Raising Multicultural Awareness in Higher Education

By Wu-Barone, Shuang Frances | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Raising Multicultural Awareness in Higher Education


Wu-Barone, Shuang Frances, Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


Klein, Ana Maria (2006). Raising multicultural awareness in higher education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Ana Maria Klein's (2006) Raising Multicultural Awareness in Higher Education offers valuable insight on the significance of providing multicultural education in today's postsecondary classrooms. The book provides practical tools for faculty to engage their students in multiculturalism that may be linked to positive outcomes of student satisfaction and ultimately to retention. This book is best described as a forum and a toolkit for its target audience: a forum where the author shares the teaching and learning experiences of herself, her college students in teacher preparation programs, and other educators with whom she came into contact; and a toolkit that current and future faculty can turn to for practical guidelines on how to multiculturalize their curriculum.

The book contains 15 chapters and can be divided into three sections. The first section deals with teachers as social beings and the role teachers play in the education of their students. The second section explores theories and practices pertaining to teaching and learning in a multicultural environment. The last section offers opportunities for readers to reflect on what they have learned throughout the book and conceptualize their growth as a multicultural educator. At the end of each chapter, the author presents both practical and reflective exercises for readers to apply the materials to their teaching practice.

Multicultural education defined

In order to explain the concept of multicultural education, it is necessary to address the meaning of culture. The author of the book precisely defines culture as "the sum total of ways of living, including values, beliefs, aesthetic standards, linguistic expression, patterns of thinking, behavioral norms, and styles of communication which a group of people has developed to assure its survival in a particular physical and human environment" (p. 69). Multiculturalism, in contrast to monoculturalism, describes a state where the cultures of diverse groups in society are equally valued. Multiculturalism in the context of the educational environment, as explored in this book, encompasses an even broader meaning of diversity, and refers to an educational approach where instructors include the experiences and perspectives of all cultural and social groups, including those of their students, into the teaching and learning experience when appropriate.

Central to the concept of multicultural education is the acknowledgement of diversity in every aspect possible: race (1), ethnicity, socioeconomic status, academic ability, learning styles, etc. Even when a group of students fits into these categories, it is important for instructors to realize that each student brings different life experiences that have shaped them and that it is detrimental to treat them as if they are identical.

Such an appreciation and celebration of individual differences naturally leads to a student-centered instructional approach, which is the essence of multicultural education. Teachers need to realize that teaching is all about students and not about teachers themselves. Therefore, on a practical level, when introducing a new topic in classroom instruction, Klein suggests that teachers need to probe students' prior knowledge, find out their interests, and analyze their learning styles in order to maximize the effect of teaching and learning.

Significance of multicultural education

Multicultural education seems to be a buzz word in many urban educational settings in the United States. However, carefully analyzing and truly understanding the significance of such an educational approach is the first step toward its successful implementation. In today's America, both the K-12 school system and the higher education system are much more diverse than ever in terms of student demographics. …

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