Topic 4

Diversity management skills and cultural mediation for teachers

Introduction

 

The encounter between different cultures may pose several challenges, which require the implementation of tailored measures to leave no one behind. A true intercultural environment presumes a respectful attitude towards each student’s backgrounds, allowing cultural diversity to find full expression.

As defined in UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural diversity:

Culture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognised and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations (Article 1)¹

How to transform cultural diversity into an added value rather than a danger or something to ignore? Proper skills for diversity management and cultural mediation are needed. Sociologist Dr. Milton Bennett described this gradual transformation from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism, along the six main stages of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS):

  1. Denial: individuals perceive their culture as the only “real” one. 

  2. Defense: feeling of cultural superiority.  

  3. Minimization: similarities between cultures are considered more important than differences. 

  4. Acceptance: recognition of different equal cultures.

  5. Adaptation: in order to communicate effectively with people from other cultures.

  6. Integration: self-awareness, with the capacity to shift from one cultural worldview to another².

  

This model shows how conflicts may derive from the ignorance of a culture and underlines the importance to discuss with students about other meaning frameworks.

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1 UNESCO (2001). Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. University of Minnesota. Human Rights Library: http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/instree/culturaldiversity.html

2 WELCOMM. (2019): https://welcomm-europe.eu/training-material/

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Watch the video to learn more about Topic 4 contents.

Effective communication, problem solving and negotiation are the keys for a fruitful management of conflicts.

In order to strengthen teachers’ skills in diversity management and cultural mediation, we took as an example the good practice of VVOB³ Ecuador in the implementation of restorative practices and more specifically of restorative circles. This good practice is upscaled by applying it to the secondary educational level and specifically targeting newly arrived migrant students. Thus, it is further re-adapted by proposing a series of practical activities, with special focus on SEL (social emotional learning) and strength-based learning for individualized learning paths, stimulating everyone’s active participation.

To learn more about strength-based learning, we kindly invite you to have a look at the Guide to Strength-Based Learning, part of TEACHmi Teacher’s Manual.

To learn more about strength-based learning, we kindly invite you to have a look at the
Guide to Strength-Based Learning, part of TEACHmi Teacher’s Manual.

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3 Founded in 1982, VVOB- education for development is a non-profit organisation, commissioned by the Flemish and Belgian governments to strengthen educational quality in developing countries. with its head office in Brussels, the organisation is now active in 10 countries. Learn more: https://www.vvob.org/en/education/expertis

 

Specific objectives

Teachers:

  • To combat discrimination and segregation toward migrant students

  • To create peaceful and open-minded learning environments, free from any preconception or stereotypes 

  • To transform cultural diversity into a strength through welcoming learning environments and open learning approaches

Students:

  • To feel secure, appreciated and able to learn

  • To gain better self-awareness, acceptance of the other and negotiation between cultures 

  • To learn new methods and suggested behaviours on how to deal with cultural diversity

 

Learning outcomes

Teachers:

  • Use restorative circles to create open-minded classes 

  • Recognize potential cultural clashes and use restorative circles to prevent/ overcome them

  • Enhance students’ curiosity about the other cultures and transform diversity into a positive stimulus

Students:

  • Recognise their feelings within open-minded environments to prevent misunderstandings 

  • Respect different cultural and linguistic values 

  • Apply constructive approaches to resolve tensions deriving from multicultural environments

Good practice

 

Children and youngsters’ exposure to abuse or neglect can have a detrimental effect on their school performance and self-esteem, and in the worst cases can lead to high-risk or self-destructive behaviours. Violence in schools is a serious problem in Ecuador. In order to get a deeper insight on the issue of violence in the educational environment, VVOB Ecuador conducted a survey with 105 members of the Student Counselling Departments (DECE): 75% of them perceived violence as a serious problem in their school. 

Thus, in 2016, VVOB Ecuador organised three training workshops on restorative practices in education with professionals in clinical psychology and educational psychology from the Student Counselling Departments (DECE) of the Ministry of Education, followed by a training process in different schools. The restorative approach was well received by the DECE professionals, as 80% implemented it and the remaining part was planning to do so⁴. In 2017, the Ministry of Education and VVOB carried out other training workshops on restorative practices for DECE staff⁵.

The centrality of the restorative approach was reconfirmed by the UN General Assembly in its “Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Children from Harassment” (June 2016), as an effective tool for the prevention, identification and resolution of school violence, through the values of transparency, empathy, responsibility, fairness, empowerment and involvement of the community⁶. 

Therefore, restorative practices represent a good practice to create healthy relationships for harmonious coexistence at school and beyond. Though VVOB Ecuador focused on the prevention/resolution of cases of school violence, we suggest the use of restorative circles to provide students with a unique chance to share their experiences and feelings, to learn how to control their emotions, to become more critical of their behaviours and more proactive to remedy for the damage caused to others. 

Restorative practices are a social science based on participatory learning and decision making. They were originally applied in the field of criminal justice to restore human relationships in the community by repairing the harm caused to an individual, rather than only punishing the offender.

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4 VVOB Ecuador (2016). Prácticas restaurativas en ámbitos educativos. VVOB: https://ecuador.vvob.org/noticia/practicas-restaurativas-en-ambitos-educativos

5 VVOB Ecuador (2017). Formación en Prácticas Restaurativas para profesionales DECE. VVOB: https://ecuador.vvob.org/noticia/formacion-en-practicas-restaurativas-para-profesionales-dece-en-apoyo-al-plan-nacional-de-co

6 Ibid.

 

UPSCALING:

 

Here, we upscaled the good practice of restorative circles, by applying it to the secondary educational level and addressing a particular target in multicultural environments: newly arrived students with migrant background. Moreover, we re-adapted this approach by suggesting a series of practical activities which can contribute to enhancing students’ competences to create peaceful and friendly learning environments.

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6 Rutta, C.B., Schiavo, G., & Zancanaro, M. (2019). Comic-based Digital Storytelling for Self-expression: an Exploratory Case-Study with Migrants. [Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies - Transforming Communities]

What are restorative circles?

Restorative circles are one of the tools used within the methodology of restorative practices, which have proved to be effective for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, supporting more open participation for community peaceful coexistence⁷. They create a safe environment where everyone can tell his/her story and viewpoint, be listened and valued, creating more stable, lasting and safe relationship, and promoting respectful dialogue. They perform different functions, including: conflicts resolutions, decision making, information exchange, relationships development, revision of lessons contents⁸. 

Restorative circles can contribute to enhancing SEL skills, as they require participants’ humility, patience, respect, communication and active listening skills, trust and responsibility. 

 In the educational field, we can distinguish three main types of restorative circles⁹:

 

  • Proactive: to reinforce interpersonal relationships and enhance the sense of common belonging;

  • Preventive: to identify possible conflictual situations and prevent the risk of their outburst;

  • Reactive: to resolve conflicts after their happening by analysing how the different parts have been involved and how to prevent similar events in the future.

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7 VVOB Ecuador (2016). Prácticas restaurativas en ámbitos educativos. VVOB: https://ecuador.vvob.org/noticia/practicas-restaurativas-en-ambitos-educativos

8 Watchel, T. (2016). Defining Restorative. IIRP: https://www.iirp.edu/restorative-practices/defining-restorative/

9 VVOB Ecuador. Restaura. La Vida en Familia. Cartilla de apoyo formativo. VVOB: https://ecuador.vvob.org/sites/ecuador/files/2020_ecuador_eftp_cartilla_practicas_restaurativas_los_circulos_restaurativos.pdf

 

How to create restorative circles?

Download the instructions provided in TEACHmi Teacher’s Manual.

There are two main formats¹⁰:

Sometimes, a third format is proposed¹¹:

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10 Ibid.

11  Watchel, T. (2016). Defining Restorative. IIRP: https://www.iirp.edu/restorative-practices/defining-restorative/

And what if we cannot be present in the same place?

Restorative circles turn digital! You can use different online platforms for this purpose, but be aware that you may miss some deeper meanings, deriving from body language and gestures.

Here are few tips for facilitators of restorative circles¹²:

  • Plan your sessions well in advance by setting clear objectives;

  • Define a series of questions (at least 3-5) to achieve your goal;

  • Establish the rules of your circle, together with the participants; 

  • Create a welcoming environment;

  • Use a calm and positive tone of voice and enable everyone to participate; 

  • Promote a feeling of common belonging, trust and safety

Beyond more formal processes, we suggest teachers to adopt informal restorative practices in their daily work, such as¹³:

  • Affective statements: to communicate feelings, e.g.: when a student adopts a disrespectful behaviour, you can react by using an affective statement: “when you did this thing, I felt sad/disrespected/disappointed”. 

  • Affective questions: helping people to reflect on how their behaviour can affect others, by asking specific questions to both the offender and the victim. Here are some examples that can guide you in this process:

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12 VVOB Ecuador. Restaura. La Vida en Familia. Cartilla de apoyo formativo. VVOB: https://ecuador.vvob.org/sites/ecuador/files/2020_ecuador_eftp_cartilla_practicas_restaurativas_los_circulos_restaurativos.pdf

13  Watchel, T. (2016). Defining Restorative. IIRP: https://www.iirp.edu/restorative-practices/defining-restorative/

Offenders:

  • What happened?

  • What were you thinking in that moment?

  • What have your thoughts been since that occurrence?

  • Who did you affect with your behaviour?

  • What do you think you need to remedy?

Victims:

  • What did you think when you understood what was happening?

  • What was the consequence of that event on you and on others?

  • What was the worst effect for you?

  • What is needed to remedy?

Note for teachers:

The content of restorative circles can be modified depending on the classroom’s needs and objectives. But remember to allow everyone to participate and be listened to within a welcoming and safe environment.

Activities

 
 

Assessment tool ★4

References and Useful Links: