Breaking Down the Multicultural Barriers in the Classroom


This article provides a detailed lesson plan, which helps students from diverse backgrounds to assimilate in the classroom. It also provides students with opportunities to demonstrate written and oral communication skills. The teacher collects the written work, which is then used as a guideline for any remedial action that is needed to assist students with communication skills development. Teachers may follow the directions or adapt them to their teaching situation.

General Directions
The first step in working within the group process involves students from different cultural backgrounds and disciplines sharing common interests and developing confidence in oral presentation before a group (Alsop, 2002).

The assignment, an ‘icebreaker’, occurs during the first tutorial meeting. At the beginning of the class
the students are informed that since they will be together for a semester, it would be of interest for
members of the class to know something about other members. Students have 15 minutes to complete the questions and are then informed that they will have five minutes to stand and tell the class a few things about themselves. Well, if the subject was not mandatory, students would bolt en masse at the first instance. So amid much grumbling, frowning, and ‘evil eye’ directed at the teacher, the task is
completed.

Using a stopwatch, keep a record of presentation times. To the students’ surprise they find that when
talking about an interesting subject, namely themselves, that five minutes was nowhere near enough time to say everything they have to say. It is very important that you do not stop students during
this initial presentation because they might feel intimidated and unresponsive during other
presentations. Depending on class size, allow eight minutes per student per presentation.

As students begin presentations keep a record of where they and their parents were born. At the end
of the session tally the responses and share these with the students. In a 2004 survey conducted in Marketing Principles, a first-year subject, it was found that although 80% of students were born in Australia, 58% of parents were born overseas representing twenty-two countries (Ryan, 2004). These results seem to indicate that for many students English is a second language in the home environment even though they are Australian citizens. When the answers to the ‘Getting To Know You’ exercise were tabulated, it was found that 16 per cent of students stated public speaking as one of their greatest fears, 14 per cent were concerned with failure in general as they see themselves as perfectionists, and 7 per cent were worried that they would not find employment after graduation. These results seem to indicate that students lack confidence in interpersonal communication skills and are worried about their lack of skills.

At the end of the class session collect the students ‘Getting to Know You’ forms. These will enable you to evaluate students’ communication competency and to target students needing assistance. This is a substantial benefit to both you and the student in that help will be provided early in the semester instead of waiting until end-of-semester projects are submitted when no help is available.

The benefits of this exercise are that students overcome their fears of speaking before a group. Even though students come from culturally diverse backgrounds they become aware of shared common interests; so in effect individual students now become involved in the first step in working within the group process (Clark, 2004).

The materials needed for the activity are listed below.

Student Handout
Getting To Know You

Instructional Aids
Overhead Projector and Transparencies
Screen
Student Handout
Stopwatch

Performance Objectives
Teacher:
1. Identify students with verbal communication skills problems.

2. Identify students with grammar, spelling, and punctuation problems.

Students:
1. Develop awareness of students from different cultural backgrounds and disciplines that share
common interests.

2. Demonstrate the ability to organise their thoughts and write in a concise, yet interesting manner.

3. Develop confidence in oral presentation before a small group.

Lesson Plan

“Today’s universities are truly multicultural and global in nature in that students may come from as many as ninety or more ethnic backgrounds representing many countries.”

Preview

“Since many of the activities in this class call for teamwork, today you will have the opportunity to
become acquainted with members of the class by answering questions and telling others about yourself.
It is difficult to work effectively as a group if the group members do not know each other well and are not aware or each other’s strengths and weaknesses, styles of working, past experiences, attitudes, and the like. Thus, the first task of most new groups is to get to know one another.” (Bertalan, 2004).

“Your first assignment is an ‘icebreaker’. Since we will be together for a semester, it would be of interest for members of the class to know something about you (Bertalan, 2004). To make this an easy task, here is a list of questions. You have fifteen minutes to answer the questions and then you will have five minutes to stand and tell the class a few things about yourself (Steeler, Torres & Laughlin, 2004). At the end of the class you will submit your answers so that I can learn a little about you as well.”

Summary

“This exercise has created awareness that even though you are from different cultural backgrounds
and disciplines you share common interests (Gewertz, 2004; Quezada & Romo, 2004). It has also helped you to organise your thoughts and write in a concise, yet interesting manner. But, probably most important to you, is that it helped you to develop confidence in oral presentation before a small group.”

Student Handout - Getting To Know You
Name: ...........................................................
Day: ..............................................................
Time: .............................................................
Major: ............................................................
Full/Part-time: ...............................................
Student ID: ....................................................
Gender: ..........................................................
Age: ..............................................................
In essay form, answer the following questions.
1. Where were you born?
2. If born outside of Australia, how long have you lived in Australia?
3. Where were your parents born?
Father .......................................................
Mother .....................................................
4. a. Are you working?
b. Where?
c. What type of job?
d. How long have you worked for the company?
e. What other jobs have you held?
5. What are your favourite hobbies?
6. Do you participate in sports? Which ones?
7. What type of books do you like to read?
8. What do you like to do in your spare time?
9. What was one of the most exciting events in your life?
10.What is one of your biggest fears?
11. What type of job do you hope to find after graduation?
12.What is your favourite holiday?
13.What type of music or groups do you like?
14. What is your favourite food?

References
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Banks, J.A. (2004) ‘Teaching for Social Justice, Diversity, and Citizenship in a Global World) in The Educational Forum, 68 (4) (Summer): 296
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