Find strategies to manage cultural differences and conflict in the classroom

Begin by opening communication between the students and the teacher:

  • Explain the norms of your classroom culture.
  • Describe your expectations.
  • Discuss differences openly.
  • Be open to new ways of learning.
  • Encourage sharing of perceived cultural differences for everyone to learn.
  • Be cautious in making attributions about student behaviour – what is considered polite in their culture may be different from what is polite in your culture.

Conduct an audience analysis

  • Give students an index card, and ask them to write down:
  • Where they are from?
  • What assumptions do they bring with them about classroom interaction?
  • How do they learn best?
  • What makes them feel uncomfortable in the classroom?

Teaching skills that make a difference

  • Sense of humour.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity.
  • Ability to make mistakes.
  • Flexibility.
  • Curiosity.
  • Willingness to explore and learn.

NOTE:
Canadian universities actively encourage students to express their individuality. Yet, the Canadian learning and teaching contexts have the potential to threaten personal boundaries. Discussing what we have in common provides a safe starting point from which we can grow as teachers and learners. This discussion-based session will provide students with the chance to address issues of diversity and identify strategies for addressing diversity in their own teaching
and learning contexts.

Activity for self-reflection: preparing yourself for the classroom

To help prepare yourself for teaching and learning in a culturally diverse classroom consider the following questions:

  • How do you expect a teacher (professor or TA) to behave in the classroom?
  • How do you expect a student to behave in the classroom?
  • What types of communication or other behaviour would you consider inappropriate in an academic setting in your culture? Would the same be inappropriate at UWO?
  • If a student disagrees with something that the professor or TA has just said, what are acceptable ways of expressing disagreement? How about disagreement with other students?
  • What words and phrases do you sometimes hear that you find offensive, even though the person using them may have no intention to offend?
  • What strategies could you use to minimize the effects of these words on you?
  • What strategies might be used to discover words or phrases that you use which may cause discomfort in people around you?