The case of a Primary 5/6 classroom community: Participation, inclusion, and diversity

Year: 2019

Author: Cabiles, Bonita, Marie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Classroom practices create opportunities for the participation of all learners. However, for learners of underprivileged and minoritised backgrounds, classrooms can be an uneven playing field. Learners whose backgrounds align less with the competencies, values, and attitudes promoted in the classroom are likely to fall behind and fail to participate. My doctoral project aims to contribute towards a scholarly investigation of how classroom practices can either facilitate or constrain participation for learners of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Drawing on Bourdieuian conceptual tools, I explored the concept of ‘classroom participation’ in a Primary 5/6 composite class in a Melbourne-based school located in in one of the most ethnically diverse suburbs of Victoria. Working with ethnographic tools, my research examined classroom practices as they related to CALD learners’ cultural backgrounds. This presentation focuses on the primary class conceived as a ‘learning community’ in fostering an inclusive culture of participation in the classroom. Troubling the notion of ‘community’, key findings reveal that pedagogical practices are frequently marginalising for CALD learners. Classroom practices lacked responsiveness, attention, and valuing towards CALD learners’ backgrounds and experiences. The case of Class 5/6k (re)ignites questions about notions of democratic participation in the context of pluralistic and/or multicultural classrooms. Furthermore, it (re)opens deliberations about students’ ‘lifeworlds’ as legitimate and significant sources of knowledge in the classrooms. Reflecting on these findings, I draw out pedagogical implications that can make different kinds of participation possible in contemporary multicultural settings.