What is multicultural education?

Multicultural education is designed to prepare students for citizenship in a democratic society by teaching them to consider the needs of all individuals. It clarifies how issues of race, ethnicity, culture, language, religion, gender, and abilities/disabilities are intertwined with educational processes and content.

Why do we need a multicultural curriculum?

  • To prepare students for diverse workplaces and multicultural environments
  • To expose biases, stereotypes, and policies that can restrict achievement
  • To ensure that content is fair, accurate, and inclusive
  • To accommodate for diverse teaching and learning styles of teachers and students
  • To help students, faculty, and staff become advocates for multicultural awareness

What does a multicultural curriculum look like?

Curriculum from any subject area may be altered to include multicultural content. This can be accomplished by

  • Including a variety of perspectives;
  • Discussing social contexts, including issues of equity and justice; and/or
  • Including activities that foster critical thinking and self-awareness.

Expanding curriculum to include a variety of perspectives not only allows educators to discuss views and ideas that are less common or underrepresented, but also provides students a more holistic understanding of the subject area. Furthermore, positive role models from a variety of different backgrounds and cultural groups can be included.

Another way to reform curriculum is to discuss social issues. Educators can transform their classrooms by fostering an environment where students can ponder ideas such as what it means to be an active citizen, how discrimination and prejudice negatively affect democratic society, or how they can become more sensitive to and respectful of social differences.

Multicultural lesson plans should encourage students to develop critical thinking skills and increase self-understanding. Educators can best encourage this development by modeling critical-thinking situations. When students learn to recognize their values, feelings, privileges, and biases, they become more self-aware.

How should a curriculum be changed to be more multicultural?

Five stages have been proposed for multicultural curriculum reform (see source by Paul C. Gorski). The process of bringing multicultural components into a curriculum may include participating in a multicultural seminar or workshops, examining current course content, obtaining support from colleagues, and undertaking necessary personal examination and change. Educators should compare the stages to their current practices and consider ways to improve their curricula. Higher stages represent greater multicultural competence.

Stage 1: Recognition

Educators must first recognize that the traditional curriculum is not the only content needed. Mainstream curriculum often does not include ideas and experiences representing contemporary diverse societies.

Educators must recognize their own biases, prejudices, and assumptions that may affect their teaching and ultimately influence their students. As they work towards eliminating these biases, they may become more effective teachers, include more multicultural curriculum, and be more likely to reach all students. The process of recognizing biases—and working to eradicate them—is ongoing.

Stage 2: Heroes and Holidays

After recognizing the need for curriculum reform, educators may begin to integrate other perspectives by celebrating cultural holidays and highlighting famous individuals from non-dominant groups, drawing attention to the fact that society is shaped by multiple perspectives. But they should not stop at this point.

Stage 3: Integration

Moving beyond superficial integration, educators need to integrate information about non-dominant groups across several areas of the curriculum. A daily lesson plan may incorporate a special lesson, book, or film that highlights members of non-dominant groups. Educators must move beyond using the new materials and units only as secondary sources.

Stage 4: Structural Reform

During this stage, educators weld diverse perspectives and multicultural materials into their traditional curriculum. This unit is seamless to ensure that one source of information is not seen as primary over or more accurate than another.

Stage 5: Social Action and Awareness

During the final stage of this model of curriculum reform, educators incorporate discussions and activities that address social issues such as practicing equity within a democracy, overcoming discrimination/prejudice based on differences in access to power, providing accommodations for persons with disabilities, etc. Educators can encourage students to understand these concepts based on experiences and increased self-awareness and to develop their own views.

What links can take me to further information?

Multiculturalism/Diversity Curriculum
Produced by the National Council for the Social Studies, this site includes a list of 23 guidelines for educators to follow when transforming their curriculum.

Advice of Effective Curriculum Transformation
This website provides educators quick tips and a list of things to remember when transforming curriculum.