Universiteit Leiden

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Education through a cultural lens

Teachers viewed multicultural classes with VR glasses and discussed that for the study 'Culturally responsive teaching in multicultural classes'.

In her PhD project, Brigitte Theeuwes (teacher educator and PhD student at ICLON) investigated how teachers can ensure a positive and safe classroom climate, and do justice to all pupils in multicultural classes. In doing so, it is important that teachers take into account pupils' cultural frames of reference. This competence is called culturally responsive teaching. She examined secondary school teachers' attitudes, knowledge, interpretation of events through a cultural lens and reasoned practices.

Dissertation 'Culturally responsive teaching in Dutch multicultural secondary schools
Dissertation 'Culturally responsive teaching in Dutch multicultural secondary schools

Brigitte conducted interviews with expert teachers. She also made 360-degree clips of a multicultural classroom context. Teachers watched those clips with VR goggles after which they interacted with each other.

Cultural lens

Brigitte found it surprising that with regard to teaching multicultural classes, teachers generally gave examples of 'just good teaching', but did place extra emphasis on good relationships with students and being constantly aware of a cultural factor that may play into what happens in the classroom. But in a follow-up study that focused on awareness of a cultural factor ('noticing' through a cultural lens), it was found that teachers did not interpret any events from such a cultural lens. Even when specifically asked to name events where culture might have played a role, they initially said that culture was not relevant anywhere. During focus group discussions, when teachers linked examples from their own practice to what they had seen in the clips, they did comment from a cultural perspective.


The trickiest part of this research was designing and using the 360-degree clips in such a way that they did not become stereotypical, but would still trigger enough to look through a cultural lens. More generally, this is a tricky issue in the conversation about culturally responsive teaching. How do you make this negotiable without actually contributing to stereotyping?

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