Social and Emotional Teaching Against Ethnic Difference and Diversity

Social and Emotional Learning: Teaching Against Ethnic Difference and Diversity: A guide for teachers in the classroom

Overall learning objective/aim

To allow teachers to work with children and young people against racial prejudice, whilst embracing ethnic difference and diversity


The purpose of this module is to act as a guide for teachers during their lesson planning and allow them to be able to reach out to children and young people against bias-based bullying via teaching through social and emotional learning.

The module can be taught over a period of five classes (45 min-1 hour each) with Activity One broken into two class periods; Activity Two broken into two class periods and Activity Three taking no longer than one class period, up to an hour.

The Importance of Multicultural Education


As agreed with Paul, C. Gorski, multicultural education is a progressive approach for transforming education that holistically critiques and responds to discriminatory policies and practices in education. Multicultural education to teach against difference and diversity, is grounded in ideals of social justice, education equity, critical pedagogy, and a dedication to providing educational experiences in which all students reach their full potentials as learners and as socially aware and active beings, locally, nationally, and globally. It is therefore imperative for teacher to understand that multicultural education acknowledges essential to laying the foundation for the transformation of society and the elimination of injustice (Gorski, 2010).  In doing so:


  • Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to her or his full potential.
  • Every student must be prepared to competently participate in an increasingly intercultural society.
  • Teachers must be prepared to effectively facilitate learning for every individual student, no matter how culturally similar or different from her- or himself.
  • Schools must be active participants in ending oppression of all types, first by ending oppression within their own walls, then by producing socially and critically active and aware students.
  • Education must become more fully student-centered and inclusive of the voices and experiences of the students (Gorski, 2010)



The use and importance of social and emotional learning in the school curriculum


Research into emotional literacy reveals that teaching young people to become emotionally literate is a positive preventative tool that can assist in giving students alternatives to violence and dysfunctional relationships (Bocchino, 1999; Elliot and Faupel, 1997; Miller, 2001).  It therefore, has been suggested that a curriculum that addresses topics of self-awareness, decision-making, managing feelings, self-concept, handling stress, communication through ‘I’ messages, group dynamics, and conflict resolution may indeed empower young people to address a climate of violence, including prejudices and stereotypes in schools (Goleman, 1995 in Sharp, 2000:9).  Moreover, giving students the tools of self-confidence, clear thinking and knowledge of how to handle distressing feelings may empower victims to assert themselves and may encourage passive bystanders to become upstanders by intervening when witnessing bias-based bullying incidents (Sharp and Herrick, 2000 in Sharp 2000:9).  Students who feel respected and experience a positive approach in the classroom are more cooperative, thus showing the benefits of teaching through the use of social and emotional literacy. (Roffey, 2008: 36). Whilst using emotional literacy as a teaching strategy, this may allow pupils to develop self-awareness and become empowered, this is also beneficial as part of school preventative and intervention measures.





The official definition for racist bullying is:


“The term racist bullying refers to a range of hurtful behaviour, both physical and psychological, that makes a person feel unwelcome, marginalized, excluded, powerless or worthless because of their colour, ethnicity, culture, faith community, national origin or national status.”  (UK Department for Education 2010: 18).


Academic research confirms racist bullying as involving both verbal and physical abuse. Verma et al. (1994:20), state that Racism and Racist Bullying, “…can take a variety of forms.  It can be personal and direct, as in the case of racist name-calling. It can be social and discriminatory against whole groups. It can be institutional, hampering in perhaps the most insidious way…” Existing research repeatedly asserts that name-calling is the most common form of racist bullying or peer victimization and that being excluded from social groups is also a common form (Kelly and Cohen, 1988; Smith and Shu, 2000; Whitney and Smith, 1993; Veland et al., 2009).


Throughout the implementation of each exercise, teachers should keep referring to the definitions, when and as often as they see fit.





















Activity One:


Exploring Language: Definitions Activity

For this exercise, participants are asked to find definitions for prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Definitions for each word should come from two sources: the person’s existing understanding and a scholarly source.



  1. To help participants understand the five words and to explore the intricacies and implications of different definitions for each word.


  1. To help participants learn to appreciate the importance of language in discussing multicultural and social justice issues, and how the process of discussing the definitions adds to the understanding of the terms.



Activity Description:

The facilitators should divide the participants into groups of 6-10 to ensure that everyone will have ample chance to participate. Each group’s facilitator will begin her or his session by having each participant share her or his definition for “prejudice”. The group will proceed with the rest of the definitions attempting, if possible, to reach a consensus on one definition for each word. (Rarely will the group agree on one definition.) All definitions should be discussed. When small groups are finished, bring everyone back together for a final discussion.




Facilitator Notes:


(1) Definitions

  • Prejudice–an attitude about another person or group of people based on stereotypes
  • Discrimination–an action or behavior based on prejudice
  • Racism–the systemic conditions that provide some people more consistent and easier access to opportunities based on (perceived) race or ethnicity
  • Sexism–the systemic conditions that provide some people more consistent and easier access to opportunities based on (perceived) sex, gender, or gender expression
  • Heterosexism–the systemic conditions that provide some people more consistent and easier access to opportunities based on (perceived) sexual orientation

(2) An issue that arises regularly is that prejudice and discrimination can be positive. (I am prejudice towards my children; I am a discriminating eater.) It is important to note that when these issues are discussed in the context of social justice, a prejudice toward somebody is matched by an equal prejudice against somebody else.

(3) According to the definitions above, anyone can be racist or sexist. It is vital to bring the issue of power into the discussion. For example, a definition of racism might be “prejudice or discrimination based on race, plus the power to enforce it.” In that case, in the U.S., only men can be sexist and only white people can be racist. This perspective has a major impact on people and some respond by insisting that the “other” group can be just as racist as her or his group. This response provides an important opportunity to differentiate between an individual-focused basis of “racism” (which privileges the current power structure by ignoring systemic conditions) and an institutional-focused basis.

(4) Some people might not be familiar with the term “heterosexism.” Ask students to consider the “phobia” framing of the more common term, “homophobia.” This can lead to other strands of discussion, such as who has power over language, the evolution of language, and so on.

(5) Spend a lot of time on power. Many participants will have a hard time understanding it. Talk about individual acts of racism, which may done by anyone, as opposed to institutional acts of racism, which involves economic, class, and social factors which all add up to power. Some groups in the U.S. do not have the political, economic, or social power to be racist on an institutional level. It is important to acknowledge that we all have personal power and how we exercise it is very important. Do we stand up for the right things? Who gets to make the rules and who do those rules benefit (this is a question of institutional power)?

(6) The major point of this activity is to get people talking about these terms and realizing that different people mean different things even though they are using the same words. How does the way we are socialized to relate to these terms inform the ways we imagine they might be solved?

(7) Mention how, when we don’t know the meaning of a word, we go to the dictionary and accept its definition as truth. Challenge people to look up definitions for “black” and “white” and notice the connotations.

(Paul C. Gorski, 2012



Activity Two:





    Six Critical Paradigm Shifts

for Multicultural Education

(and the Questions We Should Be Asking)



By Paul C. Gorski (

for EdChange and the Multicultural Pavilion

  1. 1.  The Base Shift: Equality à Equity


  1. Does every student who walks into our schools have an opportunity to achieve to her or his fullest regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, first language, (dis)ability, and other social and cultural identifiers?


  1. Is my work contextualized in a bigger social picture that incorporates the history of oppression experienced by a variety of individuals and groups?



  1. 2.  Identifying “at-risk” students à Acknowledging a broken system


  1. Who am I problematizing?


  1. Is my goal to make shifts in student outcomes (for which inequities are actually symptoms, not the root problems) working within a broken and inherently racist, sexist, classist, etc., system? Is this possible?


  1. 3.  Color-blindness à Self-examination


  1. How am I recycling the history of inequity in education?


  1. Is color-blindness possible? And if so, is it desirable?



  1. 4.  Learning about “other cultures” à Dismantling systems of power and privilege


  1. “Other” than what?


  1. Is my work focused on helping people feel OK sitting next to each other, or on addressing the root problem of imbalances of power and privilege that will remain regardless of who sits next to whom?



  1. 5.  Celebrating diversity à Advocating and fighting for equity


  1. Am I asking students who are already alienated by most aspects of education to celebrate a difference for which they are routinely oppressed? If so, to whose benefit?


  1. Can I justify the use of limited resources for celebration when inequities persist?



  1. 6.  Focus on intent à Focus on impact


  1. Is it enough that I intend to do well and fight toward equity, even when my work is misguided and recycles oppressive systems?


  1. Is it enough to support equity philosophically (such as including it in a school mission statement) while I fail to reflect equity in practice?



Activity Three:



Sharing Stories: Prejudice Activity


(1) Help individuals explore how they first became conscious of prejudice and discrimination and the feelings associated with this consciousness.

(2) Make participants aware that everyone has experienced prejudice and discrimination and that it comes in a variety of forms (not just racial).

(3) Help participants understand the different between individual experiences of bias and systemic oppression.


Activity Description:

Facilitators should divide the class into small groups of no larger than six members. Each participant is given the opportunity to relate four stories:

(1) a time she or he experienced prejudice or discrimination;
(2) a time she or he discriminated against somebody else;
(3)  a time she or he witnessed discrimination and did nothing about it;
(4)    a time she or he witnessed discrimination and did something about it.

Share observations in the large group. Although a lot of various experiences will be shared, be sure to take advantage of the last two prompts. What is it that leads us to act or choose not to act?


Facilitator Notes:

(1) Participants often are reluctant to volunteer to begin this activity, particularly when required to tell a story about how they have discriminated against somebody else. A good strategy is to tell your own story first. This will help with the trust factor as well.

(2) Make the point that we share stories about when we have discriminated against somebody else, not to feel guilty, but to better understand why we do such things.

(3) Be sure to differentiate for participants the experience of being discriminated against once in a specific context (I was the only white person in the club…), and the experience of being discriminated against consistently, every day. This can help participants understand the relationship between individual racist actions and systemic racism, and even how one is a symptom of the other.

(Gorski, 2010,


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