Citation

Opening spaces for dialogue about religious diversity in diverse public school classrooms

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Abstract:

Objectives
Engaging students in discussion based on diverse perspectives, such as different religious beliefs, create opportunities to explore different viewpoints and perspectives. When students’ are mis-represented because of their religious identity they may feel marginalized or excluded in both the classroom community and curriculum content (Parker, 2012). When students’ perspectives are delegitimized, their inclusion is compromised, especially in discussion of identity-linked narratives (Bekerman & Zembylas, 2011). Teachers are generally uncomfortable when addressing conflictual subject material in diverse classrooms (Bickmore, 1999, 2005; Torney-Purta et al., 2001; Yamashita, 2006). Most often, teachers attempt to avoid conflicting perspectives, rather than inviting critical reflection on contesting beliefs (Houser, 1996). However, the three teachers in this study contradicted this reticence to engage in controversial or sensitive subject matter. This paper shows how the dialogue about religious diversity in diverse public school settings, where religious diversity was salient, contributed to the inclusion of potentially marginalized identities.

Conceptual Framework
The identities of the individuals involved in any conflictual discussion can be expected to play a significant role in the ways they understand and approach social and political issues in classroom settings. Diverse students can better navigate their “multiple worlds” between home, school, and community when teachers’ pedagogical strategies engage their personal experiences and identities (Phelan, Davidson, & Cao, 1991). To support diverse students’ identities as they engage in conflict dialogue, teachers need to be equipped with culturally appropriate pedagogies (Delpit, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 2004). By contrast, when power and difference are ignored, it is possible for conflictual issues pedagogies to be detrimental, particularly for students who carry marginalized identities (Hess & Avery, 2008). A critical multicultural education cannot ignore race and racism, and as such “rather than prioritizing culture, critical multiculturalism gives priority to structural analysis of unequal power relationships analyszing the role of institutionalized inequities, including but not necessarily limited to racism (May & Sleeter, p. 10, emphasis in original).

Methods & Data Sources
This study examined how three teachers addressed conflictual issues in their diverse elementary classrooms that included 78 racialized students, in two different schools in Southern Ontario, Canada. This qualitative inquiry uses classroom observations, teacher and student interviews and the researcher journal to illustrate how teachers introduced discussion about religious diversity and how students experienced these pedagogical processes.
I studied three classrooms (Grade 4, 5, and 7), two within one school and another within another school, within the same region of Southern Ontario, Canada. Data collected over the 2010-2011 school year include approximately 110 classroom observations, ranging from 40-120 minutes each, six one-hour formal interviews with participating teachers (two each), approximately 30 student group interviews (each 30-45 minutes with groups between 2 to 7 students at a time), classroom documents, including students’ work samples and teachers’ planning materials, and a researcher journal. The data gathered through these classroom observations and interviews and through the collection of classroom documents illustrate how teachers in three different classrooms approached the inclusion of religious diversity within their multicultural classrooms and facilitated democratic learning opportunities for diverse students, through these critical dialogic discussions.
This paper focuses on the experiences of three students from each of the classrooms studied to show how they navigated their diverse religious backgrounds in their multicultural classroom settings.

Results and significance
The results of this research show the feasibility and importance of inviting discussion of diverse religious beliefs in public schools. Culturally sensitive classroom discussions and interactions amongst peers and teachers helped teach students about morals and values. Reinforcing previous research, this study found that culturally relevant pedagogy closely connected to character education is integral to building healthy classroom environments (Brown, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 1995). It also adds to the growing body of research that shows how diverse students’ inclusion relies on the engagement of their diverse identities and conflictual perspectives (Cummins, 2001; Delpit, 2006; Howard, 2001).
Overall, the inclusion of religious practices and beliefs in the classroom and school community reflected the diverse student population in the three classrooms. The teachers in my study chose to include religious perspectives and religious education that did not always reinforce the dominance of Christian beliefs. In this way, the multicultural schools I studied welcomed the integration of religious beliefs and practices within the community and classroom context.
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Association:
Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
URL:
http://www.cies.us


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p717365_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

Parker, Christina. "Opening spaces for dialogue about religious diversity in diverse public school classrooms" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p717365_index.html>

APA Citation:

Parker, C. A. , 2014-03-10 "Opening spaces for dialogue about religious diversity in diverse public school classrooms" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p717365_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Objectives
Engaging students in discussion based on diverse perspectives, such as different religious beliefs, create opportunities to explore different viewpoints and perspectives. When students’ are mis-represented because of their religious identity they may feel marginalized or excluded in both the classroom community and curriculum content (Parker, 2012). When students’ perspectives are delegitimized, their inclusion is compromised, especially in discussion of identity-linked narratives (Bekerman & Zembylas, 2011). Teachers are generally uncomfortable when addressing conflictual subject material in diverse classrooms (Bickmore, 1999, 2005; Torney-Purta et al., 2001; Yamashita, 2006). Most often, teachers attempt to avoid conflicting perspectives, rather than inviting critical reflection on contesting beliefs (Houser, 1996). However, the three teachers in this study contradicted this reticence to engage in controversial or sensitive subject matter. This paper shows how the dialogue about religious diversity in diverse public school settings, where religious diversity was salient, contributed to the inclusion of potentially marginalized identities.

Conceptual Framework
The identities of the individuals involved in any conflictual discussion can be expected to play a significant role in the ways they understand and approach social and political issues in classroom settings. Diverse students can better navigate their “multiple worlds” between home, school, and community when teachers’ pedagogical strategies engage their personal experiences and identities (Phelan, Davidson, & Cao, 1991). To support diverse students’ identities as they engage in conflict dialogue, teachers need to be equipped with culturally appropriate pedagogies (Delpit, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 2004). By contrast, when power and difference are ignored, it is possible for conflictual issues pedagogies to be detrimental, particularly for students who carry marginalized identities (Hess & Avery, 2008). A critical multicultural education cannot ignore race and racism, and as such “rather than prioritizing culture, critical multiculturalism gives priority to structural analysis of unequal power relationships analyszing the role of institutionalized inequities, including but not necessarily limited to racism (May & Sleeter, p. 10, emphasis in original).

Methods & Data Sources
This study examined how three teachers addressed conflictual issues in their diverse elementary classrooms that included 78 racialized students, in two different schools in Southern Ontario, Canada. This qualitative inquiry uses classroom observations, teacher and student interviews and the researcher journal to illustrate how teachers introduced discussion about religious diversity and how students experienced these pedagogical processes.
I studied three classrooms (Grade 4, 5, and 7), two within one school and another within another school, within the same region of Southern Ontario, Canada. Data collected over the 2010-2011 school year include approximately 110 classroom observations, ranging from 40-120 minutes each, six one-hour formal interviews with participating teachers (two each), approximately 30 student group interviews (each 30-45 minutes with groups between 2 to 7 students at a time), classroom documents, including students’ work samples and teachers’ planning materials, and a researcher journal. The data gathered through these classroom observations and interviews and through the collection of classroom documents illustrate how teachers in three different classrooms approached the inclusion of religious diversity within their multicultural classrooms and facilitated democratic learning opportunities for diverse students, through these critical dialogic discussions.
This paper focuses on the experiences of three students from each of the classrooms studied to show how they navigated their diverse religious backgrounds in their multicultural classroom settings.

Results and significance
The results of this research show the feasibility and importance of inviting discussion of diverse religious beliefs in public schools. Culturally sensitive classroom discussions and interactions amongst peers and teachers helped teach students about morals and values. Reinforcing previous research, this study found that culturally relevant pedagogy closely connected to character education is integral to building healthy classroom environments (Brown, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 1995). It also adds to the growing body of research that shows how diverse students’ inclusion relies on the engagement of their diverse identities and conflictual perspectives (Cummins, 2001; Delpit, 2006; Howard, 2001).
Overall, the inclusion of religious practices and beliefs in the classroom and school community reflected the diverse student population in the three classrooms. The teachers in my study chose to include religious perspectives and religious education that did not always reinforce the dominance of Christian beliefs. In this way, the multicultural schools I studied welcomed the integration of religious beliefs and practices within the community and classroom context.


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