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  • What is cultural diversity? How does it /and how is it going to impact your practice?


Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global monoculture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural decay. The phrase cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other's differences.

In schools and classrooms where cultural diversity is acknowledged and celebrated:

  • teachers are aware of students’ different cultural identities

  • students’ cultural contexts are incorporated into teaching and learning programmes and into the classroom environment

  • teachers provide practical opportunities for all students to be proud and share their languages and cultures through cultural groups, special events, and school festivals that celebrated cultural difference

  • all students experience learning contexts from multiple cultures

  • there are clear expectations in schools’ charters for celebration of diversity, stating the right of all children to feel culturally safe

  • boards that had develop such charters sought representation from all the cultures of their school community, and staff were representative of many cultures.

Possible implications are:

  • How could I do this in my school context? 

  • How could I adapt or enhance existing spaces?

  • In what ways can I encourage the school community to help drive this initiative?

  • How do I plan for parent involvement in the classroom and wider school learning programme?

  • In what ways do I encourage more spontaneous involvement?

  • How do I involve parents in the design of a culturally diverse curriculum? Once involved, what are some ways you could sustain their involvement?

  • In what ways is our school curriculum culturally responsive?

  • How could we include the students and school community in a process of curriculum review around the cultural diversity principal?

  • What kinds of support and learning do our staff need to  develop a culturally responsive school curriculum and provide a culturally responsive learning environment?

  • How does effective culturally responsive practice meet the needs of our culturally diverse world?


There are significant international and Aotearoa New Zealand studies that demonstrate the principles and positive impact of culturally responsive teaching on educational achievement and social outcomes for ākonga (Macfarlane, 2004; 2007; Ladson-Billings, 1992; Stanford, 1997, Lipman, 1995; Pierce, 1996, Hill and Hawk, 2000). Central to these studies is the importance of teacher pedagogy, behaviour and positioning. The evidence suggests that teachers who are most successful in supporting strengths based and positive behaviour for indigenous and minority learners are:

- aware of their perceptions of self and others clearly structure positive social relationships and ensure that their learners’ funds of knowledge are immersed in activity (Ladson-Billings, 1992)

- identify positively with their learners’ community and worked actively to develop a learning community within the classroom (Stanford, 1997)

- focus on the whole child; interest is not solely limited to cognitive development,

-take personal accountability and agency; teachers hold the belief that they can influence positive outcomes for learners despite challenges

- insist on high academic and behavioural standards and work to help learners achieve these

- understand the experiences and culture of learners, and in the process, validate their lives;

- coach learners in the nuances of the dominant discourse without denigrating their own culture or challenging their identity

- take at-risk learners under their wing and help them negotiate tacit norms and expectations that other teachers take for granted

- perceive teaching as a calling, a responsibility not only to learners and their whānau but also the community

- provide care and guidance that may be absent from the daily lives of their learners

- transform classrooms into lively and attractive spaces

- provide a “safe-haven” through classroom organisation based on standards of behaviour and sensitivity towards others, assume roles to give support to their learners, show enthusiasm (Pierce, 1996)

Research clearly demonstrates that effective teachers of ākonga Māori:

- avoid deficit attitudes and barriers to learning, and demonstrate care by manifesting respect, compassion, understanding the worldview(s) of ākonga, fairness, portray friendliness and a sense of humour (Macfarlane, 2004; 2007)

- use collective language, communicate high expectations through language and praised positive learning behaviour (Savage, 2010)

- are positive, optimistic, confident and bring a problem solving approach; they share power with ākonga; the relationship with ākonga is crucial and is both a prerequisite and motivator for learning; show respect for ākonga rather than a ‘power over’ relationship is demonstrated through body language, tone of voice and action; they understand the various worlds of the ākonga, are fair and patient, and are prepared to share aspects of themselves discerningly (feelings, vulnerabilities) (Hill & Hawk, 2000, 35)

  • How do you lead culturally responsive pedagogy?


Culturally responsive leaders: 

  • exhibit an ethic of care

  • develop cultural awareness in the school and community

  • demonstrate and odel inclusive practice

  • challenge deficit thinking and bias

Regardless of position or age, any member of the staff and any student has the ability to be a culturally responsive leader.

  • How does your practice become culturally responsive/culturally sustaining?

  1. Assess your own behavior.

  2. Get to know your students.

  3. 3. Make your classroom a judgment-free zone.

  4. Adapt your teaching.

  5. Include all cultures in your teaching.

 How do you move beyond culturally responsive practice/ What does the learning look like in your context if it is to be truly culturally responsive and culturally sustaining? 

Educators understand implicitly the cultural experiences and practices of learners. This environment does not over emphasise the marginalised cultures deficits but embraces the culture for positive change. Multiple languages and cultural experiences in the classroom are the norm with learners leading this as experts. Educators leave implicit bias out of learning and champion equity and the inherent capability and cultural blessings of each learner. 

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