (no wasted effort) from one lesson to another and being business
like about housekeeping tasks such as handing out papers and setting up
audiovisual equipment helps to maintain their attention. Keeping students
actively involved in the lessons-for example, by asking questions that require
students to recall information-also helps them to stay focused and increases the
intensity of instruction.
* Monitor students' academic progress during lessons and independent work.
Check with students during seatwork to see if they need assistance before
they have to ask for help. Ask if they have any questions about what they are
doing and if they understand what they are doing. Also make the students aware
of the various situations in which a skill or strategy can be used as well as
adaptations that will broaden its applicability to additional situations.
* Provide frequent feedback.
Feedback at multiple levels is preferred. For example, acknowledging a
correct response is a form of brief feedback, while prompting a student who has
given an incorrect answer by providing clues or repeating or rephrasing the
question is another level. The teacher may also give positive feedback by
stating the appropriate aspects of a student's performance. Finally, the teacher
may give positive corrective feedback by making students aware of specific
aspects of their performance that need work, reviewing concepts and asking
questions, making suggestions for improvement, and having the students correct
* Require mastery.
Require students to master one task before going on to the next. When tasks
are assigned, tell the students the criteria that define mastery and the
different ways mastery can be obtained. When mastery is achieved on one aspect
or portion of the task, give students corrective feedback to let them know what
aspects they have mastered and what aspects still need more work. When the task
is complete, let the students know that mastery was reached.
Artiles, A. A. and Zamora-Duran, G. (1997).
Reducing disproportionate representation of culturally diverse students in
special and gifted education. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Grossman, H. (1998). Ending discrimination in special education. Springfield.
IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Kea, C. (1998, April). Focus on ethnic and minority concerns: Critical
teaching behaviors and instructional strategies for working with culturally
diverse students. CCBD Newsletter. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
Markowitz, J., Garcia, S. B., and Eichelberger, J. H. (1997, March).
Addressing the disproportionate representation of students from ethnic and
racial minority groups in special education: A resource document. Alexandria,
VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED406810).
Based on Focus on Ethnic and Minority Concerns: Critical Teaching Behaviors
and Instructional Strategies for Working with Culturally Diverse Students by