November 11th, 2019

A Practical Strategy for Infusing Multicultural Content into Any Lesson

By:

Two diverse students select cultural content from library

The important role professors play in helping our students appreciate cultural diversity cannot be overvalued. There has been much written about what a Culturally Responsive educator can do to help his or her students engage with the course content, their peers, and their professors in a more meaningful way. In my quest to simplify the process of integrating multicultural content into my classes, I developed a graphic organizer that combines several approaches onto one page. Thus, making it easier for me to select an instructional strategy and set the level of rigor for the learning activity at an appropriate level.

More specifically, the Integrating Multicultural Content graphic organizer I have devised, includes information about what a professor can have his or her students do at each of the three different levels of integration (Exclusive, Inclusive, and Transformed). The three levels of integration were taken from a table presented in Morey and Kitano’s book titled, Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: A Broader Truth (1997). Please see that text for more multicultural integration strategies. 

To aid in the development of learning activities that integrate multicultural content, I have included on the graphic organizer a list of instructional strategies that I frequently use. I have found that having a list of instructional strategies helps me focus my thoughts when I am deciding how I can help my students deepen their understanding of a certain topic. This list is by no means inclusive and could easily be modified to fit anyone’s pedagogical preferences.

For most of the content-focused lessons I teach, I begin my lesson preparation by focusing on the course content and then develop lesson objectives. However, when I see a need to infuse multicultural content, I consider what is missing in the course content and then review the three levels of integration. I also take into account my students’ current level of functioning and how I can use available resources to help get them to the next level.

For example, in one of the courses I teach, the text presents very cursory information about how a recreation department can structure itself to welcome and include diverse populations. I asked myself, how can I help my classroom full of aspiring athletic and recreation directors understand what life is like for people who are not in the majority? How can they, as leaders of a school’s athletic department or community recreation center, make all people feel welcomed? 

Knowing many of my students have never held a leadership role, and have never been asked to consider how to structure a recreation department’s website so that it is welcoming to people who are not in the majority, I decided I needed to develop a learning activity that was at the inclusive level of integration. I then considered what resources are readily available. I selected a favorite instructional strategy case study where my students were given a set of criteria, presented in the text, to evaluate something in the real world. In this case, it would be the website for a small city’s Recreation Department. I also included the caveat that the students would end the activity by making a recommendation for how they could improve the programming being offered by that Recreation Department to make the Department more welcoming. 

The important role professors play in helping our students appreciate cultural diversity cannot be overvalued. There has been much written about what a Culturally Responsive educator can do to help his or her students engage with the course content, their peers, and their professors in a more meaningful way. In my quest to simplify the process of integrating multicultural content into my classes, I developed a graphic organizer that combines several approaches onto one page. Thus, making it easier for me to select an instructional strategy and set the level of rigor for the learning activity at an appropriate level.

More specifically, the Integrating Multicultural Content graphic organizer I have devised, includes information about what a professor can have his or her students do at each of the three different levels of integration (Exclusive, Inclusive and Transformed). The three levels of integration were taken from a table presented in Morey and Kitano’s book titled, Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: A Broader Truth (1997). Please see that text for more multicultural integration strategies. 

To aid in the development of learning activities that integrate multicultural content, I have included on the graphic organizer a list of instructional strategies that I frequently use. I have found that having a list of instructional strategies helps me focus my thoughts when I am deciding how I can help my students deepen their understanding of a certain topic. This list is by no means inclusive and could easily be modified to fit anyone’s pedagogical preferences.

For most of the content-focused lessons I teach, I begin my lesson preparation by focusing on the course content and then develop lesson objectives. However, when I see a need to infuse multicultural content, I consider what is missing in the course content and then review the three levels of integration. I also take into account my students’ current level of functioning and how I can use available resources to help get them to the next level.

For example, in one of the courses I teach, the text presents very cursory information about how a recreation department can structure itself to welcome and include diverse populations. I asked myself, how can I help my classroom full of aspiring athletic and recreation directors understand what life is like for people who are not in the majority? How can they, as leaders of a school’s athletic department or community recreation center, make all people feel welcomed? 

Knowing many of my students have never held a leadership role, and have never been asked to consider how to structure a recreation department’s website so that it is welcoming to people who are not in the majority, I decided I needed to develop a learning activity that was at the inclusive level of integration. I then considered what resources are readily available. I selected a favorite instructional strategy case study where my students were given a set of criteria, presented in the text, to evaluate something in the real world. In this case, it would be the website for a small city’s Recreation Department. I also included the caveat that the students would end the activity by making a recommendation for how they could improve the programming being offered by that Recreation Department to make the Department more welcoming. 

Next, I developed the lesson objective:

Students will be able to evaluate how welcoming a given recreation department’s website is to people of color and people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

Thus, by having my students work at the evaluation level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, B.S.), I am able to ensure my students spend time with the material which greatly increases the chances that the activity will allow the students to construct new knowledge. 

In this example, the directions for the resulting learning activity are:

Review the Recreation Department’s website for X city. Using your new understanding of the criteria presented on page 56 of the text and the provided rating scale, evaluate how well the website ensures people of color and people of the LGBTQ community will feel welcomed. 

In other words, put yourself in the place of a person who is black or Hispanic or gay or transsexual. How welcomed do you think that person would feel while looking at the website? Support your conclusions with examples from the website. 

Lastly, make, at least two, recommendations for how this Rec. Dept.’s leadership can make their department more welcoming.

The end result is a learning activity that allows students to apply the content presented in the text to a real-world situation. Through the lens of making changes from a perspective different than themselves, students are able to expand their worldview and start to see diversity as a strength.


References:

Bloom, B. S. (1956). “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain.” New York: David McKay Co Inc.

Morey, A. & Kitano, M. (1997). Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: A Broader Truth. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Bio: Dr. St. Germain is currently the Chair of the Business Department at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, NY. Prior to joining NCCC, he was the Chair of the Education Division at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland Vermont. Before working at the higher ed level, Dr. St. Germain worked at the public school level for 24 years. First as a teacher of Business subjects then as an administrator.