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Tool: Becoming knowledgeable about cultural differences among your students

The following questions can help you learn about your students’ cultural and educational backgrounds and their implications for your teaching.

Questions Implications for my teaching

Family background

  • Whom do my students live with?
  • What kinds of family responsibilities do my students have?
  • What are the lines of authority in my studentsí families?
  • What are parentsí beliefs about their involvement in school and in their childrenís school work? Do they think teachers are experts and therefore avoid disagreeing with me?
  • Did parents have positive experiences in their own schooling or did they feel alienated from school and thus may be wary of trusting me?
  • What languages are spoken in my studentsí homes?
  • How long have my students lived in their current homes? Which of my students have recently moved? From where? Why did the family move?
 

Educational background

  • If students are new to the country, how many years of schooling have they had? In what kind of setting--rural, urban or suburban?
  • What kinds of instructional strategies are my students used to?
  • In studentsí former schools, what kinds of behaviors were considered appropriate?
  • Were students expected to be active or passive, independent or dependent, cooperative or competitive?
  • What about their former schools was positive for my students? What was negative?
 

Student characteristics

  • How do students think about time? Are they expected to be punctual or is time viewed flexibly?
  • Do students nod their heads to be polite or to indicate understanding?
  • Do students question or obey authority?
  • Do students expect their own needs and desires to be met at all times or do they put those of the group ahead of their own?
  • Do students express their emotions and feelings openly or do they keep them hidden?
  • How do students interact with their peers? Do they tend to be expressive with their peers? Do they interact exclusively with students of their same cultural backgrounds?
 

Adapted from Weinstein, C. (2003). Secondary classroom management: Lessons from research and practice. Boston: McGraw Hill.