The efficacy of multicultural education for supporting improved educational outcomes for immigrant children was examined in two culturally diverse kindergarten classrooms. Children in kindergarten classrooms with multicultural curricula satisfying all of Bank's Five Dimensions (n=24) were compared with children in kindergarten classrooms with emergent multicultural curricula (n=27) that did not fully satisfy all of Bank's Five Dimensions. A qualitative research approach was utilized with measures including questionnaires and structured observations. Results suggest that immigrant children with multicultural education meeting Banks' Five Dimensions (i.e., culturally responsive teaching, CRT) experience improved educational outcomes, particularly in terms of social interaction, utilization of multicultural learning materials, participation in classroom learning activities, verbal and nonverbal cues about social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children, and positive teacher assessments/comments.
As the demographic composition of the United States continues to become more diverse, the need for quality multicultural education and teachers for diverse learners is intensifying. Perhaps most notably, a growing chorus of concern has arisen over the learning disadvantages for children of immigrants. In fact, children of immigrants face considerable challenges to learning in the form of psychological and social issues and language and cultural barriers. Advocates of multicultural education remain hopeful that multicultural education can serve as a vehicle for promoting and advancing social justice and equality, the reduction of racial bias and prejudice, and the learning outcomes of immigrants in education - not least of all, immigrant children in the kindergarten setting.
The current study utilized Banks' Five Dimensions Framework as a benchmark criterion for assessing sound multicultural practice. To promote culturally responsive teaching (CRT) and improved education outcomes, Banks’ framework calls for attention to: content integration, knowledge construction, equity pedagogy, prejudice reduction, and empowering school culture and social structure. Banks and others purport that the Five Dimensions framework helps teachers understand and develop instructional methods and practices that make multicultural education more effective (Powell, 2007, p. 4). With these claims in mind, the current study puts Bank’s Five Dimensions framework and CRT to the test in two culturally diverse kindergarten classrooms.
Despite its fundamental aim of supporting social justice, multicultural education remains controversial. Debates over the basic purpose, goals, and efficacy of multicultural education continue to encumber and even prevent the development of sound a educational policy for standardizing multicultural curricula and instruction. Unfortunately, children of immigrants face significant psychological and social challenges while also generally lagging behind their English speaking peers in academic achievements and educational outcomes. With the possibility that multicultural education can improve educational outcomes for this social group, it becomes incumbent upon researchers and policy makers to make the case for investment in education and settle the multicultural education dispute once and for all.
The purpose of the current study is to investigate whether multicultural education improves learning outcomes for primary school children - more specifically, immigrant children in the kindergarten setting. Affirmation of this basic question could help advance and resolve educational and political debate regarding the societal value and worth of multicultural education.
1. Does multicultural education satisfy all of Bank's Five Dimensions to improve learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting?
2. Does multicultural education fail to satisfy all of Banks’ Five Dimensions to improve learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting?
H1. Multicultural education that satisfies all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting.
H2. Multicultural education that fails to satisfy all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes less effectively for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting.
Precise definitions are needed for researchers to communicate and work towards higher understanding of the subject of multicultural education. Accordingly, the following subsection provides definitions of key terms as articulated by leading researchers and scholars in the field of multicultural education.
Cultural Diversity. Cultural diversity refers to the multiple types of cultural and ethnic effects of identifiable social norms which represent groups of people. (Parekh, 2000, p. 165)
Ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism refers to how one views his/her own cultural group’s characteristics as superior or correct and the ways of other groups as inferior or peculiar. (Gargiulo, 2010, p. 90)
Multicultural education. Multicultural education addresses issues of race, language, social class, and culture as well as gender and special education for disabilities. (Nieto, 2009, p. 82).
Pedagogy. Pedagogy refers to the art, science, or profession of teaching in relation to theoretical assumptions, practices, and skill sets that support the processes of learning with an emphasis on standards, accountability and testing. (Rogers, 2011, p. 6)
Philosophy of multiculturalism. The philosophy of multiculturalism has come to be known as one which encourages a social recognition and acceptance of diversity in humanity and supports the objective and fair treatment of such within the micro and macro cultures. (Breton, Dion & Dion, 2009, p. 1)
Pluralism. Pluralism means the existence of different groups within a civil society, i.e., ethnic, religious, or political where the maintenance of such diverse subgroups is respected and appreciated. (Parekh, 2000, p. 76)
As a politically controversial and divisive subject, multicultural education has yet to deliver the promise of being widely accepted as a platform for advancing pluralism, equality, and democracy. Children of immigrants continue to generally lag behind their English speaking peers in academic achievements and educational outcomes. Providing support for the hypothesis that multicultural education improves learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting could help educators and policy makers resolve the debate over multicultural education. Accordingly, the following literature review section presents a thematically organized treatment of the subject of multicultural education as it relates to the basic research questions and hypotheses of the current study. Topics include: the impacts of teaching practices on multicultural education learning outcomes for early childhood students, inconsistencies in the conceptualization of multicultural education, defining quality multicultural education, learning objectives and the properties of quality curriculum (Banks' Five Dimensions), and educational reform: culturally responsive teaching (CRT) case studies.
Teachers bring different pedagogical insights, instructional capabilities, and skill sets to the classroom. It has, therefore, come as no surprise to researchers that teachers can significantly affect multicultural learning outcomes for children. Yet, this inference demands answers with respect to what specific types of teaching practices and/or skills yield superior learning outcomes. Along these lines, researchers have investigated how elementary school children perceive diversity and how teaching practices can impact multicultural learning outcomes in the classroom. McRae &Ellis (2012) found that early childhood learning outcomes (specifically, perceptions of diversity) were significantly influenced by so-called hidden curriculum - that is, the way that teachers chose to display diversity in the classroom. McCarthy (2003) and Dalla, DeFrain, Johnson & Abbott (2009) have also noted that the teaching styles, especially with respect to cultural sensitivity, can make a significant difference in helping the new wave of immigrant children succeed in the face of extraordinary stresses and challenges in acclimating to a novel lifestyle (McCarthy, 2003, p. 18; Dalla, DeFrain, Johnson & Abbott, 2009, p. 320).
In addition to the variable impacts of teacher skill sets and cultural sensitivities on educational outcomes for children, researchers have also discovered inconsistencies in the conceptualization of multicultural education. These inconsistencies could represent potential barriers to the administration of effective multicultural education and, hence, the learning outcomes of immigrant children. Some researchers have gone as far as even suggesting that the majority of multicultural education is not multicultural education at all. For example, Amosa and Gorski (2008) and Vavrus (2002) analyzed multicultural education policy and practice as actualized in classrooms, schools, and districts and found that what passes for multicultural education in most learning institutions today tends to be nothing more than human relations programming and appreciation for holidays, thus being confined to a superficial celebration of diversity (Amosa & Gorski, 2008, p. 4; Vavrus, 2002, p. 77). Such findings have further emphasized the need for policy makers to settle the ongoing multicultural education debate in favor of establishing accepted national curricula and teaching standards.
Research findings that have noted the disparities and inconsistencies in multicultural curricula and teaching practices raise the important question of what actually constitutes quality multicultural education. A long standing tradition in multicultural education has held that it should be primarily concerned with political objectives - specifically, in advancing matters of social justice and equality. Amosa and Gorski (2008) voiced their opinion on the issue by arguing that multicultural education should endorse pluralism and diversity while also demanding that educational institutions challenge all forms of discrimination by means of promoting the democratic principles of social justice (p. 167). Even further, the official statement of the National Association for Multicultural Education holds that multicultural education demands the challenging of all forms of discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, native language, age, economic status, lifestyle, religious preference, or exceptionality” (Kysilka, 2011, p. 185).
The Generally Accepted Definition of Multicultural Education. By reiterating the philosophical underpinnings of the multicultural education movement, researchers have worked towards a generally acceptable definition of multicultural education framed in terms of a:“philosophy and a process by which schools and other institutions/workplaces demonstrate - in staffing patterns, curricula, instructional practices and school - community relations acceptance and respect for human diversity as a means of providing all children an equitable quality education in preparation for living in a culturally pluralistic society. Education systems must be cognizant of more than the skin colors, backgrounds and religious beliefs of people. Rather, they must educate to eliminate classism, racism, sexism, ageism, handicappism--and the more recently recognized ill, uglyism.” (Amosa & Gorski, 2008, pp. 2-3)
Beyond the philosophical basis of multicultural education, researchers have also concerned themselves with extending the definition of multicultural education to include/address learning objectives and the role of curriculum. Specifically, Banks (2004) developed five dimensions of multicultural education to describe how schools can most effectively implement components of multicultural education; these dimensions include: content integration, knowledge construction, equity pedagogy, prejudice reduction, and empowering school culture and social structure (Banks, 2006, p. 133). By defining each of the dimensions, Banks and similarly minded researchers have suggested that teachers can use the Five Dimensions framework to promote culturally responsive teaching (CRT) in diverse education settings, including kindergarten and early childhood education (ECE).
The dimension of knowledge construction encourages culturally responsive teachers to offset the impacts of dominant racial and social class perspectives that can afford advantages to some students (specifically, Euro-American students) while inhibiting the learning and education outcomes of other students (particularly, non-Euro-American students). Prejudicial discrimination reduction requires the culturally responsive teacher to promote democracy in the classroom – that is, attitudes and behaviors that advance equality and non-discrimination. Similarly, the equity pedagogy dimension calls for the culturally responsive teacher to focus only on equality of learning opportunities. Finally, the dimension of empowering school culture and social structure asks the culturally responsive teacher to advance educational equity in the school and broader institution.
In recent years, Bank’s Five Dimensions of multicultural education and CRT have become widely accepted as the framework for the multicultural education reform movement. In fact, most leading researchers and educators who are interested in advancing multicultural education consider Bank’s Five Dimensions and CRT as the benchmark model for advancing effective multicultural curriculum design, pedagogy, and instruction. The rising popularity and acceptance of CRT by educators and researchers is largely due to its student-centered emphasis. In fact, a primary CRT goal is to actively engage all students in learning and in recognition that teacher effectiveness decreases when instruction is primarily teacher centered (Vavrus, 2008). As for empirical support for such claims, Perkins and Mebert (2005) examined the efficacy of multicultural curricula for the development of “racial expertise” in 79 preschool children in multicultural (CRT/Banks' compliant settings) and emergent curricula (non-CRT compliant settings). Most relevantly, the researchers found that children in preschools with both multicultural and emergent curricula have more domain-specific racial knowledge but not less biased attitudes than other preschool children (Perkins and Mebert, 2005, p. 497). While such findings would naturally provide some critics of multicultural education with arsenal for contrariness, multicultural education offers far more than mere treatment of racism and racial prejudice. Researchers have, for example, examined kindergarten and primary school settings and found that CRT compliant teachers were more effective at creating equitable learning environments. Specifically, CRT compliant teachers advance education outcomes for children by designing teaching and learning activities based on their students' cultural and cognitive learning styles and sense of peoplehood (Powell, 2007, p. vi; Roig, 2008, p. 16). Findings of the study further suggested that CRT compliant teachers make the extra effort to help immigrant children and non-Euro students connect self-identity to classroom literature, lessons, and other content. As an example, participants (i.e., CRT compliant teachers) relied heavily on the use of culturally responsive literature and case analysis of prominent African American figures, events and experiences, to offer students a positive reflection of African American life (Powell, 2007, p. vii).
In summation, researchers have long understood that teaching styles and pedagogical approaches make a significant difference in terms of education outcomes for children. Multicultural education itself remains a controversial subject largely for political reasons. The ongoing debate has created uncertainty as to what properly constitutes multicultural education. While many teachers wrongly construe multicultural education as human relations and celebration of cultural diversity, James A. Banks and other similarly minded researchers have provided evidence to suggest that compliance with Banks’ Five Dimensions and CRT improve education outcomes for children. Additional research is, therefore, warranted to test such claims in terms of the generalizability and applicability to immigrant children.
Multicultural education is problematic politically, even controversial. Ongoing debate has, in fact, encumbered and even prevented the firm establishment of policy to regulate and advance qualitatively consistent multicultural education. Yet, the children of immigrants continue to experience stresses and barriers to learning that create education outcome disadvantages. Questions concerning the efficacy of Banks' Five Dimensions and CRT for improving the education outcomes of immigrant children, therefore, demand attention. To test the stated hypotheses (H1 and H2) of the current study, two separate kindergarten classrooms were studied and evaluated using observations and self-reporting tools. Four principals from four different districts were sent demographic and educational philosophy questionnaires (Appendix 1). The purpose of the questionnaire was twofold: 1) to determine/assess the demographic composition of the school (specifically, to verify a significant number of children of immigrants in the kindergarten classrooms) and, 2) to determine/assess the level of commitment to multicultural education in the school. Each of the four principals was also asked to forward questionnaires to the kindergarten teachers in their respective schools (Appendix 2). The purpose of the teacher questionnaires was to determine/assess the level of commitment to multicultural education according to Banks’ Five Dimensions and CRT standards. Based on information derived from the returned questionnaires, two kindergarten classrooms were chosen for investigation and observation. One kindergarten classroom had multicultural curricula satisfying all of Bank's Five Dimensions (n=24); the other kindergarten classroom had emergent multicultural curricula (n=27) that did not satisfy any of Bank's Five Dimensions.
The study population included 51 kindergarten children ranging in age from 60 months 71 months of age, including 28 females, 23 males. Of the 51 total students, 13 were children of immigrants: 7 males, 6 females. All participants were recruited based on the return of informed consent forms signed by parents or legal guardians. The majority of participants in the sample were Caucasian (67%). The other population sample was 10% Hispanic, 15% Asian, and 3% other.
Data and information were collected by means of self-report questionnaires and an observation tool for assessing the learning outcomes for children of immigrants. In line with the suggestions of Banks, each classroom was provided with content integration materials including: dolls and puppets of different colors, multicultural crayons, multicultural books, and multicultural photographs and books (Ogletree & Larke, 2010, p. 3). The presence of these multicultural learning objects in each classroom was necessary for supporting the research objective of observing willful/voluntary material usage – i.e., an indicator of improved multicultural learning outcomes. Materials were positioned in each of the classrooms in convenient and accessible locations such that children could acquire the multicultural objects with relative ease and comfort at appropriate instructional and learning times.
Data collection procedures involved the design and implementation of three tools: i) principal questionnaires, ii) teacher questionnaires, and iii) an education outcome observation tool.
The questionnaires (Appendix 1) sent to the four principals were designed to collect data in support of the following assessment categories: i) educational philosophy, ii) inclusion of a multicultural component in the curriculum, iii) inclusion of an anti-bias component in the curriculum, iv) number and type of holidays celebrated at the school, v) enrollment of and accommodations for children of immigrants (Perkins & Mebert, 2005). The principal questionnaires specifically asked each of the four principals to answer five open-ended questions concerning educational philosophy, inclusion of a multicultural component in the school curriculum, the creation of anti-bias component in the curriculum, the number and type of holidays celebrated at the school to accommodate children of immigrants, and accommodations for children of immigrants. Respondent questionnaires were, thereafter, analyzed in order to determine which principals (and, hence, their primary schools) were most/least likely to fully support Banks’ Five Dimensions of multicultural education and CRT.
The teachers of four respondent kindergarten classrooms were asked to fill out a teaching practices questionnaire (Appendix 2) in which the following issues were assessed: i) how allowances are made for diverse learners, ii) how the lessons provide accommodation for diverse student learners, iii) how the teacher assists students in overcoming racial intolerance, iv) how knowledge is built in the classroom, and v) how the teacher defines the culture of the classroom (Perkins & Mebert, 2005). The teacher questionnaires specifically asked the teachers to answer five open-ended questions concerning how instructions make allowances for diverse learner, how lessons provide accommodation for diverse student learners, how teachers assist students in overcoming racial intolerance, how knowledge is built in the classroom, and how teachers define the culture in the classroom. Respondent questionnaires were, thereafter, analyzed in order to determine which teachers were most/least likely to fully support Banks’ Five Dimensions of multicultural education and CRT.
With selection of two classrooms for testing H1 and H2 of the current study, an observation tool was utilized to collect data regarding learning outcomes for immigrant students. The observation tool was designed to support five categorical measurements: i) social interaction among diverse groups (i.e., immigrant and non-immigrant students), ii) utilization of multicultural learning materials, iii) participation in classroom learning activities (such as the singing and reciting of the ABCs, iv) verbal and nonverbal cues about social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children, and v) teacher assessments/comments regarding the education outcomes of immigrant children. Data collection was non-intrusive in the sense that students were unaware of note-taking and other documentation practices. Specifically, observations were recorded after-the-fact in an isolated/secluded area where students could not see or witness the data collection process. Notes and documents were, thereby, compiled over the course of a two-week observation period consisting of seven independent observations lasting from two to three hours in duration.
Data analysis was based on direct observations of the frequencies and levels of behaviors consistent with the five observational categories: social interaction, utilization of multicultural learning materials, participation in classroom learning activities, verbal and nonverbal cues about social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children, and positive teacher assessments/comments. Generally, the results indicated that immigrant children from CRT compliant classrooms scored relatively higher in all measured areas.
Social interaction frequencies were computed on the basis of individual student averages per event of cross-race/cross-culture interactions. For the CRT compliant classroom, immigrant students exhibited a cross-race/cross-culture episode average of 15 min, 20 sec. Students in the non-CRT compliant classroom exhibited a cross-race/cross-culture episode average 27 min, 40 seconds. Qualitatively, the interactions were also notably different. For the CRT compliant classroom, the social interactions of immigrant children were willful and motivated by an obvious desire to have fun and enjoy the company and friendship of other students. While similar behaviors were notable in the non-CRT classroom, more often than otherwise, most of the social interactions between immigrant students and non-immigrant students were apparently incidental – e.g., students randomly encountering each other during the course of accessing materials and/or sharpening pencils, and so forth.
Utilization of multicultural learning materials were computed on the basis of individual student averages per utilization event – an immigrant student acquiring a multicultural book, toy, or other object voluntarily without being prompted by the teacher. For the CRT compliant classroom, on the basis of a per student average, immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom acquired a multicultural learning material/object at the rate of 2.4/day. For the non-CRT compliant classroom, on the basis of a per student average, immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom acquired a multicultural learning material/object at the rate of 0.8/day. Qualitatively, immigrant students in the CRT compliant classroom also appeared to be more engaged with the multicultural learning material. When retrieving a multicultural book, for example, they appeared to be reading and having fun. In the non-CRT compliant classroom, on the other hand, immigrant children often flipped through books or played with toys briefly before relinquishing curiosity and interest.
Participation in classroom learning activities was evaluated according to recorded observations of engagement behaviors. Again, in this area, observations yielded similar results to the other education outcome categories with immigrant students from the CRT compliant classroom generally being more involved and participatory. During singing of the ABCs, for example, immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom were visibly just as involved and engaged as non-immigrant children. At times in the non-CRT classroom, immigrant children were also involved and highly participatory. The notable difference between the two classrooms concerned the consistency of such, however. Immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom were consistently enthusiastic and engaged in learning activities, even taking the lead in many situations. By contrast, the immigrant children in the non-CRT compliant classroom were, at times, visibly disengaged and reticent.
In line with observations about the social interaction, utilization of multicultural classroom resources, and participation in classroom learning activities, the social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children were relatively higher in the CRT compliant classroom. During free-time, for example, immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom frequently and regularly interacted in diverse and ample ways with other children, both immigrant and non-immigrant. The comfort and familiarity levels were quite apparent and authentic – i.e., not staged because students felt they were being observed. Generally speaking, immigrant students in the non-CRT compliant classroom were more reluctant to exhibit outgoingness. Most of the immigrant students kept to themselves during free-time or they interacted mainly with a student with the apparently same racial/ethnic origin.
With respect to assessment of positive teacher assessments/comments, the two experimental contexts offered similarities and differences. Generally speaking, the teacher in the CRT compliant classroom was more engaged and proactive with the students in the sense of promoting two-way communication. For this reason, observations of positive teacher assessment/comments regarding the classroom behaviors and aptitude of immigrant children were quite noticeable and frequent. In both number and quality, the CRT compliant teacher distributed assessments/comments at approximately equal levels – that is, between immigrant children and non-immigrant children. In this respect, it appeared that the immigrant children were performing just as well as non-immigrant students. The non-CRT compliant teacher made noticeable efforts to interact with all students, both immigrant and non-immigrant. It was evident, however, that the reticence and disinclination of immigrant students to talk and engage in classroom activities inhibited the number and quality of teacher assessments/comments. Thus, overall, in the area of positive teacher assessments/comments, the CRT compliant classroom illustrated superior education outcomes for the immigrant children.
In summation, the qualitative data results consistently support the same observation – namely, that the CRT compliant classroom yielded relatively higher/better education outcomes for immigrant children. The raw data, therefore, appears to support H1 of the current study – specifically, that multicultural education that satisfies all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting. At the same time, the data appears to support H2 of the current study – again, that multicultural education that fails to satisfy all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes less effectively for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting.
Findings of the current study provide “qualified affirmation” of the two basic research questions and the hypotheses: H1 and H2. Specifically, in support of H1, it was found that multicultural education satisfying all of Bank's Five Dimensions improved learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting. By contrast, in support of H2, immigrant children in the non-CRT compliant classroom were noticeably less inclined to demonstrate behaviors indicative of improved education outcomes – social interaction and engagement, frequent and regular use of multicultural learning materials, participation in classroom learning activities, social comfort and high engagement levels, and positive teacher assessments. Thus, it is concluded that: (H1) multicultural education satisfying all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting; and (H2) multicultural education that fails to satisfy all of Bank's Five Dimensions improves learning outcomes less effectively for immigrant children in the kindergarten setting.
Immigrant students in the CRT compliant classroom readily demonstrated inhibited social interaction with non-immigrant children. By contrast, immigrant children in the non-CRT compliant classroom were noticeably less inclined to interact socially with non-immigrant students and peers – though some such behaviors were noted. With respect to utilization of multicultural learning materials, again, students in the CRT compliant classroom consistently demonstrated uninhibited willingness to play with dolls, toys, and other multicultural learning materials. Immigrant children in the non-CRT compliant classroom, however, used the multicultural learning materials significantly less often. Similarly contrasted findings were noted with respect to participation in classroom learning activities such as: singing and reciting the ABCs, verbal and nonverbal cues about social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children, and teacher assessments/comments regarding the education outcomes of immigrant children. In all three observation categories, immigrant children in the CRT compliant classroom demonstrated relatively higher frequencies of usage and levels of student performance compared to the non-CRT compliant classroom.
The findings can be explained according to the basic rationale and claims of Banks’ Five Dimensions and the CRT framework. In the postmodernist tradition, advocates of multicultural education generally agree that the first goal of multicultural education should be to raise awareness of other cultures. A child in the kindergarten setting, for example, may not be aware of the existence of cultures that are different from his/her own. Bank's content integration dimension advances the fundamental goal of promoting cultural awareness by focusing on how the teacher "uses examples, data, and information from diverse cultures to support key concepts, principles, generalization, and theories" (Ogletree & Larke, 2010, p. 3). Banks has, therefore, suggested that early childhood classrooms that have achieved content integration would include “dolls or puppets of different colors, multicultural crayons, multicultural books, multicultural photographs and picture books” (Ogletree & Larke, 2010, p. 3). In addition to the multicultural learning materials that were planted in the two classrooms for the experiment, it is important to note that the CRT complaint teacher already had such items in the classroom – multicultural books and so forth. By contrast, the non-CRT compliant classroom was relatively devoid of multicultural learning materials and prompts. In explaining the significance of these facts, the inclusion of multicultural learning materials not only serves to enable and foster cultural awareness but also promotes social interaction amongst immigrant and non-immigrant children.
It can also be concluded that Banks’ other dimensions attest to superior education outcomes for immigrant children in the CRT compliant kindergarten setting. As supported by both the CRT compliant and non-CRT compliant classrooms, the most elementary level of knowledge construction focuses on the “heroes, holiday, and discrete cultural elements” (Domnwachukwu, 2010, p. 201). Beyond this basic level, both the CRT compliant and non-CRT compliant kindergarten classrooms promoted second level multicultural learning by emphasizing the importance of concepts and behavior such as friendliness and courtesy, appreciation for cultural differences, and so forth. However, the difference in the two classrooms was most evident at the third level whereby students are taught to view the world through the eyes of other students, especially the perspectives of students from ethnically diverse groups.
In further explaining the findings, researchers have recognized for many years that racial biases and prejudices emerge at early ages, even as early as preschool. Scholars have further observed that children in early childhood education environments are not always comfortable with cross-race interactions with other students (Derman-Sparks & Ramsey, 2006, p. 4). Along the lines of Banks’ recommendations, the teacher of the CRT compliant classroom more readily utilized simple methods and strategies for promoting good will and socialization between immigrant and non-immigrant children. Specifically, the teacher did things like change the seating arrangement in the classroom - e.g., placing students in circles, sitting students in face-to-face positions, or racially integrating seating locations. Similarly, Banks’ concept of equity pedagogy is based on a simple but insightful rationale - namely, that children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds experience improved education outcomes when learning is playful and fun. As such, the CRT compliant teacher made consistent and more evident use of pedagogies for advancing the education outcomes for immigrant children – namely, "storytelling, drawing, moving, singing, and creative play" (Ogletree & Larke, 2010, p. 6).
With consideration for the findings and relevant limitations of the current study, a number of recommendations for future research become warranted. Foremost, many researchers and educators agree that multicultural education offers the potential to improve the learning outcomes for children of immigrants by reducing negative racial attitudes in the primary school setting. Such findings could go a long way in helping to resolve and/or put an end to the ongoing political debate and controversies surrounding multicultural education. Findings of the current study do not, however, provide any indication of positive impact in this area. Additional research is, therefore, needed to address this important issue. Further, to support progressive education policy development, researchers must not only determine whether or not multicultural education can be effective in improving racial attitudes of children, but, if so, they must determine how this goal can be achieved.
As for the most glaring limitation of the current study, the participant population was limited to 51 students in just two kindergarten classrooms. With respect to the reliability and validity factors of the current study, this limits the generalizability of findings. Additional research in expanded experimental settings involving more students and more classrooms is, therefore, highly recommended.
As a matter of further recognition of the limitations of the current study, although self-report assessments are economical, the utilization of self-reporting assessment tools (i.e., questionnaires) presents some limitations and questions regarding the reliability and validity of the study findings. More specifically, self-report assessments are subject to problems like social desirability bias such that the respondent's need for receiving social acceptance results in an approving response rather than a truthful response (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Lao, 2004, p. 1044). It is possible, for example, that during the questionnaire phase of the study, the respondent principals adduced favorable but inaccurate responses, thus skewing original data collection and analysis results. It is, therefore, recommended that the principal philosophy of education questionnaire be replaced by a standardized multicultural institution inventory that has been tested and proven for reliability.
Finally, the study design did not account for gender and/or personality differences. Girls, for example, may respond to social interaction and learning cues differently than boys. Even more, if a significant number of the immigrant children had introverted personalities, such variables could impact social interaction decisions and behaviors – even providing false positives and/or false negatives in observation of behaviors. The study could have been improved procedurally and/or methodologically in this respect by utilizing and administering tools for adjusting the findings according to potential gender differences and/or personality variables.
The current study examined the efficacy of multicultural education for supporting improved educational outcomes for immigrant children in two culturally diverse kindergarten classrooms. Results suggest that immigrant children with multicultural education that meet Banks' Five Dimensions (i.e., culturally responsive teaching, CRT) experience improved educational outcomes, particularly in terms of social interaction, utilization of multicultural learning materials, participation in classroom learning activities, verbal and nonverbal cues about social comfort and engagement levels of immigrant children, and positive teacher assessments/comments. Perhaps just as importantly, the findings support claims of the validity of Banks’ Five Dimensions and CRT compliant multicultural education in the kindergarten setting and, reasonably, other primary grade classrooms. Even more, findings provide evidence that despite continuing and ongoing political debate over multicultural education, the theoretical framework for designing and implementing an acceptable multicultural education policy format already exists – namely, Banks’ Five Dimensions and CRT. Thus, it would appear that the table has already been properly set to support and justify aggressive advocacy of multicultural education policy reform.
Amosa, W. & Gorski, P.C. (2008). Directions and Mis-Directions in Multicultural Education: An Analysis of Session Offerings at the Annual Conference of the National Association for Multicultural Education. Multicultural Perspectives 10(3), 167-174. DOI: 10.1080/15210960802198373.
Banks, J.A. (2006). Race, Culture, and Education: The Selected Works of James A. Banks. New York: Routledge.
Breton, R., Dion, K.K., & Dion, K.L. (Eds.). (2009). Multiculturalism and Social Cohesion: Potentials and Challenges of Diversity. New York: Springer.
Dalla, R.L., DeFrain, J., Johnson, J. & Abbott, D.A. (Eds.). (2009). Strengths and Challenges of New Immigrant Families: Implications for Research, Education, Policy, and Service. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Derman-Sparks, L. & Ramsey, P.G. (2006). What If All the Children in My Class Are White? New York: Teachers College Press.
Domnwachukwu, C.S. (2010). An Introduction to Multicultural Education: From Theory to Practice. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Gargiulo, R.M. (2010). Cultural and Linguistic Diversity and Exceptionality in Special Education in Contemporary Society: An Introduction to Exceptionality. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Lewis-Beck, M.S., Bryman, A.E., & Lao, T.F. (Eds.). (2004). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods, Volume 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Kysilka, M.L. (Ed.). (2011). Critical Times in Curriculum Thought: People, Politics, and Perspectives. Charlotte, NC: IAP-Information Age Publishing, Inc.
McCarthy, K. (2003). Adaptation of Immigrant Children to the United States: A review of the literature. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper #98-03.
McRae, A. & Ellis, J.B. (2012). Early Childhood Perceptions of Diversity: A Case of Addressing Multicultural Education in the Classroom. Journal of Teaching and Learning 8(1), 13-26.
Nieto, S. (2009). Multicultural education in the United States: Historical realities, ongoing challenges, and transformative possibilities, in Banks, J.A. (Ed.), The Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education. New York: Routledge.
Ogletree, Q. & Larke, P.J. (2010). Implementing Multicultural Practices in Early Childhood Education. National Forum of Multicultural Issues Journal 7(1), 1-9.
Parekh, B.C. (2000). Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. England, UK: Macmillan Press, Ltd.
Perkins, D.M. & Mebert, C.J. (2005). Efficacy of Multicultural Education for Preschool Children: A Domain-Specific Approach. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 36, 497-512. DOI: 10.1177/0022022105275964
Powell, M. (2007). An Investigation of Culturally Responsive Teaching Using James Banks' Five Dimensions of Multicultural Education: A Case Study. Doctoral Dissertation, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.
Roig, M.E. (2008). The Relationship Between Learning Style Preference and Achievement in the Adult Student in a Multicultural College. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Information and Learning Company.
Rogers, S. (Ed.). (2011). Rethinking Play and Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: Concepts, Contexts and Cultures. New York: Routledge.
Vavrus, M.J. (2008). Culturally Responsive Teaching, in Good, T.L. (ed.), 21st Century Education: A Reference Handbook Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.
Vavrus, M.J. (2002). Transforming the Multicultural Education of Teachers: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
(Appendices 1, 2, & 3 omitted for preview. Available via download)