Effective & Ineffective Strategies for Enhancing Multicultural Education

Effective & Ineffective Strategies for Enhancing Multicultural Education


Maddie Charles




Defining Multicultural Education


Multicultural Education refers to any form of education or teaching that incorporates the histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds.


Multicultural Education is predicated on the principle of educational equity for all students, regardless of culture, and it strives to remove barriers to educational opportunities and success for students from different cultural backgrounds. 


Multicultural Education also assumes that the ways which students learn and think are deeply influenced by their cultural identity and heritage, and that to teach culturally diverse students effectively requires educational approaches that value and recognize their cultural backgrounds. 


Multicultural Education aims to improve the learning and success of all students, particularly students from cultural groups that have been historically oppressed.




Multicultural Education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. 


Multicultural Education affirms our need to prepare students for their responsibilities in an interdependent world. 


Multicultural Education recognizes the role schools can play in developing the attitudes and values necessary for a democratic society. It values cultural differences and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect. 


Multicultural Education challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice.







Why Multicultural Education?


“The ultimate goal of multicultural education is to move us towards the creation of concepts, paradigms, themes, and explanations that challenge mainstream knowledge, not help keep it in place” (Critical Race Theory, Michelle Jay). Today, we often see multicultural education implemented poorly by teachers, giving more “power” to dominant group(s). Effective multicultural education is seen as instruction that leads to social justice, student reflection, an equal emphasis on content and process, and the acquisition of problem-solving skills.


“Although curricula have added more attention to people of color and women than, say, thirty years ago, current analyses find that textbooks and state curriculum standards are still centered mainly around White Americans who are male, heterosexual, and middle class or above.”    

-Christine Sleeter, Teacher & Activist


Today more than ever, we are seeing schools becoming more and more diverse. Children of color in schools have more than doubled in the past 30 years in the K-12 system, 22% of children live in poverty, and 10% of students are English Language Learners (ELL). Yet, many parts of our educational system have remained the same. We are still seeing teachers as predominately white, females, English speakers, and from middle class families. Many teachers, falling into the category of white, English-speaking, females struggle with relating to or teaching students from different backgrounds because they have not addressed their own culture, history, and biases that they carry into their classroom and into their curriculum. This is one of the many reasons multicultural education is often ineffective through implementation.

Multicultural Education can be challenging to implement, but the results are worth it. When implemented effectively teachers can engage in challenging conversations with their students and better understand students of different races or cultures. If teachers properly implement this curriculum they are more likely to keep students engaged, challenged, and curious because they are learning about topics that they see as relevant, interesting, and informative.

Multicultural Education is also beneficial for all students because it gives more opportunities for educators to differentiate and assess students differently, instead of the typical “one-size-fits-all” approaches that many of the traditional classrooms take on. Multicultural Education also promotes inclusion for students with disabilities, ELLs, and other students who may receive specialized assistance because classrooms that promote multiculturalism place the students first. 




How to Effectively Implement Multicultural Education

What to do:

  1. Acknowledge your own biases and your own history (how you were raised)
  2. Be culturally competent and embrace families and communities to create an environment that is supportive of multiple perspectives, experiences, and democracy
  3. Directly address issues of racism, sexism, classism, linguicism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, religious intolerance, and xenophobia
  4. Place your students, their history, and their experiences at the center of the teaching and learning processes
  5. Acknowledge that the true study of multiculturism goes beyond race
  6. Teach multiculturism from a theme base, not just about a specific event
  7. Educators should arm students with knowledge but also present them with opportunities for social action aimed at bettering society
  8. Understand the various levels of curriculum delivery (low-level earning, the additive approach, the transformative approach, and promote higher-level thinking)
  9. Use diverse literature in the classroom, featuring characters of different races, socioeconomic statuses, cultures, ethnicity, backgrounds, lifestyles, etc.
  10. Investigate events from multiple perspectives, then allow students to make their mind up for themselves, explore on their own


What NOT to do:

  1. Implement multicultural education only on holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day or during Black History Month
  2. "White wash" history lessons in the classroom
  3. Use literature in the classroom that is not diverse (racially, socioeconomic statues, ethnicity, gender, sex, family life, etc.)
  4. Never attend professional development or conferences about multicultural education
  5. Thinking that, because all of your students are white, that you do not need to teach about multicultural education
  6. Make students of different races, cultures, or ethnicities give input in classroom discussions solely because of their background
  7. Immerse your students in only one culture
  8. Lecture students or give them individual assignments to complete about particular cultures
  9. Lecture students and not let them give input, inquire, or even lead the lesson/activity
  10. Allow students to show intolerance towards other classmates or other cultures (classroom management standards should be set at the beginning of the school year)


Classroom Resources to Effectively Enhance Multicultural Education

  •  Diverse Literature- Last Stop on Market Street, Ada Twist Scientist, Pride, The Case for Loving
  • Multicultural Crayons
  • Class Calendar (featuring different cultural events and holidays)
  • Inclusive Signs and Posters
  • Hang Student Work/Represent all Students







Need More Help in Your Classroom?




Image result for challenges of multicultural education book
Challenges of Multicultural Education 
Norah Peters-Davis and Jeffrey Shultz
Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice
Rethinking Multicultural Education
Wayne Au
Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World: Multicultural Education for Young Children, Fourth Edition [Book]
Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World
Patricia G. Ramsey








This website includes many different resources for educators to utilize themselves or in their classroom. Here you can find book recommendations for yourself as an educator, hand-outs for your students, printable posters for your classroom, lessons and projects, and information about the current world of education. 


National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME)



NAME is an organization that works towards social justice and equity through multicultural education. This organization brings together educators, administrators, psychologists, social workers, curriculum specialists, librarians, scholars, and researchers who share an interest in multicultural education. This site publishes a quarterly journal and keeps you up to date with the latest conferences.


National MultiCultural Institute (NCMI)



This site is the gateway to projects and conferences for individuals and organizations to increase communication, understanding, and respect for people of diverse backgrounds, and addresses important issues of multiculturalism.


Teaching Tolerance



Teaching Tolerance supports K-12 teachers and their efforts to promote respect for differences and diversity. This site includes many resources for educators in the classroom and outside of the classroom such as lesson plans, printable posters, films, webinars, self-guided training, and so much more.






Precious Knowledge (Documentary)


This is a documentary released in 2011, that takes place at a local high school in Tucson, Arizona. This documentary features the stories of many different Mexican American high-school seniors, who also participate in their schools Mexican American Studies Program (Ethnic Studies). This program quickly gained the interest of many students and increased the graduation rate at this high-school. As anti-immigration feelings rise in Arizona, this program gains attention by Arizona lawmakers and high-school seniors fight to save their beloved ethnic studies program. 






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