Hailey D. Barry
Vancouver Community College
Professor: Jacquie Harrison
“Education is one of the major means by which a culture is transmitted. Yet, many of us are unaware of the power of our own culture to shape behaviour.”
Upon reflection of this quote from the 3210 Course Manual, I will describe my perception of how culture and behaviors affect and influence implicit curriculum. Supporting my ideas with previous teaching experiences, I will conclude with changes I can make in my instructional delivery and adjustments in implied curriculum.
Reflecting on this quote from the 3210 Course Manual, I was caught by the second sentence, in particular ‘the power of our own culture to shape behaviour’. My work as an instructor for North Island College delivering their Underground Mining curriculum requires me to work in remote areas with local First Nations and the mining companies that are intending to employ the students after completion of the course. I often relocate to these communities and have the opportunity to become very familiar with the local culture and their social norms.
I do feel that often many of us are ‘unaware’ of the power that culture has over behavior. I also feel that it is my responsibility as an instructor to try my best to understand and grasp the culture of the people I am instructing, and work with them to create the best learning environment. The course I instruct is a community college course. Students are between the ages 19-40. However, due to logistics, location as well as culture, most of the students have not experienced any post-secondary education previous to the course I instruct, and some of them have not fully completed high school. Some may have a negative outlook or feeling about education as a whole due to the recent history of residential schools in Canada.
I often manage situations during course delivery where students are on their ‘own time’; not understanding the importance of being punctual and present, or missing assignment due dates without offering justification. I use the word understanding because in most cases, there is a definite misunderstanding about course curriculum and how it is designed to help them learn in stages, tying everything together at the conclusion. It can take a bit, and often extra work on the part of the student to catch up, in order for them to grasp that being in class each day is very important in order to complete the course.
I am grateful that I grew up in Yukon Territory and attended a predominantly First Nations school. I feel that it has awarded me the opportunity to understand and accept some of the cultural differences I may have with some students. That being said, I do feel I have much to learn about how to effectively communicate my expectations as an instructor to my students, and make sure that I am preparing them for a career in the mining industry. Many of my students have always worked in their communities, which are small. Often they work for a family member or someone they have known their whole lives. If they are late or don’t come to work one day, there aren’t many options available to replace them. So they keep their job and this becomes the social norm; that being late or absent from work for a day, or two, doesn’t matter. As an instructor, I need to address some of these social norms in the early days of instruction, but also remind myself that differences will still occur. The social norm is not a cultural difference, but it is a result of the culture in that students live in smaller, close-knit communities, often remain close to home and interact mainly with those in their community. In the past I have waited until reoccurring behaviors have created an issue with curriculum delivery, whether it be absenteeism creating learning gaps for a student(s), or punctuality disrupting instruction. By addressing the cultural differences early on, and verbally reiterating and setting expectations, perhaps there will be less mitigation required during the course duration. I don’t believe that cultural differences and in turn the behaviors that result are a problem to be solved, it just takes some thought and preparation on behalf of the instructor to work with what they acknowledge and understand to be a difference.
I have gained a few insights from the reflection of this quote:
- Verbally acknowledge that some students may feel overwhelmed by the idea of learning Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm for 4 months.
- Explain that I do not want them to treat their education as a job (this comparison has been used in previous years) but as a gift they are giving to themselves and their families who they intend to help and support after they gain employment upon completion of the course.
- Ask the students what they think should happen if they are late more than three times, or absent without a reasonable excuse? (I have never taken this approach before and I am very curious as to the feedback I will receive.)
These points are a list for my future self, so that I can make efforts in my teaching to be more aware of my students’ culture and the influence culture has on behavior.
3210 Course Manual