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Teachers in a Multicultural Environment

Homepage > Guideline > Teachers in a Multicultural Environment

Improving teachers’ skills in dealing with multicultural environments.

Responsibilities of Teachers in a Multicultural Environment

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Chapter 1 – Intercultural Competences
1.2 Ethnocentrism vs Ethno Relativism
Cultural differences divided in two stages: ethnocentrism and ethno relativism.

W. G. Sumner coined the term ethnocentrism in 1906. He characterized it as often leading to pride, vanity, beliefs of one's own group's superiority, and contempt of outsiders. But this characterization was criticized by anthropologists such as R. K. Merton, F. Boas and B. Malinowski. Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behavior, customs, and religion. There are three main stages of ethnocentrism: 1) denial (individual experience); 2) defence (now there are able to recognize that the difference between cultures, but in a way, they protect their own interest); 3) minimization (we are all a human, everyone its same, like me). Ethno relativism states that no one culture it is superior to another (recognize differences between cultures, and believe in adapted and accommodate). Ethno relativism is a belief based on deep and heart-felt respect for other cultures that all groups, cultures, or subcultures are inherently equal. Other cultures have be seen neither as better or worse, but as equally valid but different and complex worldviews. Ethno relativism divided in three stages:
  • Acceptance (grasping the importance of cultural difference, a new way of seeing the world. People accept the existence of other cultural contexts and think this way because they have a more tolerant and sympathetic attitude towards differences).
  • Adaptation (intercultural empathy, interpret and evaluate from more than one cultural perspective, a new way of acting encouraging intensive exploration and research, one expands own worldview to accurately understand other cultures and behave in a variety of culturally appropriate ways)
  • Integration (more desirable stage than adaptation, define as acculturation or assimilation of culture).
Ethnocentrism and ethno relativism are a measure of how much and how well we relate to others. The ethnocentrism-ethno relativism spectrum, shown above, moves from denial, defense and minimization on the ethnocentrism side, to acceptance, adaptation and finally integration on the ethno relativism side.
Online Resources
  • Basic Intercultural Terminology This paper presents the main definitions commonly used in the intercultural field, but does not intend to cover all the possible explanations for each of these terms.
  • Becoming interculturally competentThe article presents the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) (M. Bennett, 1986, 1993; J. Bennett & M. Bennett, 2003, 2004). The authors outline that people became more intercultural competent it seemed that there was a major change in the quality of their experience, which called the move from ethnocentrism to ethno relativism.
  • The Impact of Intercultural Sensitivity on Ethnocentrism and Intercultural Communication Apprehension This study explores the relationship among the variables ethnocentrism, intercultural communication apprehension, and intercultural sensitivity. This article presents also the results of the survey has been done in the northeastern area of the United States.
  • Teachers’ perceptions of cultural differences: ethnocentric and ethnorelative worldview in school context The author B. M. Dimitrijevic examines two different cases - ethnocentric and ethnorelative worldview in the school context in Serbia. Researcher point out that many of the teachers are faced with a challenge of diversifying classrooms regarding the cultural background of the students. How people perceive cultural differences and what is their competence to effectively act in situations that involve different cultures are presented in details and discussed.
  • Constructivist foundations of intercultural education: implications for research and teacher training The paper shows that the teachers’ personal dispositions are crucial for performing specific functions and tasks in teaching (e.g. Klieme & Hartig, 2008; Lipowski, 2006). Such dispositions correspond to deeply held beliefs, values and norms, which are strongly anchored in individuals’ subjective theories. These theories may interfere with the normative claims inherent to the officially taught concepts how to teach productively in culturally diverse settings

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.