Cultural sensitivity as praxis

Year: 2016

Author: Kaukko, Mervi, Wilkinson, Jane, Heikkinen, Hannu L.T.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Like Sweden, also Finland faced an historical increase in immigrant- and refugee children enrolling in the school system in 2015. Newly arrived children and youth start their school paths in introductory classes, which pave their way to the Finnish comprehensive school after a number of steps of increasing integration. Introductory education in Finland has been scarcely researched, and the existing research focuses largely on the technical role of education, such as the importance of peer support of teachers (Salo 2014), or the students’ smooth integration to mainstream classes (Sinkkonen & Kyttälä 2014). The moral and ethical aspects underpinning the teachers’ work, as well as the values of introductory education have been left untouched. This paper attempts to fill this gap in the research. It considers how Finnish early career introductory class teachers’ developing cultural sensitivity may be conceptualised as praxis (Kemmis & Smith 2008, 4), that is, practical wisdom or practical intelligence (Sternberg 1985; Saugstad 2005). In Aristotelian terms, the aim of praxis is to live a good life; thus praxis has an end in itself. In this case, teachers’ praxis orientation on multicultural issues may be further reformulated in the form of a question: ‘How can a good (and virtuous) human life be enabled in/through educational practices that are in harmony with other humans and a culturally diverse world?The paper draws on a study of a “first aid training” course for introductory teachers who had no prior experience and little education on multicultural issues. One of the theoretical cornerstones of the training was global education, emphasizing the importance of teachers’ cultural sensitivity in educating children for the global world (Hilburn & Maguth 2015). The hands-on parts of the training aimed at incorporating the theoretical knowledge into practice. The data used for this article includes individual interviews conducted in the beginning and the end of the training course with 20 teachers, and assignments in which the teachers elaborated the role of dimensions of cultural sensitivity (knowledge / skills / action / attitudes) in the praxis-development of their work with refugee students. ReferencesHilburn, J. & Maguth, B. M. (2015) The State of Global Education: Learning with the World and Its People. Routledge Kemmis S & Smith T (2008) Enabling Praxis: Challenges for Education. Sense Publishing. Rotterdam.Salo R (2013) Opettajien osaamisen ja opetuksen kehittäminen perusopetuksen valmistavassa opetuksessa. University of Oulu. Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. Series E, Scientiae rerum socialium, 114. Oulu, University of Oulu.Saugstad, T. (2005). Aristotle’s Contribution to Scholastic and Non-Scholastic Learning Theories. Pedagogy, Culture and Society 13(3), 347-366.Sinkkonen, H., & Kyttälä, M. (2014). Experiences of Finnish teachers working with immigrant students. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29(2), 167-183. Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University