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Curriculum design

By following some simple steps, teachers can develop curriculum to support transformative intercultural learning.

Review – What cultural content is currently being taught? What outcomes have been observed with students? What else would you like students to achieve? 

Assess – Use the 'Intercultural education framework for Asia capability' to assess your current practice and what else is possible. To optimise transformative intercultural learning, what modifications can you make to how cultural content is currently handled in the curriculum?

Consider – Consider examples of Australian Curriculum content that can be taught and assessed, and how they might be scoped and sequenced to foster students' intercultural understanding. Refer to the samples of English, History, Geography and Arts content mapped against the Intercultural learning continuum. 

Develop – Develop a sample learning sequence or unit, which reflects the modifications you have made. 

Test – Test the sample with colleagues and students and evaluate outcomes (using pre- and post-evaluations, or qualitative progress tracking based on empirical observations).

Evidence:

Background to Intercultural understanding in the Australian Curriculum
This background summarises the evidence base from which the Intercultural understanding capability’s introduction, organising elements and learning continuum have been developed.


Illustration of practice

A practical scenario (from a Contributions approach to a Transformative approach)

Intercultural understanding – From 'learning about cultures' to transformation

In response to the growing diversity within our own primary school, our principal has advised staff to include multicultural content in their teaching. She believes that learning about other cultures will help reduce prejudice among students and promote social harmony. She suggests lessons about different cultural groups’ celebrations, customs and beliefs.

As a leading teacher with an interest in intercultural understanding, I am tasked with exploring the changes to teaching and learning required within our school to support intercultural learning. After some research, I conclude that the Australian Curriculum conception of intercultural understanding reflects where the research is at. It presents intercultural understanding as transformative, more than just ‘learning about cultures’.

It encompasses:

  1. recognising culture and developing respect
  2. interacting and empathising with others
  3. reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility.

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, I want fellow educators to understand the crucial role education can play to transform thinking about cultural diversity. I feel our school’s approach to intercultural understanding remains piecemeal and superficial. I wish to help fellow colleagues move from their practice ‘learning about cultures’ to something much for transformative.

I came across the following framework used in AEF’s What Works 3 research report on achieving intercultural understanding whilst attending an AEF Forum one day. It is based on the work of one of the world’s leading intercultural educators, James Banks.

I decide to use the framework as an analytical tool, to demonstrate to colleagues how teaching and learning can be modified to promote transformative intercultural learning. Using the framework as our reference point, my colleagues and I analyse where our current educational practice sits within the framework. We quickly decide that we are sitting mainly in the Contributions space, perhaps Additive at best.

Below is an example of a modification we work-shopped to demonstrate what is required for us to transition into the Transformation space. It shows how the same unit can be developed and taught differently depending on the intercultural learning approach.

Topic: Integrated unit on 'Celebrations'

Year level: 6

Learning areas/subjects: English, History, Geography, Civics and Citizenship

Relevant content descriptions

English History
Make connections between students’ own experiences and those of characters and events represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1613) The contribution of individuals and groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and migrants, to the development of Australian society, for example in areas such as the economy, education, science, the arts, sport. (ACHHK116)
Geography Civics and Citizenship
  • The location of the major countries of the Asia region in relation to Australia and the geographical diversity within the region (ACHGK031)
  • The world’s cultural diversity, including that of its indigenous peoples (ACHGK033)
  • Significant events that connect people and places throughout the world (ACHGK034)
  • The various connections Australia has with other countries and how these connections change people and places (ACHGK035)
The obligations citizens may consider they have beyond their own national borders as active and informed global citizens (ACHCK039)

My colleagues and I agree that the relevant Australian Curriculum content descriptions can be taught more thoroughly and critically using a transformative approach as described below.

Contributions  > Additive  > Transformation

Overview

Students learn about a selection of religious celebrations, such as Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah. Using resources about world celebrations from the Internet and textbooks from the library, they focus on visible practices and customs, identifying similarities and differences with common celebrations in Australia (e.g. Christmas and Easter). 

Explanation

For many schools, this approach is a starting point and can provide students with greater cultural awareness. But it cannot be the end goal. On its own, it is unlikely to foster higher-order intercultural understanding, skills, behaviours and dispositions. 

The approach runs the risk of promoting superficial awareness of a selection of cultures. It also has the capacity to reinforce ethnocentric and generalised views of ‘cultures’, seeing these as discrete and static, as opposed to dynamic and changing. This is because teaching and learning has not been constructed to promote critical thinking about cross-cultural interaction, self-reflexivity, perspective taking, empathy and action. Relying on generic resources could mean that authentic and culturally diverse sources are not an intentional aspect of teaching and learning for the topic.
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Overview

Students learn about a selection of religious celebrations, such as Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah. They use authentic materials, i.e. culture-specific books written by people of that particular culture, to explore visible practices and customs. They identify similarities and differences with common celebrations in Australia (e.g. Christmas and Easter). A small group of parents from Muslim, Hindu and Jewish backgrounds are invited to the school to share their experiences with students. Students visit the Islamic Museum of Australia, a Hindu temple or the Jewish Museum to gain a deeper insight into one cultural perspective and its celebrations. 

Explanation

The use of authentic perspectives and perspectives can provide students with deeper cultural insights, which builds on the Contributions approach. However, teaching and learning has not been modified sufficiently to enable transformative thinking and behaviour with respect to cultural diversity. Furthermore, the approach can still promote the idea that cultures are discrete and unchanging, instead of dynamic. It potentially reinforces ethnocentricity and essentialist views of culture, rather than foster genuine intercultural understanding.
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Overview

Students explore the theme of ‘celebrations’ as an inquiry topic. They investigate celebrations as an age-old social phenomenon and consider the significance of celebrations and its different types. Using a range of religious/cultural celebrations as examples, e.g. Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas and Easter, students seek to understand why people come together to celebrate and how different celebrations are connected. 

Students use authentic materials, i.e. culture-specific books written by people of that particular culture, to explore visible practices and customs. A small group of parents from Muslim, Hindu and Jewish backgrounds are invited to the school to share their experiences. Students visit the Islamic Museum of Australia, a Hindu temple or the Jewish Museum to gain a deeper insight into one cultural perspective and its celebrations.

Explanation

The theme of ‘celebrations’ is viewed from several cultural perspectives so students can understand the complex ways in which diverse groups interact and participate in the formation of society. It enables diverse cultural perspectives to be included in teaching and learning as a matter of course, empowering students from minority cultural backgrounds in the process. It promotes perspective taking, reflexivity, interactivity and empathy building.

In this example, the structure of teaching and learning has been modified substantially to transform students’ thinking and behaviour with respect to cultural diversity. The Transformation approach is further reinforced by the use of authentic resources that showcase a range of voices. This helps facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and conversations so students can explore other worldviews whilst reflecting on their own background and identities. The intended outcome is a student who understands there are many ways of seeing the world, who possesses the skills, behaviours and dispositions to navigate the implications of intercultural relations, and who understands why people do what they do.

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