Culture and our Students

How Does Culture Effect our
Students in the Classroom?
It’s important to know what culture is before
you can understand how it effects our
There are many different definitions of
My definition:
◦ Culture is a way of identifying groups of people
through common identities – such as customs,
language, holidays, religions, institutions, common
beliefs, interactions with others, behaviors, etc.
Culture defines all of us.
According to Crochunis, T., Erdey, S., &
Swedlow, J. (2002), human development and
schooling are directly influenced by culture
and its values.
We all develop our identity from the culture
we grow up in.
You may have asked yourself these questions
when you were a student.
Our students ask these questions everyday:
Where do I fit in at school?
What’s my role in my family?
How do I balance home life and school life?
What is success?
How do I succeed?
How we use our language is largely
dependent on our culture (Crochunis et al,
What are the goals of speaking?
When should I speak?
Whom do I speak to?
In which circumstances is speaking appropriate?
My culture is important to me – as a student,
as a teacher, and as a part of the community.
◦ That means the culture of others – students and
teachers – are just as important to them and should
be recognized.
◦ If I (the student) see myself as a valued part of the
class, then what I have to say is worthwhile and my
opinion will be listened to and not mocked.
 This leads to feeling more self-worth, higher selfesteem, and more interaction in class.
Self-fulfilling prophecy (Crochunis et al,
◦ If a teacher believes that the student cannot learn
lives up to the lowered expectations of the teacher
◦ If a teacher believes that the student can learn –
and learn well, the student will live up to the higher
We all learn in different ways. When my type
of learning is used, I can excel with that topic
when compared to others in the classroom
(from my own personal experience and my
observations in the classroom).
Cultural Deficit Theory (Crochunis et al,
 Some students can’t achieve because of their culture,
ethnicity, language or race.
Teachers can see students from minorities as
unable to learn/keep up with the rest of the
◦ This leads back to the self-fulfilling prophecy
Understand that the language a child brings
to school is valuable to that child’s home
(Delpit 2006).
Self-fulfilling prophecy (Crochunis et al,
◦ I have seen this at work – with myself when I was a
student in middle/high school and with my
◦ When there are higher expectations, the student
knows that the teacher believes in him/her and will
live up to those expectations.
◦ When those expectations are lowered, the student
sees him/herself as less worthy and will sink to the
levels of the lowered expectations.
Choices – some students may not be allowed
to make many choices in their schooling (like
choosing class electives) (Helmer, S. & Eddy,
C. 2003).
Parent involvement – the dominant American
culture wants parents to be involved in their
child’s education (Helmer et al. 2003).
◦ Many cultures believe that the teacher is the expert
and does not need parental help
◦ Many parents support teachers – in differing ways
The following are issues that I have
experienced/seen taking place in the
classrooms of my colleagues, the hallways of
the school, and my own classroom.
Eye contact
◦ some cultures believe that eye contact with an adult
is disrespectful
◦ some cultures value individual space
◦ other cultures value closeness (Darn 2005).
◦ some cultures value play as a learning experience
◦ some cultures see play as a waste of school time –
the student is there to learn
Teacher prejudices – we are used to our own
culture. We tend to judge other
cultures/students based on OUR culture – not
◦ My own English dialect tends to be different from
that of my students because I am from a different
state than most of my students.
◦ This leads to some confusion when I use a phrase
or term that is common to my community but rarely
used in my students’ communities.
Cooperative Learning
◦ Some students don’t know how to work well in
◦ While still other students may not know how to
work well on their own
Crochunis, T., Erdey, S., & Swedlow, J. (2002).
The diversity kit. Education Alliance: Brown
Darn, S. (2005, February) Aspects of nonverbal
communication. Retrieved from
Delpit, L. (2006) Other people’s children: cultural
conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press
Helmer, S. & Eddy, C. (2003). Look at me when I
talk to you: ESL learners in non-ESL classrooms.
Don Mills, Ontario: Pippin.

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