Culture and time: things to consider

"Enjoy your three weeks of silent, independent revision, see you in the New Year."

Thus I dismissed the lower sixth last week. Earlier in the lesson I had tried to gee them along by relaying how Daley Thompson had always made a point of training twice on Christmas Day because he knew his competitors would be having the day off. The blank looks said it all - Daley Thompson's retired from athletics in 1992 - a full 4 years before the lower sixth were born.

I should have known that this cultural reference had had its day. Added to this Daley Thompson was a British athlete and so wouldn't have had any particular significance anyway for many in the set (1 American, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Nigerian....)

This reminded me that working in a school with a significant portion of overseas pupils necessitates a more thoughtful approach to the examples used and the references made to popular culture. There isn't necessarily a huge amount of shared hinterland to draw upon.

The following sensible list of things to consider in your teaching is offered by experts the field:


  1. Do the course documents take into consideration the individual needs of the learner? (Initial Assessment, Scheme of work, ILP)
  2. Is the learning environment conducive to learning? (layout, accessibility)
  3. Are there a variety of learning styles included in the teaching - auditory, visual and kinaesthetic? (Schemes of work, lesson plans)


  1. Is time allocated during learner’s induction for information and discussion on equality and diversity, including policies, etc? (Scheme of work, lesson plans, ILP, complaints procedure)
  2. Setting appropriate ground rules with learners (Lesson plan)
  3. Are appropriate assessment methods used for all learners? (Differentiation)
  4. Using appropriate and sensitive language and challenging inappropriate use of language


  1. Is diversity included within teaching - making reference and using examples from a variety of cultures, religions, traditions, exploring stereotyping and other topics around equality? (Lesson plan, resources)
  2. How is prejudice and stereotyping challenged in the classroom?
  3. How do you build on learner diversity as an educational resource?


  1. Are teaching resources accessible for all learners?
  2. Do learners require additional resources to help them to access information? (Initial assessment, ILP)
  3. Are people from diverse backgrounds, socio-economic, cultural, people with disabilities visible in course materials?

Additional support

  1. Are learners given the opportunity to discuss additional support at the beginning and throughout the course?
  2. Is there a non-threatening, open culture in which learners feel able to voice concerns?

One key area, of course, where teachers can help pupils from different cultures is by sensible use of differentiation, as I explain in this post.

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