Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Fostering Cultural Humility among Pre-Service Teachers: Connecting with Children and Youth of Immigrant Families through Service-Learning

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Fostering Cultural Humility among Pre-Service Teachers: Connecting with Children and Youth of Immigrant Families through Service-Learning

Article excerpt


Growing cultural diversity has transformed the population of school-aged children and youth in many Western nations, including Canada. Our study addresses an approach to teacher education that speaks to this growing diversity through an intentional focus on developing "cultural humility" among pre-service teachers. In a Bachelor of Education course entitled "Diversity in Learning," the authors have participated in a collaborative partnership that engages community agencies, campus groups, and a university's faculty of education to include a service-learning placement as part of their coursework. Immigrant-sector community organizations, with a focus on enhancing the well-being of children and youth from immigrant backgrounds, initiated and led the partnership, working with the university's school of education to strengthen the ways pre-service teachers understand and engage with children and youth of immigrant families beyond the traditional classroom. The authors are a university professor and a former manager of a community agency and who is now a graduate research assistant. Using a social justice framework to raise critical awareness on power and privilege while countering deficit-model thinking, the collaborative approach has seen success with raising awareness and developing skills along with cultural humility in pre-service teachers. Pre- and post-experience interviews were used over the first two iterations of this innovative professional education project.


Approximately 6.2 million immigrants call Canada home, approximately 20 percent of the total population (Statistics Canada, 2011a). Among Canada's immigrant population, approximately 14 percent are under the age of 25 years old (Statistics Canada, 2011a) and immigrant children and youth under 25 years old accounted for almost 34 percent of the newcomer population in the last five years (Statistics Canada, 2013a). Also, 6.3 million people identify as a member of a "visible minority" group in Canada. Of these, almost half identify as first- and second-generation children and youth (Statistics Canada, 2011b). Over the next 20 years, Canada expects to welcome 334,000 new immigrants each year, one-third of whom may be children and youth (Statistics Canada, 2013b). This means that over the next 25 years Canada's K-16 school systems can expect to see an additional 2.8 million immigrant children and youth.

While some research indicates that, overall, children and youth from immigrant backgrounds are civically engaged (Bishop, 2005), succeeding at school (Worsick, 2001), and moving toward post-secondary education and careers (Bonikowska & Hou, 2011; Picot & Hou, 2011), these assertions are often critiqued for failing to account for variations in socio-economic status, levels of English language proficiency, cultural and ethnic background, experiences in their country of origin, and years since immigration (Boyd, 2002; National Research Council, 1995). Studies that examine these variations often find that children and youth from immigrant backgrounds experience a myriad of persistent barriers and challenges at individual, family, school, community, and socio-political levels. At the individual level, many children and youth from immigrant backgrounds faced challenges in terms of learning a new language, becoming familiar with a new school system, and being placed in inappropriate grades (Sweet, Anisef, Brown, Walters, & Phythian, 2010). Low self-esteem, feelings of marginalization and not belonging, and weak ethnic identities can contribute to a deep sense of alienation, social exclusion, and discontent, all of which are risk factors for school disengagement and violence (Cooper & Cooper, 2006; Pruegger, Cook, & Richter-Salomons, 2009).

At the family level, many immigrant parents experience socioeconomic issues, cultural and language barriers, unemployment or underemployment, social isolation, and discrimination, and may have different views about the roles of and relationship between schools and parents (Cooper & Cooper, 2008; Nakhaie & Kazemipur, 2013; Ngo, 2010). …

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