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.

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?