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K (student): ‘I need to think about new ways to bring their home and culture into the class’. Preservice Teachers Develop a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

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Abstract

This article traces the actions and perceptions of preservice teachers who cope with cultural heterogeneity. The study used an interpretative qualitative method, which allowed us to examine the portfolios of 12 participants. Findings indicate that authentic experiences exposed the students to the reality of the pupils, enriched their knowledge, fostered intercultural competence, and allowed them to teach according to culturally relevant pedagogy. Findings have implications for the teacher training process, which must include experiences outside the school walls that will help teachers integrate cultural heritage into the classroom, preserve the students’ languages of origin, promote multicultural dialogue, and enhance the visibility of the other.
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Pedagogy, Culture & Society
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpcs20
K (student): ‘I need to think about new ways
to bring their home and culture into the class’.
Preservice Teachers Develop a Culturally Relevant
Pedagogy
Dolly Eliyahu-Levi & Michal Ganz-Meishar
To cite this article: Dolly Eliyahu-Levi & Michal Ganz-Meishar (2021): K (student): ‘I
need to think about new ways to bring their home and culture into the class’. Preservice
Teachers Develop a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, DOI:
10.1080/14681366.2021.1933577
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2021.1933577
Published online: 30 May 2021.
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K (student): ‘I need to think about new ways to bring their
home and culture into the class’. Preservice Teachers Develop
a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
Dolly Eliyahu-Levi and Michal Ganz-Meishar
Faculty of Education, Levinsky College of Education, Tel Aviv, Israel
ABSTRACT
This article traces the actions and perceptions of preservice tea-
chers who cope with cultural heterogeneity. The study used an
interpretative qualitative method, which allowed us to examine
the portfolios of 12 participants. Findings indicate that authentic
experiences exposed the students to the reality of the pupils,
enriched their knowledge, fostered intercultural competence, and
allowed them to teach according to culturally relevant pedagogy.
Findings have implications for the teacher training process, which
must include experiences outside the school walls that will help
teachers integrate cultural heritage into the classroom, preserve the
students’ languages of origin, promote multicultural dialogue, and
enhance the visibility of the other.
KEYWORDS
Culturally relevant
pedagogy; teacher training;
house literacy
Theoretical background
Multicultural education
A society deserves to be dened as ‘multicultural’ if it treats its socio-cultural mosaic
respectfully and positively and if it establishes between the various groups a dialogue
based on the free expression of cultural and religious beliefs, on personal autonomy, and
on cultural rights and mutual respect. A multicultural society espouses equality between
the dominant majority and the weakened minority groups, while tightening social cohe-
sion and avoiding ethnic-geographical separation on the social margins of the large cities
(Leeman and Reid 2006).
From a global perspective, according to Kramsch (2009), the term culture can be
dened in two ways: One in relation to the humanities, culture focuses on the way in
which a social group represents itself through art, literature, history, tradition, and
heritage. The other in relation to the social sciences, culture refers to common ideals:
values, beliefs, perceptions, and actions that are accepted as right by people who identify
themselves as belonging to society. Moreover, culture is arbitrary, so to gain legitimacy it
is forced to justify itself and enact laws of ‘right and acceptance’ that are appropriate to
time and space.
CONTACT Dolly Eliyahu-Levi Doly.levi@levinsky.ac.il Levinsky College of Education, Hayahalom 15 St., Holon,
Israel
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY
https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2021.1933577
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Thus, teaching culture means teaching not only how things were, but how they
could be dierent. Hence the dismantling of stereotypes is to understand that we are
unique and dierent, and in other circumstances each of us could have been dierent.
Byram (2008) adds that it is the responsibility of teachers to provide students with
cross-cultural communication tools and skills that will help them take part in a global,
cross-border and cross-cultural world in which they live. Studies (Neuliep 2012; Lustig
and Koester 2010) show that developing intercultural communication skills helps
dierent groups understand and tolerate each other, reduce conicts, and maintain
peace.
An examination of the local-Israeli context reveals that the Israeli education system
is very heterogeneous: it serves a wide range of ages and caters to diverse commu-
nities, nationalities, and cultures of children from dierent socio-economic back-
grounds. As a result, there is great diversity between schools located in dierent
places throughout the country and great variability within each classroom (Harkabi
and Mendel-Levi 2014). The educational challenge in Israel and in many places in the
world is to build an egalitarian and just society while confronting prejudices, fear of
the other, alienation, and historical perceptions rooted in the fabric of the Israeli
system.
According to survey data (Barak-Medina 2017), eighty percent of teachers and
principals in Israel indicate that they were interested in professional help regarding
the study of the heterogeneous classroom. This gure indicates that addressing class-
room dierences is a major challenge for them. One of the methods proposed by the
Ministry of Education in Israel is based on the idea of a multicultural approach, while
encouraging interactions between students and creating an educational framework, will
make it possible to connect collaborative learning with personalised learning. In this
way, each child can contribute, be valuable, learn from the other, face challenges and
develop.
This perception is consistent with the multi-cultural approach that was initiated in
the United States to design a curriculum suitable for a diverse population of children
from dierent ethnic groups. In the past, such a teaching approach was generally
accepted in immigrant countries, but in a global age in which the composition of
children is more diverse than ever, teaching with this approach has become an urgent
necessity (Davidovitch 2012). Multicultural teaching is teaching that emerges from
a pluralistic perspective and pays attention to issues such as gender, status, race, and
cultural tendencies (Weintraub 2014). Teachers who use this approach base their
curriculum on the diverse background of languages and cultures of the children’s
country of origin, while fostering openness to dierences in communication style and
motivation.
According to Gleason and Gerzon (2013) and Dolev (2017) the role of the teacher in
a multicultural classroom is not simple, and it lies in the ability to fulll two roles
simultaneously: one – to address the student as an individual and promote academic
achievement (Smit and Humpert 2012). The other to promote the whole class as
a diverse group and create a consciousness of life in a heterogeneous society that
includes diversity, respect, acceptance, curiosity, and understanding of the value of
diversity. The key to the success of the multicultural approach lies in identifying and
performing both roles.
2D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
Language culture and migration
In recent years, because of immigration processes, Israeli society has been open to the use
of languages other than Hebrew, such as Arabic, Russian, Amharic and English in the
public and educational spheres. Awareness of the importance of preserving mother
tongues as a resource for the maintenance of social justice has also increased.
According to Shohami (2014), the preservation of the mother tongue strengthens the
linguistic capacity of the state and constitutes a signicant anchor for manifestations of
tolerance, inclusion and acceptance of immigrants and foreigners in the receiving society.
Moreover, the prevalence of the use of a variety of languages depends on socio-
cultural aspects: the prestige of the language to which the immigrant belongs, the nature
of the political relationship between Israel and the immigrant’s country of origin, the
immigrant’s sense of belonging to an ethnic group and more (Muchnik et al. 2016).
Changes are also noticeable in schools in Israel and around the world. Diverse languages
are heard there, and the classrooms are linguistically complex. Children speak two or
more languages and divide their time between two worlds: one – the receiving society
the language of the place is also dominant as the language of instruction in the school,
the other – the home or informal networks in which the mother tongue is used (Athanases
et al. 2018; Franco et al. 2020).
A language teaching pedagogy for children from immigrant families emphasises the
importance of the relationship between the teacher, the child, and the parents to learn
about the child’s equity related to his or her family’s cultural assets. Teachers with
linguistic-cultural knowledge will be exible and creative in their teaching methods and
will adapt the teaching in the classroom so that it is relevant to the linguistic-cultural
background of the children in the classroom (Gort and Glenn 2010). An educational
discourse based on the emotional teaching approach allows minority language children
to discuss issues related to their daily experiences, encouraging them to express an
opinion freely despite the diculties of discourse and embarrassment. For dominant
language children, a multicultural encounter with minority language children will allow
them to show cooperation, tolerance, and openness and reduce social tensions
(Schwabsky 2018).
In addition, the studies of Kramsch (1998) and Byram, Gribkova, and Starkey (2002)
emphasise the important role of teachers in selecting academic texts and formulating
pedagogical activities that encourage pluralistic thinking to express emotions, exposing
each student’s literate ability to help in dealing with situations of tension and conict and
even acting as mediators of culture and language (Byram 2014).
Culturally relevant pedagogy
Culturally relevant pedagogy is a term that describes eective teaching in culturally
diverse classrooms. It is rooted in the belief that the learning process has a strong
connection to children’s cultural experiences and mother tongue (Groulx and Silva
2010; Ladson-Billings 2014). Moreover, this pedagogy assumes that a learning process
may dier from one culture to another, and that through the in-depth knowledge of
children’s cultural knowledge, teachers can strengthen their sense of self-condence and
self-ecacy and maximise their learning abilities. Irvine (2010) claims that teachers play
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 3
the role of social mediators, so they must believe that all children can succeed in learning,
they must incorporate experiences from the children’s cultural worlds, and they must
connect new knowledge learned in the classroom to the children’s homes and commu-
nities, while considering the dierences among them. Integrating home culture is not
a technical process; teachers need to know how to use cultural scaolding in teaching
that is, using their own cultures and experiences to expand their intellectual horizons and
academic achievement. Moreover bringing ‘children’s homes’ to the classroom can
increase awareness of dierences rather than similarities and promote inclusion and
intercultural competence (Pilotti and Almubarak 2021).
In Israel, almost all schools are culturally heterogeneous. It is easy to nd native Israeli
children or immigrants who came from dierent countries and belong to ethno-
linguistic groups that speak other languages: Arabic, Russian, French, Amharic, and
more. According to Abu-Asbah (2015), school is considered a multi-cultural place that
invites encounters with the other: culture, history, religion, faith, and language. One of
the main tasks of educators is to cultivate attitudes of tolerance, while overcoming
feelings of threat and fear from members of other cultures and reducing stereotypes
and expressions of hatred and racism towards others. Moreover, Kumi-Yeboah and
Smith (2017) emphasised the relationship between the socio-political discourse of
school and the achievements of children from minority groups. According to them,
a positive school environment that shows respect and openness towards the children’s
history, heritage, and social norms signicantly reduces xenophobia, social pressure,
and cultural discrimination and greatly increases scholastic achievement.
If so, educators must understand that all their teaching practices and interactions with
children occur in a cultural context and are not neutral or incidental. Therefore, it is
important for educators to develop emotional self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and
inter-cultural competence. It is possible that educators without these skills will not be able
to include children from diverse cultural, linguistic, social, and economic backgrounds,
and may require all of them to accept normative patterns while denying their culture of
origin (Deardor 2011). It is also important to note that culturally relevant pedagogy is not
synonymous with multicultural education. In contrast it is intended to respond to the
cultures present in the classroom, connecting existing knowledge and competence to
new knowledge and competencies (Gay 2002).
Studies in the eld of education indicate that very little preparation has been made
for teaching with an intercultural dimension, for developing intercultural communica-
tion skills, and for the enrichment of cultural knowledge (Byram 2014). However, it has
been proven (Leeman and Van Koeven 2018; Schutte 2018) that authentic encounters
with people from other cultures and experience in an ethnically-culturally diverse
living environments opens educators’ eyes to complex realities, developing cultural
sensitivity, respect, and empathy for the other. In the case of a conict between the
norms of the country of origin and the norms of the absorbing society, the teachers
who do not have intercultural competence tend to perceive cultural variance and
dierences in appearance, such as dark skin colour, as the source of the problem
(Irvine 2003).
4D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
The study
Research context
The additional language programme in the college of education emphasises the connec-
tion between theory, research, and practice. Preservice teachers study theoretical courses
in education and the Hebrew language. Moreover, they teach and practice once a week in
a multi-cultural public school in the centre of the country. Children from diverse identities
study at the school: veteran Israelis, asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, especially
from Africa.
In relation to the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy, the research focused on
students’ performance following authentic socio-cultural encounters (outside school
boundaries) in the neighbourhood and community as they examined their perspective
on themselves as members of the learning community and the social relationships
involved in collaboration and knowledge enrichment. One of their main tasks was to
build bridges between the new and the old to support learning (Ladson-Billings 1995).
To do this they walked independently in the neighbourhoods near the school, watched
what was going on around them, chatted casually with people they met in shops, on the
sidewalks, at the bus stop, in the public park and more. They also held direct and
unmediated meetings, in which they discussed educational, cultural, social, and linguistic
issues with community educational leaders, volunteer counsellors at the youth centre,
and with students from other cultures. They also took part in multicultural events in the
neighbourhood.
Methods
This study was a qualitative-interpretive study in the eld of education, which combined
description, analysis, interpretation, and understanding. This study was interested in
classroom interactions, ways of teaching and learning, student-teacher relationships,
participant action strategies, and the cultural and ideological signicance of the curricu-
lum. The focus of the interpretive paradigm was on understanding the complex world of
preservice teachers’ experiences from their points of view, taking a holistic view of their
processes in practice, authentic experiences, and direct multicultural encounters. In line
with this approach, the researcher observed their actions and discourses as they occurred
naturally, without any attempt to manipulate them (Shalsky and Arieli 2016).
The study provided a platform for the personal voices of preservice teachers as
evidenced in their written reections on the teaching experiences at the school, the
study tours in multicultural environments in the centre of the country, and their encoun-
ters with educators. The study also revealed conceptions and actions of intercultural
competence among students during the school year (Zur and Eisikovits 2015). The
research method allowed us to collect rst-hand data from preservice teachers on the
process of developing intercultural competence, data that may help tailor a curriculum
aimed at teaching intercultural competence, openness, thoughtfulness, respect, and
inclusion of children from other cultures.
Twelve preservice teachers participated in the study: ten women and two men. They
were second-year students in the ‘Teaching Hebrew as an Additional Language’ program
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 5
in the academic retraining track of the college of education. All preservice teachers were
aged 25 and over, and held a bachelor’s degree or higher from diverse elds including:
speech therapy, history, media, theatre, and bible studies. All preservice teachers are
Jewish with diverse ethnic identities originating in Israel, Ethiopia, India, Russia, Poland,
Persia, and France.
The research data were collected from two sources: Ten assignments of documenta-
tion and reection written by twelve preservice teachers at the end of each practice.
These included experiences (1) from the rst encounter with the school; (2) from the tour
of the neighbourhood; (3) Experiences from the meeting with the ‘Abugida’ team.
The second source was personal interviews with the twelve students, conducted by the
researchers.
The content of the reections was analysed through content analysis, focusing on what
the preservice teachers wrote and not on how things were said. According to Krippendor
(2004), content analysis allows an accurate description of the data and draws conclusions
that are valid for their broad context.
Content analysis began with textual coding, seeking recurring expressions and ideas
such ‘the experience in the rst encounter with the other culture in the school,’ and
‘experience of the neighbourhood’s environmental landscape’ (Merriam 2009). The nd-
ings were analysed separately by each of the researchers. Subsequently, a joint hearing
was held, and reliability was established (86%), while sorting the segments into
categories.
Ethical rules were strictly adhered to in the study, including maintaining the anonymity
and condentiality of the respondents and the data, avoiding abusive questions, and
giving students a choice about whether or not to participate in the study. We also
received approval from the College Ethics Committee (approval number 2,019,071,701).
Findings and discussion
The ndings are organised in three content categories that reect the authentic experi-
ences of the students: (1) the rst encounter with the ‘other’ in school; (2) a tour of the
neighbourhood; (3) from a meeting with the ‘Abugida’ team. In each category of experi-
ence, we will refer to the perceptions and actions of the participants.
The rst encounter with the ‘Other’ in school
Perceptions
The rst meeting aroused curiosity, shock, and confusion:
At rst, I felt shocked. In my eyes the situation is delusional and incomprehensible. I am in
a school in Israel, and they speak all kinds of languages. I did not understand what was
happening around us. We are not aware of the reality that is close to us, among them, and we
do not know them at all. Inside me, I think that every school has foreign children, Arabs,
migrants, and minorities as a new teacher this is an opportunity for me to get to know
something dierent. (R)
The truth at rst was that I was a little worried about going to school; these are kids I do not
see every day. I did not know how they would be treated, if they would see me as weird or
6D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
maybe make all sorts of unpleasant remarks. I was surprised to nd a nice place with lots of
trees and the green paint all around, all sorts of amazing grati on the walls. I think once
more about what I went through and say to myself in my heart that something else is
happening here and I wanted to nd out. (P)
Now, as I am writing the reection, I realize I had an experience in the lions’ den, and I think
nothing good will come of it. It is better for me to teach in the Jewish school. There I will direct
my eorts to those who truly belong to my country and religion. (K)
The rst encounter took place without any prior preparation. The students came to the
school and were required to examine the environment and their feelings and oer
pedagogical actions adapted to the socio-cultural context. The student descriptions
indicate that the rst encounter evoked negative feelings of shock, uncertainty, scepti-
cism, and confusion as well as curiosity and an openness to get to know the other.
In their personal reections, students often used words from the semantic eld of
distress: shock, hallucination, incomprehensibility, ignorance. These words express a state
of uncertainty accompanied by confusion and discomfort at visiting a new, strange, and
very diverse school. Uncertainty is the subjective experience of a person who is aware of
being ignorant since he does not know enough about the norms of behaviour in certain
socio-cultural contexts (Han, Klein, and Arora 2011).
The students appear to have positioned themselves on one side of the barricade as
a dominant majority group ‘we’ vis à vis the children from the minority group, who were
dened as ‘they’.
It seems that the words of R: ‘This is an opportunity for me to know something else’,
and the words of P: ‘Something else is happening here and I want to nd out’ prove that
students are optimistic and curious. Oplatka (2018) argues that in teacher training, it is
important to develop a high emotional awareness of the human aspects that will foster
openness to the ‘other’ while showing respect, listening, trust, and empathy.
On the other hand, K doubts the utility of training in a multicultural environment. In his
opinion, training should take place only among a dominant majority group, to utilise his
skills for the benet of the majority. K. seems to be prejudiced and have misconceptions
about dierent ethnic groups and expresses a desire for social dierentiation. Grupe and
Nitschke (2013) agree that uncertainty in a socio-cultural context may provoke resistance,
and negative emotions. This is like D’Mello and Graesser (2012), who researched the
negative emotions that accompany the performance of a learning task and found that the
negative feelings of anxiety and frustration arising from students’ inability to cope with
a task may ultimately increase their motivation.
The ndings reveal that practical training is a free, safe, and non-judgemental space
that allows students to share experiences, feelings, and perceptions. This experience was
accompanied by a reection that allowed for an inner, personal observation of the
experience. This reective dialogue in teacher training increases the opportunities for
reciprocity between dierent cultures.
According to Cross and Hong (2012), through dialogue based on personal reection, it is
possible to turn negative feelings of frustration into positive emotions and even promote
achievements. Thus, students participating in an emotional-reective discourse in which
they are given the opportunity to discuss, and share will be able to promote human
sensitivity, develop empathy, and interpret socio-culturally complex situations (Kaniel
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 7
2013). Moreover, exposing personal emotions that are sometimes also taboo is important
for promoting the quality of teaching because it reinforces the minority group’s sense of
belonging to both the dominant majority group and the minority group (Azaria 2018).
Pedagogical activities
Following the rst session, the students suggested two pedagogical actions appropriate
to the socio-cultural context: the use of a narrative text that encourages learning dialog
and holding an introductory session to establish a personal connection.
The use of narrative text encourages learning dialogue
Here is part of H’s reection on the pedagogical action:
I thought and wondered how I could encourage the children to talk to me, share a personal
story, and open. It is important for me to know how the foreign children feel here. And
I decided that I should bring a story related to their world, that they can identify with, because
I believe that if we can talk to each other we will learn better. That is really what happened.
I read to children about a meeting between children from dierent countries in the world and
asked them to tell their friends something related to their home or family. And it was
fascinating. I learned new things. One of the children said he got up early in the morning
and went with his father to pray at church. He later talked about the Sudanese food his
mother cooks.
The pedagogical activities chosen by H., using a narrative text relevant to the reality of the
children’s lives, succeeded in getting the children to talk and tell a personal family story
and thus increase their involvement in the lesson. From understanding that speech
bridges the socio-cultural spaces between people, enriches the knowledge of the culture
and traditions of children, and shapes the infrastructure for better learning, it seems that it
was important for H to ensure the involvement of the children in the lesson in a safe
speaking space. According to Alexander (2006), learning dialogue consists mainly of the
way children themselves speak and modes of verbal interaction; this includes skills such
as: telling, asking questions, explaining, listening, and being open to other people’s
diverse opinions. According to him, learning dialogue provides children with opportu-
nities to cultivate skills in formulating ideas, thinking, and understanding.
Moreover, it is possible that H.’s judgement in planning the lessons with the children
was inuenced by her reective observation regarding her experience of the rst encoun-
ter in the school in which foreign children study. She expressed a desire to develop an
emotional layer to the learning process, so she invited the children to reveal and share
traditional family information, while also allowing the others to listen and empathise with
the content without fear of judgement and criticism.
An introductory meeting to establish a personal connection
Here is an example of an emotional pedagogical activity:
The most important thing for me was to get to know the students, to learn their names, which
for me are new names in an unfamiliar language. I want to make them understand that I am
here for them. I decided to divide them into small groups of four children, each group got an
introductory game, wrote a greeting for a good day, and I moved between the groups, sat
next to them, talked to them as equals and told them about myself, my hobbies, showed
8D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
pictures of my family, and invited them to share. I wanted them to feel that they too could
talk about themselves. (C)
C suggested an emotional activity to create a positive personal relationship with the
children. It was important for her to create a safe and caring learning environment
through activities that connected the daily personal experiences on the child’s socio-
emotional level with the learning process. To this end, she designed an experiential lesson
in which the emotional connection was at the centre, while exposing personal aspects
such as sharing family photos. It is possible that the choice to enhance the emotional
aspect of the lesson reected her worldview and how she saw her role as an educator in
a culturally, religiously, nationally, skin-colour–diverse environment, and that she was
aware that making emotional personal contact with children would be a lengthy process,
and this activity is a signicant starting point.
Her words, ‘I spoke to them as equals’ indicate that she does not express a conception
of superiority as belonging to a dominant majority, but a desire to establish a relationship
of openness and listening to children. Wang and Eccles (2013) show that listening, paying
attention, and establishing close relationships out of a concern for personal problems also
helps children deal with social tensions and promotes a positive attitude among the
minority group towards general society. Listening requires respect for the views of others
and patience for personal questions in a dialogue that allows for learning about each
other.
As for the eect of teachers’ expression of emotion on students, it has been found that
children recognise their teachers’ emotional expressions and are inuenced by them in
the social, academic, behavioural, and personal spheres (Linnebrink-Garcia and Pekrun
2011). Moreover, in another study we conducted (Eliyahu-Levi and Ganz-Meishar 2016)
we found that personal-emotional connections aect children’s positive positioning in
their circles of belonging: their homes, neighbourhoods, their schools, and general Israeli
society.
The experience: a tour in the neighbourhood
As part of the practicum, the students went on a study tour in the neighbourhood closest
to the school. The tour illustrated to the students the complex reality of the minority
groups they heard about from the children’s stories, the research they read, or what they
heard from the media. They were directly and authentically exposed to the colours,
sounds, sights, and smells of the neighbourhood in broad contexts, and shaped a social
awareness that may contribute to their teaching process and inuence their success in
establishing personal relationships with their pupils.
Perceptions
Following the tour, students discovered positive perceptions of openness and tolerance.
Z said in an interview:
I saw a dierent reality: Thai food shops, authentic dress shops, Ethiopian and Indian food
shops, and an online store of Filipino immigrants [. . .] I felt I was in a completely dierent
place and the African residents were new to me, dierent from what I know. From what I saw
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 9
on TV, I thought the whole area was dirty, repulsive, devastated, people thrown in the streets,
but I met a completely dierent neighborhood. I was surprised to see that everyone in the
neighborhood has a cell phone and on the walls are invitations to ethnic music and dance
bands. I realized that everyone is struggling and wants to preserve their culture and tradition,
and that they have the right to preserve their culture and live the way they want, they should
not be like us (Z)
The direct encounter with the colourful and bustling ‘other’ reality of the urban space in
the neighbourhood refuted erroneous and stereotypical assumptions about the minority
communities and the appearance of the neighbourhood, softened the feelings of confu-
sion, and relieved the anxiety and shock of the other. Hasisi-Sabek and Lev Ari (2020)
examined the concept of responsibility and determined that it is related to reciprocal
relations between dierent groups in society. ‘Our’ group, the group to which we feel
belong and have loyalty towards, and appreciation of, is considered successful in our eyes.
In contrast, the ‘other’ group is a group in a state of social inferiority with which we
compete or feel resistance.
His words ‘but I met a completely dierent neighbourhood’ illustrate the contrast
between abstraction and reality, and show that reality is dierent from what he heard,
imagined, read, or been exposed to in the media. This lends further weight to Kritzman-
Amir’s (2015) claim that the media increases negative attitudes, stereotypes, and pre-
judices towards the community of African asylum seekers, due to their temporary status,
dierent skin colour, and large presence on the city streets.
Moreover, Z reveals that despite the poverty, the residents managed to create a routine
of modern life combined with cultural events, as they attempted to maintain their
traditional customs, food, music, and clothing. In other words, the authentic experience
of touring the neighbourhood helped her shape a concept of reciprocity and tolerance,
expressed in the words: ‘They have the right to preserve their culture and live the way
they want, they should not be like us.’
Pedagogical activities
Teaching content related to culturally adapted pedagogy
This task is complex because learners are inuenced by family and socio-cultural factors,
and teachers must be aware of the cultural characteristics that inuence the learning
culture and invest eorts in designing a teaching-learning process based on a culturally
adapted pedagogy:
It is impossible that I as a teacher do not refer in the class to the history and heritage of the
students. This is the thought I had when I returned home after visiting the neighborhood.
How can I teach such topics? Is it related to the religion or culture of the children while
ignoring my religion or culture? Not to obscure the identity of the students and not to push it.
And that is really what I did in class. An interesting discourse that exposed us all to new
geographical-cultural knowledge that we would not have been exposed to elsewhere. (F)
Visiting the neighbourhood increased the ability to take on the perspective of people
from other cultures and backgrounds and to show empathy and respect for the other. F’s
social awareness about the children’s unique socio-cultural characteristics evoked in her
a desire to give these characteristics a solution in the various lessons, while emphasising
the uniqueness and social diversity. It is known that to develop teaching ability in relation
10 D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
to the principles of culturally adapted pedagogy, teachers need to develop their own
cultural ability by understanding student communities and the family context (Byrd 2016).
The visit to the neighbourhood seems to have enriched F’s knowledge about the lifestyle
of students and their families outside the classroom and made her realise that she must
create teaching activities that represent cultural diversity, while incorporating cultural
content relevant to the world of the students.
F seems to be wondering how she should present cultural diversity in the classroom
and to what extent she should give expression solely to the dominant culture, which is, in
her words, ‘my culture’. She does not seem to be afraid of dealing with issues related to
religion and ethnicity or confronting dierent perceptions and beliefs. She is aware of the
importance of attending to the culture of the country of origin and tries to think about
how to eectively conduct the lesson on a socio-religiously sensitive subject while
avoiding emotional or moral harm. According to her, the role of the educator is to
teach content in multicultural contexts while strengthening the cultural and religious
visibility of the children and avoiding blurring or marginalisation. She understands that in
this way the students will feel involved in the lesson, and the content will be relevant to
them and may even serve as a bridge to Israeli-Jewish culture. Moreover, F.’s words: ‘I have
chosen a text on the world map that can illustrate classroom diversity’ illustrate Kramsch’s
view **(1998) and the perception of Byram and colleagues **(2002) that text is a powerful
tool for cultivating understanding between dierent cultures. Through the experience
that children gain in reading a text, processing it, and expressing emotions and attitudes,
they may be able to deal with situations of conict and tension in the future.
F reveals activities that are consistent with the principles of Culturally Relevant
Pedagogy, whereby teachers are required to integrate experiences from the children’s
cultural worlds and connect new knowledge learned in the classroom to the home,
community, and living environments. She chose a text about the map of the world and
allowed each student to deepen his or her cultural knowledge about their country of origin
and to share knowledge with the other students. In doing so, she increased the visibility of
the diverse voices and not just the power of the dominant culture. According to Irvine
(2010), and Abu-Asbah (2015) teachers are required to cultivate attitudes of tolerance while
overcoming feelings of threat and fear from other cultures. Moreover, Kumi-Yuboah and
Smith (2017) emphasised the relationship between the socio-political discourse that takes
place in school and the achievements of children from minority groups. According to them,
a positive school environment that shows respect and openness towards the history,
heritage, and social norms of children signicantly reduces xenophobia, social pressure,
and cultural discrimination and greatly increases academic achievement.
Thus, in the teacher training process, it is important to expose students to pupils who
are not from their own cultural, social, and religious backgrounds, to identify limitations,
barriers, and gaps posed by the multicultural environment, to stimulate social awareness
of the other, and to develop pedagogical principles responsive to cultural diversity, while
remaining committed to the development of the children. This is reinforced by Sofer Vital
(2020), who argues that in the training process, students are required to cultivate the
ability to self-observe to identify and examine socio-cultural biases and classroom stereo-
types. This capability will help advance teaching practices for the promotion of social
justice and emotional-social management in situations of conict on ethnic-racial
grounds.
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 11
Language mediation
Language is part of a socio-cultural identity and is perceived to be a tool through which
people conduct their lives. Linguistic minority groups face diculties in communicating in
a new language, even as they understand that the absorbing society will not recognise
their language and culture (Shohami 2014). Here is an example of dealing with language
diculties in communication with parents and children:
At the beginning of the year, I did not know how to talk to the parents, because they do not
speak Hebrew, and I do not meet them much. Once I met one of the parents, and he told me
that he works from morning till night, that he does not have time to go learn Hebrew, and
therefore he cannot help his child in classes or to get to school. I was confused and even afraid
of the parents. Even when I plan a class, I think there are words that the children are unfamiliar
with, and I think of creative ways like pictures, memory aides or videos that will help under-
stand the lesson and strengthen their self-condence so they will not be afraid to speak in class
in Hebrew. I also always give them opportunities to share their family experiences. (G .
G’s words illustrate a complex and challenging reality on both sides of the divide: On the one
hand, G. is a teaching student with no prior knowledge or other skills for contacting parents
who do not speak Hebrew; on the other hand, the parent does not speak Hebrew and
reports a busy and exhausting reality of working long hours. In such a reality, he does not
have the time, strength, or patience left to keep in touch with the teacher, to keep up to date
with what is happening at school, to help his child with lessons, and to share experiences at
school. In such a reality, a disconnect is created between the teacher and the parents. Studies
that examined minority groups and systematically documented racial, ethnic, and cultural
factors inuencing their involvement in school found that language, transportation, and
education limitations deter parents, shape perceptions that do not meet expectations, and
reduce their involvement, especially in formal activities (Diamond and Gomez 2004; Louie
2004). In such a socio-cultural context, parents sense their inability to communicate with the
teacher, and thus they become angry, feeling marginalised and critical.
G also seems to believe that she can act as a teacher in the classroom to reduce the
gaps in the language and alleviate the students’ sense of incompetence and frustration.
Indeed, already at the planning stage, she addresses the mediation of language and
culture as an authentic, creative, and encouraging way of learning and enables the new
knowledge about the culture and tradition that the students shared in the lesson to be
part of the learning process in the classroom. It seems that Hebrew lessons not only
focused on language teaching, but also mediated between the cultures and increased the
awareness of the dierences between cultures; the students played the role of language
and culture mediators (Byram 2014).
The experience: a meeting with the ‘Abugida’ team
Perceptions
The students met the ‘Abugida’ team consisting of two teachers, a principal, and the
founder. Abugida is an educational, private, and informal setting in which only children of
Eritrean asylum seekers study. The educational activities aimed to preserves the tradition
and language of the country of origin and strengthen intergenerational ties. Here are
things that M wrote:
12 D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
Only there I realized how much the parents are disconnected from everything that happens
at school; they are very tired, work from morning to evening, and do not always have the
strength to talk to the children and ask what is going on at school. This is the main reason
they set up Abugida. It provides a solution to the many hours that the parents are not at
home and helps in communication between the parents who do not speak Hebrew and the
children who do not speak Tigrinya. In Abugida children learn to read, write, and sing Tigrinya
(their language of origin) and can speak better with their parents. The meeting really shook
me, and I thought to myself, what can I do to bridge the world of children and the content
learned in class and how can I bring the parents closer to me and make them understand that
cooperation between us is for the benet of the children. (M)
The experience at Abugida revealed to the student personal information about the
nancial resources of the families and the personal relationships between the parents
and the children. Perhaps M. does not express reluctance or judgement towards the
parents because she understood how the community strives and copes together with
the diculties of earning a living and provides the children with an educational
solution in establishing an Abugida. Most often, parents from minority groups of
moderate and low socioeconomic status lack the knowledge, skills, and social sup-
port to deal with the diculties posed by the absorbing society (Shechtman and
Bushrian 2015). Thus, they will avoid sharing their personal situation with the
teachers or educators from the majority group, either because of gaps in the cultural
background or because of a desire to disguise the diculties and convey a positive
message. Hence, the meeting with the group of social leaders of the Eritrean
community in Abugida demonstrated to M. how important it is to learn about the
culture of the country of origin and their social and economic status from sources of
information in the community and the neighbourhood.
The tour of Abugida highlighted the importance of contacting the parents and
increasing their involvement in the educational process. The words ‘only there’
indicate that the experience outside the walls of the school played an important
role in shaping multicultural openness and exposed them to the reality of life and
new socio-cultural aspects. It also seems that the experience encouraged M. to think
about pedagogical actions that might help adapt the content of the lesson to the
children’s culture.
Moreover, the experience also enriched the students with new knowledge about the
importance of preserving the pupils’ mother tongue and the customs and norms of their
native culture as a signicant factor in facilitating communication between the rst
and second generation. M made a connection between the new knowledge and her
role as a teacher and emphasised the importance of direct contact with the parents based
on honesty, openness, and partnership. This perception is consistent with the ndings of
the study by Guardado (2008) which pointed to the importance of preserving the mother
tongue to strengthen personal relationships in the family and thus strengthen the ability
of parents to be involved in children’s learning. According to Guardado, intergenerational
mother tongue communication strengthens emotion, family tradition, and openness
among family members, because this language represents their cultural identity and is
accompanied by humour, emotion, songs, and stories.
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 13
Pedagogical activities
Strengthening parental involvement
The visit at Abugida prompted the students to examine their relationship with the parents
and think of activities to increase their involvement. Here is an example of reports from
two students that encouraged parental involvement in shaping acceptable behaviour in
the receiving society:
I think beyond academic achievement, the issue of behavior is critical. There must be
cooperation with parents. I know that children from asylum seekers’ families are exposed
to domestic violence, and they think this is how they should behave at school. At home they
do not get enough attention, and nothing is explained to them. They are like satellites, just
spinning. I thought I would see a mess in Abugida, but the kids were sitting around tables
with notebooks or sheets, listening to the teacher, it was quiet in the classroom and they were
standing when we entered. (R)
The teacher explained to me that the parents are cooperating with them. I once called
a mother from the class; we spoke in Tigrinya and there has been an improvement in
behavior. I do not think language will be the barrier for me in communicating with
parents, I will use mobile translation or nd creative ways to invite parents to be involved.
(A)
The tour in Abugida allowed A to examine her personal perception of the involvement of
asylum-seeking parents from Africa. A. began the tour with a negative attitude about the
parents’ ability to maintain order and discipline and doubts about their ability to educate
the children and prevent violence. Following the encounter with the children in their
more natural environment in Abugida, where the teachers are members of the commu-
nity and teach in the mother tongue (Tigrinya), she discovered that the children did learn,
listen, and get involved.
A points out that for her, pedagogical action in a multicultural educational frame-
work means the involvement of the parents, ‘there must be cooperation with the
parents.’ It seems that following the authentic encounter with the teacher R. from
Abugida, in which he shared his personal experience of the relationship with parents,
student A understood that she should show sensitivity to the diculties inherent in the
intercultural encounter and nd appropriate ways to get parents involved. A showed
openness and exibility in her perceptions and formulated a pedagogical understand-
ing that recruiting parents would help her cope and improve the children’s behaviours.
This perception is consistent with other studies (Macura-Milovanović and Peček 2012;
Sime, Fassetta, and McClung 2018) which found a strong link between parental involve-
ment in school and improved achievement and increased motivation among children
to learn. In the case before us, R presented improvement in a girl’s behaviour. The
reason for the change may be that dialogue between teacher and parent took place in
the source language, but the student, A, showed openness and understanding that
even if parents do not speak Hebrew it is important for them to be involved in the
children’s learning and that she should therefore nd creative ways to reduce parents’
uncertainty in the educational process (Säävälä, Turjanmaa, and Alitolppa-Niitamo 2017;
Eliyahu-Levi & Ganz-Meishar, 2019).
A’s willingness to learn, to be open, creative, and exible will help her formulate
a pedagogy adapted to the children’s culture.
14 D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
Integrating home literacy
A dialogue based on the children’s personal experiences in the culture-family context
helps to strengthen the connection between the classroom and the home and promotes
speaking and listening abilities. A literacy dialogue that is focused on a personal aspect
strengthens the children’s desire to share personal information and experiences from the
classroom and home and may thus increase motivation to learn. Such a dialogue may
raise awareness of the dierences between cultures and foster a broad understanding of
language in the social context in which it is taught.
Here is an excerpt from a reection written by K:
After visiting Abugida I realized that I needed to know more about the children’s country of
origin, their home, and their tradition. Know what they are doing in terms of language at
home, what they are talking about. The teacher said that the parents learn Hebrew to talk
to the children and also to help them in class and to be more a part of things (I met the
parents and talked to them. One of the mothers said that one of her ways is to strengthen
reading in the child by reading street signs). I realized that I cannot ignore the parents’
eorts to learn Hebrew. I need to think about new ways to bring their home and culture
into the class. So, I made sheets for reading at home and added an English translation of
the reading section and pictures for the parents. I also added a recording of myself reading
the passage so that it will be easier for the parents and so that they will also make sure that
the pronunciation is correct and will read the passage with the children. This means that
now learning can continue at home, not just in the classroom. Not everyone cooperated,
but it’s a start.
This example illustrates the change that took place among the students following the
encounter with the Abugida team. In general, it can be seen that the sessions inuenced
the students’ educational understandings, and some of them realised for the rst time the
potential inherent in understanding the literacy environment at home and the impor-
tance of learning about the cultural characteristics of the child as a signicant component
in teaching. According to Galdi (2009), this pedagogical approach makes it possible to
adapt teaching methods to any culture, race, and social group.
In addition, the development of the conception that parental involvement is important
contributed to the understanding that family literacy is a signicant and important factor
to be addressed in the teaching-learning process. That is, the learning process is closely
related to the family and cultural experiences and mother tongue of students (Groulx and
Silva 2010; Ladson-Billings 2014). For example, studies suggest that vocabulary develop-
ment begins in the family, which possesses literacy knowledge such as writing, reciting,
and singing, and with older siblings, who may help in building reading skills (Gregory,
Long, and Volk 2004).
Summary
This study examined students’ perceptions and actions following authentic experiences
that shaped culturally adapted teaching. The experiences included encounters with the
culture of the other in and outside school, which helped the students develop social
consciousness, understand the connection between teaching and culture and equipped
them with the skills of language and culture mediators (Broido 2004; Hare Landa, Odòna-
Holm, and Shi 2017; Siwatu and Starker 2010).
PEDAGOGY, CULTURE & SOCIETY 15
The ndings revealed that in the rst encounter with the other culture, the students
expressed feelings of confusion, fear, and uncertainty about what was expected of them
during their practicum year. Despite this, they were optimistic and open to getting to
know the other culture, while trying to design lesson plans that incorporated storytelling
texts and planning an introductory session to establish a personal connection with the
children. Experiencing situations of uncertainty seems to be a desirable trait for teachers
because it allows them to examine dierent issues simultaneously, to ask questions, to
improvise, to better dene the personal needs of students, and to design culturally
adapted teaching.
The tour of the neighbourhood allowed the students to examine the integration of
minority groups in the urban space of Israel while being exposed to the sounds, smells,
and colours of the children’s realities. The encounter forced them to compare the
negative tone heard in the media with the routine of life on the economically poor social
fringes, which nevertheless is marked by the signs of a normal routine, including shops
and businesses, cultural events, social gatherings, and the use of state-of-the-art technol-
ogy. Following the tour, students planned teaching-learning practices that were related to
culturally adapted pedagogy using language mediation skills.
The meeting with the Abugida team revealed a concept that pushes the boundaries of
the school and reinforces the importance of making contact with the home, the family,
and the community. The pedagogical activities showed a desire to reinforce parental
involvement despite the diculties and to try to integrate home literacy into classroom
lessons.
These ndings have implications for the teacher training process. It seems that in
a reality where cultural diversity is expanding, teachers are required to be willing to teach
in heterogeneous classrooms while performing pedagogical actions that may aect the
learning abilities and emotional behaviours of the other in the school space. A teacher
training process that includes authentic experiences in the school, neighbourhood, and
community will reinforce the understanding that learning processes may dier from one
culture to another, so that teachers are required to act as cultural mediators, incorporate
experiences from the children’s cultural world, and to connect new knowledge learned in
class to the children’s home and community. Such activities can have a major impact on
the children’s lives in the present and on their integration process into adult society in the
future.
Since the study was conducted with a small sample in one college in the centre of one
country, it should not be generalised to other places. In the study, ethical rules were
carefully observed: maintaining the anonymity and condentiality of the respondents and
the data, avoiding abusive questions, and giving students a choice whether to participate
in the study or not.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).The disclosure statement has been
inserted. Please correct if this is inaccurate.
16 D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
ORCID
Dolly Eliyahu-Levi http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4118-8105
Michal Ganz-Meishar http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5218-5834
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20 D. ELIYAHU-LEVI AND M. GANZ-MEISHAR
... The result is that children do not receive academic support and are unable to complete high school successfully. This fact is a blow to the young refugees' dreams of a better future [9][10][11][12]. ...
... Studies in education indicate [7,10,32] that educators play an essential and significant role concerning children from families of asylum seekers. The children describe a positive relationship of trust between them and the teachers. ...
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