cultural minority children's learning within culturally-sensitive classroom teaching

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Prince Edward Island]On: 14 November 2014, At: 18:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Pedagogy, Culture & SocietyPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpcs20

    Cultural minority children's learning withinculturally-sensitive classroom teachingMariane Hedegaard aa University of Copenhagen , DenmarkPublished online: 20 Dec 2006.

    To cite this article: Mariane Hedegaard (2003) Cultural minority children's learning within culturally-sensitive classroomteaching, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 11:1, 133-152, DOI: 10.1080/14681360300200164

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  • Pedagogy, Culture and Society, Volume 11, Number 1, 2003

    133

    Cultural Minority Childrens Learning within Culturally-sensitive Classroom Teaching

    MARIANE HEDEGAARD University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    ABSTRACT The personal aspect of knowledge the everyday concepts is located in the life setting of a person. These personal concepts are the foundation for the childs appropriation of subject matter concepts that qualify the childs personal concept so they can function as theoretical concepts. However, subject matter concepts are not universal, they are related to national curriculum traditions. The connection between personal and subject matter concepts is often much weaker for immigrants and refugees coming to a new country than for children with generations of ancestors in a society. One problem for teaching subject matter concepts to cultural minority children is: How can societal relevant knowledge be taught which is sensitive to both cultural and social differences and become functional in culturally different life contexts? This question has motivated two teaching experiments with history and social science subjects. The first was an after-school project with Puerto Rican children in New York City and the second was a school project with young Palestinian boys in Aarhus, Denmark. The aim of both projects was to create a form of teaching that was (1) meaningful for the children (2) contributed to their acquisition of skills and knowledge, and (3) created a positive identity and acceptance of their cultural background, as well as the society in which they were living.

    Introduction

    This article will illustrate and discuss the problem of combining knowledge of the subject matter of history with childrens everyday knowledge arising from community and family life.

    The illustrations are taken from two teaching experiments with cultural minority children conducted in New York and Denmark. One was a one-year after-school project with Puerto Rican children in New York City carried out in collaboration with Seth Chaiklin and Pedro Pedraza D

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  • Mariane Hedegaard

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    connected to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, New York City University (Hedegaard et al, 2001). The other project was a 2-year project initiated and funded by the Council of Aarhus as a school project for young Palestinian boys who the ordinary Danish public schools in Aarhus could not handle.

    The aim of both projects was to create teaching strategies that were meaningful for the children, contributed to their acquisition of skill and knowledge, and fostered a positive identity and an acceptance of their cultural background. We aimed to achieve this by drawing on childrens cultural background and knowledge of the society in which they lived to teach social history.

    Before I enter into a description of the actual teaching experiment I will outline my theoretical inspiration from Vygotsky, Berger & Luckmann, Ogbu, Elkonin and Leontiev by conceptualising the relationship between:

    everyday knowledge and scientific concepts; identity and ideals; meaning and sense as phenomena that connect personal motives with

    the social world.

    Everyday Knowledge and Scientific Concepts

    Vygotsky (1982) has pointed out that there is a difference between the kind of knowledge children acquire at home and that which they encounter in school. Vygotsky characterised the knowledge children encounter in these two contexts as everyday and scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge can be characterised by domain specific concepts where the domains are the different science/school subjects. Everyday knowledge can be characterised as concepts that are connected to the domain of daily family and community life.

    Today we find the same kind of differentiation between everyday and school knowledge being used by many socio-cultural researchers. Scribner (1993) like Tobach et al (1997), Lave (1992, 1996) Mehan (1992, 1993) and Hatano & Ignaki (1992), all point to the importance of context for the kind of concepts that children acquire and that are characteristic of their learning. Each of these researchers points out that scientific and abstract concepts are not context-free, but are situated within the school context and within the specific domains of school knowledge.

    Different fields of life school, home, and work entail different forms of practice that provide the conditions for childrens concept formation and thinking to develop in terms of form and content. Scribner (cited in Martin et al, 1998; Scribner & Stevens, 1989) and Lave (1988, 1992) through their respective research findings have pointed to the different ways mathematics is learned in school as opposed to the D

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  • CULTURAL MINORITY CHILDRENS LEARNING

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    workplace or in everyday life. One of the difficulties faced by teachers is the need to connect subject concepts to childrens everyday concepts in ways that widen and develop childrens abilities. Another problem is how to motivate children to do this. Ogbu (1987, 1993) and Ogbu & Simons (1998) in their research with minority children point out that problems of attendance and school achievement for children from minority groups have to be viewed in light of who the children identify with and whether or not the school values this identification. Vygotsky describes the relationship between scientific and everyday knowledge as two forms of knowledge development that interact to deepen and enrich each other. Everyday knowledge provides the foundation from which children start to learn scientific knowledge. However, the development of everyday knowledge does not cease to be important. On the contrary, everyday knowledge is the knowledge that is functionally useful for a person. Scientific knowledge can be transformed into everyday knowledge through a persons use of acquired scientific concepts in his/her practice in everyday life.

    Vygotskys work cannot help us directly in understanding how this transformation takes place so I will outline how I conceptualise this transformation. First, I need to emphasise the importance of good school teaching, and the need for cooperation between the home and school. The home is important because it is where children are given the foundation of knowledge. The school has to recognise and build on this knowledge if instruction is to be successful. The family is important for a second reason; parents provide the motivation for children to attend school. However, it then becomes important that the school acknowledges the social identity, and the motivation developed in family and community life that the child brings to school.

    The next section deals with the important question of how school-based knowledge relates to the development of social and cultural identity.

    Identity and Ideals

    I am interested in the potential contribution of schooling to the development of childrens p

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