Literature review on the experiences of Pasifika learners in the classroom

Publication Details

There are new challenges for education systems in knowledge societies. All learners need to be well served by their education to develop the requisite capabilities and sense of belonging and wellbeing to succeed and contribute to wider communities. This requires a responsive, future-focused education system, based on high expectations for successful outcomes amongst diverse learner groups.

Author(s): Dr P. Bruce Ferguson, Dr. R. Gorinski, T. Wendt Samu & Dr D. Mara

Date Published: June 2008


Table 1: Sheets' Diversity Pedagogical Dimensions: Definition of dimensional elements
  1. Source: Diversity Pedagogy: Examining the Role of Culture in the Teaching-Learning Process, Rosa Hernández Sheets, 2005, pp.17–18.

Teacher Pedagogical Behaviours Student Cultural Displays
1. Diversity:
Diversity refers to dissimilarities in traits, qualities, characteristics, beliefs, values and mannerisms present in self and others. It is displayed through (a) predetermined factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, national origin, and sexual orientation; and (b) changeable features such as citizenship, worldviews, language, schooling, religious beliefs, marital, parental and socioeconomic status and work experience.
Consciousness of Difference:
Deliberate awareness and thoughtful exploration of diversity in people, ideas, objects, values, and attitudes on a continuum with multiple points of variance. This conceptualisation tends to discourage dualistic thinking patterns, minimises development of prejudicial attitudes, and decreases the frequency of discriminatory actions towards individuals and groups that differ from self.
2. Identity:
Identity refers to knowledge of who we are and to what groups we belong. A complex developmental process defines self as an individual and as a group member. The explanations and information used to acquire a sense of self and group membership is determined by the biological, cultural, ethnic, social, psychological and political factors in one's socialisation process.
Ethnic Identity Development:
Ethnic identity is a dimension of self, as an individual and as a group member. It forms, develops, and emerges from membership in a particular ethnic group. It is a consequence of a distinctive socialisation process and is influenced by the degree of personal significance individuals attach to membership in an ethnic group.
3. Social Interactions:
Public and shared contact or communication in dyad or group settings that provide participants opportunities to evaluate, exchange, and share resources.
Interpersonal Relationships:
Familiar social associations among two or more individuals involving reciprocity and variable degrees of trust, support, companionship, duration and intimacy.
4. Culturally Safe Classroom Context:
A classroom environment where students feel emotionally secure; psychologically consistent; and culturally, linguistically, academically, socially, and physically comfortable, both as individuals and as members of the groups to which they belong.
Self-Regulated Learning:
Demonstrations of the self -initiated, managed, directed, contained and restrained conduct required to meet self-determined personal and group goals, to adapt to established classroom standards and to maintain self-dignity.
5. Language:
Human language is a cultural tool used to share, convey, and disclose thoughts, ideas, values and feelings through words, signals and/or written symbols. It is also one of the most powerful means to preserve and sustain a cultural heritage and history.
Language Learning:
Linguistic growth evident in listening/speaking and literacy skills (reading, writing and viewing) acquired in informal home and community settings and/or in the formal language experiences and social interactions in school.
6. Culturally Inclusive Content:
The culturally influenced substance, meanings and perspectives present in the instructional resources used in the various fields of study such as literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music and physical education.
Knowledge Acquisition:
The process of connecting prior cultural knowledge to new information in ways that promote new understandings and advance the development of knowledge and skills needed to reason, solve problems and construct new insights.
7. Instruction:
Teacher actions facilitating the construction of students' new knowledge through teaching strategies connecting students' prior cultural knowledge to new understandings, creation of a classroom content enabling student learning and selection of culturally inclusive content.
Reasoning Skills:
Ability to apply knowledge from personal cultural practices, language, and ethnic experiences to gain command of one's thinking through the acquisition and development of the thinking tools needed to gain new knowledge and take control of one's learning.
8. Assessment:
Organised, structured, ongoing, varied methods used to observe, document, record, evaluate and appraise the level and quality of individual and group student work and knowledge gained in a given activity or subject, to (a) improve student learning; (b) determine what students know and what they are able to do; and (c) evaluate how student performance matches teacher expectations and standards.
Self-appraisal through reflection, review of thoughts and analysis of personal and group behaviour to (a) monitor academic and social goals, assess progress, and identify competencies and weaknesses; (b) plan, assume ownership, and take responsibility for one's learning; and (c) evaluate the strategies used to maximise the acquisition, retention, and performance of new understandings.

Sheets (2005, p. 14) argues that there is a relationship between culture and cognition and that understanding this relationship is essential to understanding the relationship between teaching and learning (she calls this diversity pedagogy). She has developed a framework for diversity pedagogy that "…focuses on the ways teachers' and students' behaviour influences the co-construction of new knowledge". She states that diversity pedagogy is "…conceptualised with two paired, tightly interconnected dimensional elements in eight dimensions guiding teacher and student behaviours". The important underlying assumptions of this framework are:

  • that the dimensions naturally intersect with each other and rarely occur in isolation in the classroom;
  • the dimensions are not hierarchal in nature;
  • the dimensions are thematically organised and grouped;
  • there are eight dimensional elements which are grouped together—the first four relate specifically to social and cultural development, and the last four relate to the learning and knowledge that students' acquire;
  • teacher behaviours are expressed as guidelines—each teacher behaviour corresponds with and encourages the competency and development of certain student responses, called "student cultural displays"; and
  • it is theorised that the teacher behaviour principles listed on the left side of the table provide students with more opportunity to display the corresponding cultural behaviours described on the right side of the table.

Dimension 2 - If the teacher creates classroom conditions through curricular planning, instructional strategies, and interpersonal relationships where students can openly express aspects of their ethnic identity (teacher pedagogical behaviour), then students are more likely to openly display signs of developing a psychological, social and cultural dimensions of self, as an individual and group member of a particular ethnic group or groups

(student cultural display) (Sheets 2005, p. 15)

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