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Multicultural Curriculum Transformation

What is a multicultural curriculum?
"...multiculturalism is the celebration of racial and cultural diversity, seeing other cultures, (especially those traditionally excluded) on their own terms, in contrast especially to those of a mainstream white and patriarchal society. In incorporates..."cultural democracy," paying attention to a plurality of voices in order to understand our history, and may express a cosmopolitanism in which different groups support one another and create more solidarity for everyone. It also embodies the belief that with words and ideas, marginalized groups can be empowered and justice can be brought to the world. In its broadcast -- and perhaps most widely accepted sense -- it refers to social and equality of opportunity . . ." -- Herbert, Philip H. (1977). The Color of Words: An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Ethnic Bias in the United States. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 154, 155

"Multicultural education has as its purpose the development of citizens of a more democratic society through provision of more accurate and comprehensive disciplinary knowledge and through enhancement of students' academic achievement and critical thinking applied to social problems. It seeks to promote the valuing diversity and equal opportunity for all people through understanding of the contributions and perspectives of people of differing race, ethnicity, culture, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and physical abilities and disabilities." -- Kitano, Margie K. (1977). "A Rationale and Framework for Course Change." In Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: A Broader Truth, Ann Intili Morey and Margie K. Kitano (eds.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 12.

"A multicultural curriculum has three major components: (1) Content, (2) Methods, and (3) People. "Content" includes scholarship, theories, concepts, facts, contributions, and perspectives of people of differing race, ethnicity, gender, language, social class, religion, sexual orientation, abilities and disabilities, political beliefs, etc., that have been historically underrepresented in all educational arenas. "Methods" include pedagogical strategies that accommodate diverse teaching and learning styles, academic policies that support the recruitment, mentoring, and retention of a multicultural student, faculty, and staff population, and curricular processes that support the exploration, development, and implementation of multicultural curricula. "People" includes a multicultural student, faculty, and staff population that supports and engages in the development and implementation of multicultural curricula through the methods described."

Is diversity same as multiculturalism?
Diversity is a representation of people that exemplifies all cultural and congenital differences. Multiculturalism is the inclusion in scholarship, theory, concept, and fact of cultures that have been historically underrepresented in all educational arenas.

Why transform a curriculum multiculturally?
"We have an academic responsibility and a moral obligation to provide students with an inclusive education that will enable them to deal with the contingencies of living in a diverse world. Research shows that when students are taught from an inclusive curriculum they are eager to learn; they are more engaged in the teaching/learning process. They want more inclusive course content throughout the education process. Faculty who are involved in integrating diversity into their curriculum report that their teaching is revitalized, their student evaluations improved, and their overall job satisfaction increased." -- Scott, BarBara M. "Integrating Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation into the College Curriculum." In "A Multicultural Prism: Voices from the Field," J.Q. Adams and Janice R. Welsch (eds.), 1994.

There are numerous reasons for transforming a curriculum multiculturally. Listed below are a few of those reasons:

  • Expose biases, stereotypes, inaccuracies, and marginalization in curricular content, pedagogy, and academic policies
  • Develop and deliver content that is fair, balanced, and accurate
  • Accommodate diverse teaching and learning styles to reach all students and faculty
  • Recognize the need for, work towards, and achieve a multicultural student, faculty, and staff population that is representative of the society
  • Prepare students for a diverse workforce, clientele, and a global environment
  • Increase sensitivity to and awareness of different cultures, and celebrate and appreciate their perspectives, heritage, and contributions
  • Promote scholarship and highlight opportunities for new areas of research and artistry
  • Undergo personal transformation and become an ally and an advocate.

What is involved in transforming a curriculum multiculturally?
Multicultural curriculum transformation requires examining the current content, pedagogy, curricular and other academic policies, and transform them to accommodate multicultralism. The process may require participation in multicultural curriculum transformation workshops or institutes, examination and restructuring of course content and pedagogy, support from colleagues and the academic environment, and personal reflection and transformation.

"There are roughly five phases of curriculum development:
Phase 1: A European American, "womanless discipline," where women, people of color, lesbians, gays, "others," are simply absent from the curriculum.

Phase 2: "Women and/or African Americans in society," where women and African Americans and may be one or two other ethnic groups are added to the existing course material but usually discussed as exceptional representatives of their gender or ethnicity; lesbians and gays are invisible.

Phase 3: Women and people of color are regarded as a problem or anomaly. They are regarded in this phase as "other" in comparison to European American men.

Phase 4: Women, people of color, lesbians, gays, persons with disabilities, are studied on their own terms. The specific focus in this phase is on women's worlds or other worlds of lesbians, gays, and people of color. Course content focuses on the world we all live in -- one in which race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality are experienced simultaneously by all of us.

Phase 5: The curriculum is transformed, revised and restructured to be genuinely inclusive of all people and representative of the diversity in our classrooms and the world throughout." -- Excerpted from "McIntosh, M. (1983). Interactive phases of curriculum revision. Working paper series. Wellesley College," and "Ward, K. and Morrison, J. (1990). Curriculum Integration workbook, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University."

The curriculum integration and transformation process consists of three central components: "(1) increasing personal knowledge -- adding and deepening one's personal knowledge about multicultural issues, (2) restructuring course syllabi and content -- transforming the content and structure of courses to meet the learning needs, learning styles and life experiences of a diverse student population; and (3) Changing classroom dynamics - changing the classroom interactions so as to provide a safety and more inclusive environment for all students. Some faculty address these issues one at a time while others are engaged in all three simultaneously." - Scott, BarBara M. "Integrating Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation into the College Curriculum." In "A Multicultural Prism: Voices from the Field," J.Q. Adams and Janice R. Welsch (eds.), 1994.

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Copyright 2001, Northern Illinois University
Provostís Task Force on Multicultural Curriculum Transformation
Office of the Provost, Northern Illinois University
De Kalb, Illinois 60115, U.S.A.
Phone: (815) 753 8557, Email: mcti@niu.edu