Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students' Cultural Strengths

This groundbreaking book examines the impact of culture and individual/collective orientation on classroom management and family outreach. The authors present the results of Bridging Cultures, a longitudinal five-year action research project focused on immigrant students in the U.S. school system. The result was a transformational approach to classroom management in areas such as instruction, behavior, assessment, and parent relationships.

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Throughout the course of the project, a team of four researchers and seven elementary teachers working with Latino students in southern California explored individualistic and collectivistic (or group) orientation in the classroom. 

For example, from the individualistic point of view (often representative of the United States, Western Europe, Australia, and Canada) a typical classroom goal might be for a student to complete a task and demonstrate responsibility and independence. From the collectivist point of view (representative of 70% of the world’s countries, including those of many U.S. immigrants), the goal might be help the group succeed and demonstrate respect for others and cooperation.  As the Building Cultures teachers considered what impact this orientation might have in the classroom and what it might mean for students coming from a collectivist background trying to fit into a highly individualistic U.S. school system, they began to try new strategies, sharing their successes, challenges, and reflections with the rest of the team.

The result was a transformational approach to classroom management in areas such as instruction, behavior, assessment, and parent relationships drawing on the strengths of both individual and group orientation. The book shares a number of valuable lessons (particularly for the ELL classroom) learned by the teachers and researchers, as well as clear examples of strategies that did and did not work in specific classroom settings. 

Chapter 1 of Managing Diverse Classrooms, A New Way of Thinking About Classroom Management, outlines the individualistic-collectivistic framework that the Bridging Cultures project used and explores its implication in the U.S. school setting.  The chapter is available online from the ASCD website. You can also learn more about Bridging Cultures in this knowledge brief from WestEd.

Publisher: ASCD