Despite considerable interest among South African scholars in learner behaviour management in South African schools, there is little literature on learner behaviour management in the context of cultural diversity. The present study investigates this essentially neglected space by focusing on learner behaviour management practices of teachers in culturally diverse classrooms of a high school in the Tshwane South District within the Gauteng Department of Education, South Africa.
Cultural diversity is used as a lens to explore the practices of teachers. The theoretical underpinnings of culturally responsive classroom management are used to describe and to interpret learner behaviour management practices of teachers to determine whether the approaches and the resultant strategies that they use are culturally responsive.
A qualitative case study approach was used, and data was collected through semi-structured interviews that included critical incident narratives obtained from teachers, analysis of pertinent documents and observations of 10 culturally diverse teachers who teach the same class consisting of culturally diverse learners, as well as of the Discipline Officer and two additional teachers that were identified through snowball sampling.
The findings revealed that learner behaviour management practices of most teachers are not culturally responsive. This is a result of factors such as lack of recognition of their own ethnocentrism and biases, as demonstrated mainly by their unrealistic expectations, pessimistic attitudes and stereotyping perceptions; ignorance of learners‟ cultural backgrounds, as demonstrated mainly by teachers‟ denial and minimisation of the importance of understanding learners‟ cultural backgrounds (leading to misinterpretation of the behaviours of culturally different learners); lack of commitment to building a caring classroom community; lack of consciousness of the broader social, economic and political context of the South African education system; and lack of ability to apply culturally responsive classroom management strategies, which is exacerbated by lack of teacher education and development in this regard. The implication of these findings is that teachers need to possess an ethnorelative mindset, and to be interculturally competent.
A key recommendation is that teachers should endeavour to move away from ethnocentrism towards being ethnorelative by developing an inclusive outlook, accepting cultural differences and adapting their perspective to take the cultural differences that influence learner behaviour into account. The study also recommends that teacher education programmes should prioritise teacher development on intercultural issues and the acquisition of intercultural competencies, as these aspects are crucial for teachers to appropriately manage the behaviours of learners whose cultural backgrounds are different from their own.
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