Teacher's Guide to Intercultural Competence-Based Learning
 

I. Introduction to the Guide for Intercultural Competences  
 

This Guide for Intercultural Competences is the second part of the “Teacher’s Manual” and is designed to help teachers expand their knowledge and skills for managing a multicultural classroom by offering effective approaches that leads to greater inclusion. 

Successful pedagogical interactions in the classrooms depend greatly on the teacher, who should be able to provide a safe and peaceful environment for students, regardless of their ethnic background. This can be especially challenging in an inclusive multicultural classroom.  The teacher must show understanding and willingness to support and assist each student, but also skillfully manage the relationships between the students in a spirit of respect and tolerance. This important role of the teacher requires him or her to have a high level of intercultural competence, i.e. to be able to interact with students and their families of different cultural backgrounds, recognize and understand cultural differences as well as the potential underlying attitudes and prejudices of students (and their families) in the classroom and be able to mitigate them. 

This Guide contains an ‘Introduction’ to challenges of "Bias and Hate Speech" as well as three thematic sections that focus on different aspects of intercultural competences: 1. Overcoming Stereotypes and Prejudices and the Formation of Cultural Awareness; 2. The Inclusive Multicultural Classroom;  and finally, 3. Pedagogical Interactions with the Families of Students of Different Ethnic Origins.  Each thematic section contains a brief theoretical justification on each topic as well as specific practical ideas and activities that teachers can use in their classrooms.

II. Bias and Hate Speech  


Dealing with Bias and Prejudices 


In recent years, more research has been done into the effects of bias on our decision-making processes, but also its pervasiveness in all societies and all human behaviour. Bias is an attitude and behaviour that often shows an unjustified and misplaced preference for an idea, belief, worldview, person or group. Before the popular work of the psychologist and Noble Prize Winner in Economics, Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow), the most popular view of the human person was that of ‘homo rationalis’. This human being is always making rational decisions in the most optimal way and in his or her best interests. Kahneman has shown that human beings are not as rational as they would like to see themselves and are, more often than they would admit, inclined to make false assumptions and systematic errors of judgements about persons and situations that make their lives, but also the lives of others less productive and happy.
 
According to Kahneman, human beings use two systems for forming thoughts and making judgements:  System One and System Two.   Although both systems work in tandem, System One is a fast, automatic, unconscious type of thinking that our ancestors needed for survival in a hostile and volatile environment. System Two is a slow, deliberate, conscious, analytical type of thinking developed to thrive in more complex forms of society. Although we use System Two to ensure that we filter out bias and make correct decisions, we often prefer System One over System Two, as it takes less effort.  System One is our ‘go-to system’ and is the reason why humans are less ‘rational’ and more prone to forms of cognitive bias than they realize.   
 
There are various forms of cognitive bias that lead us to errors of judgement about situations and persons.  For example, some of these can be the phenomenon of anchoring (relying on the first bit of information we get), attribution and confirmation bias (an attempt to find an explanation for something based on our personal experience.  Here, we interpret information based on our prejudices, despite the fact that new information or data contradict them), framing (the social construction of phenomena based on one’s culture, local media, political parties or figures), but also cultural and status quo bias (judging things based on the standards of one’s own culture and based on the present state of affairs).  These biases can cloud our judgements and prevent us from making correct decisions. 

Another word that we sometimes use for bias is the term ‘prejudice’, although these words are similar, they are not the same. The word prejudice comes from the Latin term ‘praejudicium’ or pre-judgement, the judgement before a judgement.  In other words, it’s the judgement that one makes before one has sufficient information to make a proper judgement.  Prejudices are preconceived and negative judgements about persons or groups – often based on bias and unfounded beliefs concerning identity  –  because of their race, religion, social class, political affiliation or beliefs, language, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc…  For example, when teacher bias and prejudice remain un-addressed and unconscious, then, strength-focused learning becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.  Prejudice and bias also prevent young people from making important connections with their neighbours, friends, peers, and maintain connections with the families and home countries, and of course, teachers.  

Biases and prejudices can lead to discrimination and form unseen barriers to exercise the essential elements of openness, peacefulness and focus. They are not just a problem for students and their families, but also amongst their teachers. After all, how is it possible to be open, when you feel that the persons, who are meant to guide you, are negatively judging you because of your religion? And, how can they help you to discover your strengths, when they can only see your weaknesses? And how can you make a connection with your new surroundings, when you feel that you will never be accepted because of the colour of your skin or the country where you were born?  

Although prejudice and bias are a part of the human condition, when left unattended, they cloud a teacher’s ability to make correct judgements and prevent them from supporting their students to achieve their goals. Becoming more conscious of one’s own bias is a first step towards recognizing and avoiding potentially harmful prejudices in the classroom that lead to negative stereotypes, discrimination, miscommunication, hostilities and in the worst case, open conflict.   
 

 
Woman on Window Sill

Hate Speech: what is it?

In 1997, the Council of Europe defined hate speech as “all forms of expression that spread, incite, facilitate or justify racial hatred, xenophobia and anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance as aggressive nationalism and discredits and ethnocentrism against minorities, migrants and people with a migrant background.” There are about 6 million teachers in Europe who play an important role in helping students develop their talents and achieve their potential for personal growth and well-being.  Next to that, they enable students to acquire the diverse knowledge and skills they will need to become productive citizens. Teachers can help to positively change Europe, and reduce forms of hate speech against vulnerable groups and minorities. Revising school culture and positively transforming it into a more democratic one can be time-consuming and take a great deal of effort, requiring the active participation of each member of the school community.

 

Prevention against hate speech is not an additional personal or professional activity, but a challenge of our times brought on by people's social experiences, opinions, feelings and emotions. Here, the roles of the director, the pedagogical team and parents are to create opportunities for a positive school climate where there is respect and appreciation for cultural differences but also cultural similarities. It should be a climate where everyone's achievements are recognized. Prevention or reduction of hate speech is a function of good societal relationships and contributes to a spirit of understanding, tolerance and respect for different personalities as well as the feelings of belonging for everyone.

 

This section of the Induction Course is aimed at supporting educators to build respect for diversity and create a school climate where every student can fully develop their potential.Prevention of hate speech is an important condition for creating a positive school climate and is the responsibility of everyone.

 

Often hate speech is due to the influence of a particular cultural environment. Hate speech can even be perpetrated by parents and disrupt efforts to build a conducive learning environment and prevent a school from fully including and involving all families in school life.Naturally, the chances of successfully creating a sense of partnership and cooperation between the school and families are also determined by the behaviours and attitudes of teachers and school management. These actors should be alert and willing to improve their listening skills to detect the causes of existing negative trends that lead to hate speech. There are six main categories in the emergence and development of hate speech that we would like to address here:

1. Denial

The denial of the existence of hate speech, as explained by an actor’s limited experiences, perceptions or worldview, perceiving differences as insignificant. Often examples of hate speech are denied and not followed up.

2. Defensiveness

Against perceived negative differences, a defensive strategy is enlisted that is aimed at a total or partial denial of existing facts about the use of hate speech... Another defensive strategy is based on the belief of one’s own cultural superiority.

3. Belittlement

This could be a last-ditch effort to maintain a position of control and ignore differences under the assumption of cultural similarities. Differences are perceived and acknowledged, but they are belittled or depreciated.It is usually claimed that students are just playing or teasing, and the victims of hate speech are not offended.

4. Acceptance

Acceptance and recognition of hate speech and categories such as truth, morality, justice and freedom are interpreted in a curious way. At this stage, cultural differences are recognized and respected. Differences are perceived as something natural and necessary for human relationships; however, they are not appreciated. They're just a fact. There are two sub-levels of the category of acceptance:

• Acceptance of differences in behaviour, mode of communication, verbal and nonverbal patterns;
• Acceptance of cultural differences related to the overall organization of the community.

5. Empathy

Another phase on the path to the prevention of hate speech is the development of empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing or feeling from their perspective, that is, it is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another. To feel as they do and to have the capacity to compare and adequately re-evaluate different perspectives. Another form of empathetic adaptation is associated with the ability to view the world from two or more perspectives.

6. Prevention   

Prevention is associated with sensitivity to other cultures as well as the ability to assess phenomena associated with the manifestation of hate speech. To make adaptations or changes that prevent negative school climates to grow and allow the conditions for the acceptance of hate speech.

Bias and hate speech not only erect barriers for learning processes, sometimes they make learning impossible for its victims. Bias and prejudices not only concern ‘the other’, but also issues that are not that connected to cultural sensitivities and traditions. We observe this when students refuse to work with other students, or when a teacher is boycotted by some students, because of their identity. Another example is when teachers make subtle or obvious comments about a student and treat them in a discriminatory way. More significantly, bias and prejudice can be observed in many aspects of our education systems and cultural assumptions.  Diversity in education cannot be achieved when bias and prejudice are only discussed as an aspect of ‘content’.  You achieve diversity by ensuring that diverse students can work together and choose diverse learning paths independently. It’s for that reason that we opt for a positive approach to learning processes. Or said otherwise:  we first try to create a positive context where it is possible to connect with and value each other as individuals with respect, cooperation and freedom for independent agency, forming a part of the way that we work together. When this is not possible, then, we develop a strategy that counters engrained negativity by focussing on the strengths of the class and the environment.  Teachers can find tools to deal with this in the Guide to Strength-Based Learning, under the section: “But what if things don’t go well”.  

III. Developing Intercultural Competences

 

The following three sections were developed by the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University – College of Pedagogy in Pleven, Bulgaria. Here, you will find resources that help teachers develop intercultural competences for a multicultural and inclusive classroom that includes both native, refugee and children from a migrant background.  Each sub-section contains a downloadable document where you can read about the theory behind each topic.  But you are also provided with practical exercises that can be used in the classroom as well as references for further exploration. 

 
College Students on Break

Overcoming Stereotypes and Prejudices:  The Formation of Cultural Awareness. 

Download the document     

The Inclusive Multicultural Classroom

Download the document     

Working with Families of Students from Different Ethnic Backgrounds

Download the document     

Students
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This Intellectual Output was created by:

    
Emil Buzov

St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

College of Pedagogy, Pleven