The Center for Multicultural Education

JAMES A. BANKS is Russell F. Stark University Professor and director of the Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington, Seattle; PETER COOKSON is a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University; GENEVA GAY is a professor of
education and faculty associate at the Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington, Seattle; WILLIS D. HAWLEY
is a professor of education and public affairs, University of Maryland, College Park; JACQUELINE JORDAN IRVINE is the Charles
Howard Candler Professor of Urban Education, Emory University, Atlanta; SONIA NIETO is a professor of language, literacy, and
culture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; JANET WARD
SCHOFIELD is a professor of psychology and a senior scientist
at the Learning Research and Development Center, University of
Pittsburgh; and WALTER G. STEPHAN is a professor of psychology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. The longer publication on which this article is based — which contains a checklist for use by school districts — can be ordered and downloaded
from the website of the Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington,
htm; click on “Center Publications.”
The authors offer these design principles in the hope that they will help
education policy makers and practitioners realize the elusive but essential
goal of a democratic and pluralistic society.
WHAT DO WE know about education and diversity, and how do we
know it? This two-part question guided the work of the Multicultural Education Consensus Panel, sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington and the Common
Destiny Alliance at the University of Maryland. This article is the product of a four-year project during which the panel, with support from
the Carnegie Corporation of New York, reviewed and synthesized the
research related to diversity.
Diversity Within Unity:
Essential Principles
For Teaching and Learning
In a Multicultural Society
The panel members are an interdisciplinary group
consisting of two psychologists, a political scientist, a
sociologist, and four specialists in multicultural education. The panel was modeled after the consensus panels that develop and write reports for the National Academy of Sciences. In such panels, an expert group studies
research and practice and arrives at a conclusion about
what is known about a particular problem and the most
effective actions that can be taken to solve it.
The findings of the Multicultural Education Con-
NOVEMBER 2001 197
sensus Panel, which we call essential principles in this
article, describe ways in which education policy and
practice related to diversity can be improved. These
principles are derived from both research and practice. They are designed to help practitioners in all types
of schools increase student academic achievement and
improve intergroup skills. Another aim is to help
schools successfully meet the challenges of and
benefit from the diversity that characterizes the
United States.
Schools can make a significant difference in the
lives of students, and they are a key to maintaining a free and democratic society. Democratic societies are fragile and are works in progress. Their
existence depends on a thoughtful citizenry that
believes in democratic ideals and is willing and
able to participate in the civic life of the nation.
We realize that the public schools are experiencing a great deal of criticism. However, we believe
that they are essential to ensuring the survival of
our democracy.
We have organized the 12 essential principles into
five categories: 1) teacher learning; 2) student learning; 3) intergroup relations; 4) school governance, organization, and equity; and 5) assessment. Although
these categories overlap to some extent, we think readers will find this organization helpful.
Principle 1. Professional development programs should
help teachers understand the complex characteristics of ethnic groups within U.S. society and the ways in which race,
ethnicity, language, and social class interact to influence student behavior. Continuing education about diversity
is especially important for teachers because of the increasing cultural and ethnic gap that exists between the
nation’s teachers and students. Effective professional
development programs should help educators to 1) uncover and identify their personal attitudes toward racial,
ethnic, language, and cultural groups; 2) acquire knowledge about the histories and cultures of the diverse racial,
ethnic, cultural, and language groups within the nation
and within their schools; 3) become acquainted with
the diverse perspectives that exist within different ethnic and cultural communities; 4) understand the ways
in which institutionalized knowledge within schools,
universities, and the popular culture can perpetuate
stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups; and 5) acquire the knowledge and skills needed to develop and
implement an equity pedagogy, defined by James Banks
as instruction that provides all students with an equal
opportunity to attain academic and social success in
Professional development programs should help teachers understand the complex characteristics of ethnic
groups and how such variables as social class, religion,
region, generation, extent of urbanization, and gender
strongly influence ethnic and cultural behavior. These
variables influence the behavior of groups both singly
and interactively. Indeed, social class is one of the most
important variables that mediate and influence behavior. In his widely discussed book, The Declining Significance of Race, William Julius Wilson argues that class
is becoming increasingly important in the lives of African Americans.2 The increasing significance of class
rather than the declining significance of race might be
a more accurate description of the phenomenon that
Wilson describes. Racism continues to affect African
Americans of every social class, but it does so in complex ways that to some extent — though by no means
always — reflect social-class status.
If teachers are to increase learning opportunities for
all students, they must be knowledgeable about the
social and cultural contexts of teaching and learning.
Although students are not solely products of their cultures and vary in the degree to which they identify
with them, there are some distinctive cultural behaviors that are associated with ethnic groups.3Thus teachers should become knowledgeable about the cultural
backgrounds of their students. They should also acquire the skills needed to translate that knowledge into effective instruction and an enriched curriculum.4
Teaching should be culturally responsive to students
from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and language groups.
Making teaching culturally responsive involves strategies such as constructing and designing relevant cultural metaphors and multicultural representations to
help bridge the gap between what students already know
and appreciate and what they are to be taught. Culturally responsive instructional strategies transform
information about the home
and community into effective classroom practice. Rather than rely on generalized
notions of ethnic groups that
can be misleading, effective
teachers use knowledge of
their students’ culture and
ethnicity as a framework for
inquiry. They also use culturally responsive activities, resources, and strategies to
organize and implement instruction.
Principle 2. Schools should ensure that all students
have equitable opportunities to learn and to meet high
standards. Schools can be thought of as collections of
opportunities to learn.5 A good school maximizes the
learning experiences of its students. One might judge
the fairness of educational opportunity by comparing
the learning opportunities students have within and
across schools. The most important of these opportunities to learn are 1) teacher quality (indicators include
experience, preparation to teach the content, participation in high-quality professional development, verbal ability, and opportunity to receive teacher rewards
and incentives); 2) a safe and orderly learning environment; 3) time actively engaged in learning; 4) low
student/teacher ratio; 5) rigor of the curriculum; 6)
grouping practices that avoid tracking and rigid forms
of student assignment based on past performance; 7)
sophistication and currency of learning resources and
information technology used by students; and 8) access to extracurricular activities.
Although the consequences of these different characteristics of schools vary with particular conditions,
the available research suggests that, when two or more
cohorts of students differ significantly in their access
to opportunities to learn, differences in the quality of
education also exist.6 Such differences affect student
achievement and can undermine the prospects for positive intergroup relations.
The content that makes up the lessons students are
taught influences the level of student achievement. This
is hardly surprising, but the curriculum students experience and the expectations of teachers and others
about how much of the material they will learn vary from
school to school. In general,
students who are taught curriculathat are more rigorous
learn more than their peers
with similar prior knowledge
and backgrounds who are
taught less-demanding curricula. For example, earlier accessto algebra leads to greater
participation in higher-level
math courses and to increased
academic achievement.
Principle 3. The curriculum should help students understand that knowledge is socially constructed and reflects researchers’ personal experiences as well as the social,
political, and economic contexts in which they live and
work. In curriculum and teaching units and in textbooks,
students often study historical events, concepts, and
issues only or primarily from the points of view of the
victors.7 The perspectives of the vanquished are frequently silenced, ignored, or marginalized. This kind
of teaching privileges mainstream students — those
who most often identify with the victors or dominant
groups — and causes many students of color to feel
left out of the American story.
Concepts such as the “discovery” of America, the
westward movement, and the role of the pioneers are
often taught primarily from the points of view of the
European Americans who constructed them. The curriculum should help students to understand how these
concepts reflect the values and perspectives of European Americans and describe their experiences in the
United States. Teachers should help students learn how
these concepts have very different meanings for groups
indigenous to America and for those who were brought
to America in chains.
Teaching students the different — and often conflicting — meanings of concepts and issues for the diverse groups that make up the U.S. population will
help them to better understand the complex factors
that contributed to the birth, growth, and development of the nation. Such teaching will also help students develop empathy for the points of view and perspectives of various groups and will increase their ability to think critically.
Principle 4. Schools should provide all students with opportunities to participate in extracurricular and cocurricular activities that develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes
that increase academic achievement and foster positive interracial relationships. Research evidence that links student achievement to participation in extracurricular and
cocurricular activities is increasing in quantity and consistency.8There is significant research that supports the
proposition that participation in after-school programs,
sports activities, academic clubs, and school-sponsored
social activities contributes to academic performance,
reduces dropout rates and discipline problems, and enhances interpersonal skills among students from different ethnic backgrounds. Kris Gutiérrez and her colleagues, for example, found that “nonformal learning
contexts,” such as after-school programs, are useful in
bridging home and school cultures for students from
diverse groups.9 Jomills Braddock concluded that involvement in sports activities was particularly beneficial
for male African American high school students.10 When
designing extracurricular activities, educators should
give special attention to recruitment, selection of leaders and teams, the cost of participating, allocation of
school resources, and opportunities for cooperative intergroup contact.
Principle 5. Schools should create or make salient superordinate or cross-cutting groups in order to improve
intergroup relations.Creating superordinate groups —
groups with which members of other groups in a given situation identify — improves intergroup relations.11
When membership in superordinate groups is salient,
other group differences become less important. Creating superordinate groups stimulates fellowship and
cohesion and so can mitigate preexisting animosities.
In school settings many superordinate groups can
be created or made salient. For example, it is possible
to create superordinate groups through extracurricular activities. And many existing superordinate groups
can be made more salient: the classroom, the grade
level, the school, the community, the state, and even
the nation. The most immediate superordinate groups
(e.g., the school chorus rather than the state of California) are likely to be the most influential, but identification with any superordinate group can reduce prejudice.
Principle 6. Students should learn about stereotyping
and other related biases that have negative effects on racial and ethnic relations. We use categories in perceiving
our environment because categorization is a natural
part of human information processing. But the mere
act of categorizing people as members of an “in group”
and an “out group” can result in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.12 Specifically, making distinctions between groups can lead to the perception that
the “other group” is more homogeneous than one’s own
group, and this, in turn, can lead to an exaggeration of
the extent of the group differences. Thus categorizing
leads to stereotyping and to behaviors influenced by
those stereotypes.
Intergroup contact can counteract stereotypes if the
situation allows members of each group to behave in
a variety of ways across different contexts, so that their
full humanity and diversity are displayed. Negative stereotypes can also be modified in noncontact situations by
providing members of the “in group” with information
about members of the “out group” who disconfirm a
stereotype across a variety of situations.13
Principle 7. Students should learn about the values
shared by virtually all cultural groups (e.g., justice, equality, freedom, peace, compassion, and charity). Teaching
students about the values that virtually all groups share,
such as those described in the UN Universal Bill of Rights,
can provide a basis for perceived similarity that can
promote favorable intergroup relations.14 In addition,
the values themselves serve to undercut negative intergroup relations by discouraging injustice, inequality, unfairness, conflict, and a lack of compassion. The value
of egalitarianism deserves special emphasis since a number of theories suggest that it can help to undermine
stereotyping and prejudiced thinking and can help restrict the direct expression of racism.15
Principle 8. Teachers should help students acquire the
social skills needed to interact effectively with students
from other racial, ethnic, cultural, and language groups.
One of the most effective techniques for improving
intercultural relations is to teach members of the cultural groups the social skills necessary to interact effectively with members of another culture.16 Students
need to learn how to perceive, understand, and respond to group differences. They need to learn not to
give offense and not to take offense. They also need
to be helped to realize that, when members of other
groups behave in ways that are inconsistent with the
norms of the students’ own group, these individuals
are not necessarily behaving antagonistically.
One intergroup relations trainer asks members of
the minority and majority groups to discuss what it
feels like to be the target of stereotyping, prejudice,
and discrimination.17 Sharing such information informs
the majority group of the pain and suffering their intentional or thoughtless acts of discrimination cause.
It also allows the members of minority groups to share
their experiences with one another. Other techniques
that involve sharing experiences through carefully managed dialogue have also been found to improve intergroup relations.18
One skill that can be taught in schools in order to
improve intergroup relations is conflict resolution.19 A
number of school districts throughout the U.S. are
teaching students to act as mediators in disputes between other students.
Principle 9. Schools should provide opportunities for
students from different racial, ethnic, cultural, and language groups to interact socially under conditions designed to reduce fear and anxiety. One of the primary
causes of prejudice is fear.20 Fear leads members of social groups to avoid interacting with members of other groups and causes them discomfort when they do.
Fears about members of other groups often stem from
concern about threats — both realistic and symbolic
— to the “in group.” Many such fears have little basis in reality or are greatly exaggerated.
To reduce uncertainty and anxiety concerning interaction with members of other groups, the contexts
in which interactions between groups take place should
be relatively structured, the balance of members of the
different groups should be as equal as possible, the likelihood of failure should be low, and opportunities for
hostility and aggression should be minimized. Providing factual information that contradicts misperceptions can also counteract prejudice that is based on a
false sense of threat. Stressing the similarities in the
values of the groups should also reduce the degree of
symbolic threat posed by “out groups” and thus reduce
fear and prejudice.
Principle 10. A school’s organizational strategies should
ensure that decision making is widely shared and that
members of the school community learn collaborative skills
and dispositions in order to create a caring learning environment for students. School policies and practices are
the living embodiment of a society’s underlying values
NOVEMBER 2001 201
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and educational philosophy. They also reflect the values
of those who work within schools. Whether in the form
of curriculum, teaching strategies, assessment procedures, disciplinary policies, or grouping practices, school
policies embody a school’s beliefs, attitudes, and expectations of its students.21This is true whether the school
is one with extensive or limited financial resources,
whether its student body is relatively monocultural or
richly diverse, or whether it is located in a crowded
central city or an isolated rural county.
School organization and leadership can either enhance or detract from the development of learning
communities that prepare students for a multicultural and democratic society. Schools that are administered from the top down are unlikely to create collaborative, caring cultures. Too often schools talk about
democracy but fail to practice shared decision making.
Powerful multicultural schools are organizational hubs
that include a wide variety of stakeholders, ranging from
students, teachers, and administrators to parents and
members of the community. Indeed, there is convincing research evidence that parent involvement, in particular, is critical in enhancing student learning.22 And
a just multicultural school is receptive to working with
all members of the students’ communities.
Principle 11. Leaders should ensure that all public schools,
regardless of their locations, are funded equitably. Equity
in school funding is a critical condition for creating
just multicultural schools. The current inequities in the
funding of public education are startling.23 Two communities that are adjacent to one another can provide
wholly different support to their public schools, based
on property values and tax rates. Students who live in
poor communities are punished because they must attend schools that are underfunded by comparison to
the schools in more affluent communities.
The relationship between increased school expenditures and school improvement is complex.24 But when
investments are made in ways that significantly improve students’ opportunities to learn — such as increasing teacher quality, reducing class size in targeted ways, and engaging parents in their children’s education — the result is likely to be improved student
knowledge and skills.
The failure of schools and school systems to provide all students with equitable resources for learning
will, of course, work to the disadvantage of those receiving inadequate resources and will usually widen
the achievement gap between schools. Since achievement correlates highly with students’ family income
and since people of color are disproportionately represented in the low-income sector, inequity in opportunities to learn contributes to the achievement gap
between students of color and white students.
Principle 12. Teachers should use multiple culturally
sensitive techniques to assess complex cognitive and social
skills. Evaluating the progress of students from diverse
racial and ethnic groups and social classes is complicated by differences in language, learning styles, and
cultures. Hence the use of a single method of assessment will probably further disadvantage students from
particular social classes and ethnic groups.
Teachers should adopt a range of formative and summative assessment strategies that give students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery. These strategies should
include observations, oral examinations, performances,
and teacher-made as well as standardized assessments.
Students learn and demonstrate their competencies in
different ways. The preferred mode of demonstrating
task mastery for some is writing, while others do better
speaking, visualizing, or performing; some are stimulated by competition and others by cooperation; some
prefer to work alone, while others would rather work
in groups. Consequently, a variety of assessment procedures and outcomes that are compatible with different learning, performance, work, and presentation styles
should be used to determine whether students are mastering the skills they need to function effectively in a
multicultural society.
Assessment should go beyond traditional measures
of subject-matter knowledge and include consideration of complex cognitive and social skills. Effective
citizenship in a multicultural society requires individuals who have the values and abilities to promote equality and justice among culturally diverse groups.
Powerful multicultural schools help students from
diverse racial, cultural, ethnic, and language groups to
experience academic success. Academic knowledge and
skills are essential in today’s global society. However,
they are not sufficient to guarantee full and active participation in that society. Students must also develop
the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to interact
positively with people from diverse groups and to participate in the civic life of the nation. Students must be
competent in intergroup and civic skills if they are to
function effectively in today’s complex and ethnically
polarized nation and world.
Diversity in the nation’s schools is both an opportunity and a challenge. The nation is enriched by the
ethnic, cultural, and language diversity of its citizens.
However, whenever diverse groups interact, intergroup
tension, stereotypes, and institutionalized discrimination develop. Schools must find ways to respect the diversity of their students and to help create a unified
nation to which all citizens have allegiance. Structural
inclusion in the public life of the nation together with
power sharing will engender feelings of allegiance among
diverse groups. Diversity within unity is the delicate
goal toward which our nation and its schools should
strive. We offer these design principles in the hope that
they will help education policy makers and practitioners realize the elusive but essential goals of a democratic and pluralistic society.
1. James A. Banks, “Multicultural Education: Historical Development,
Dimensions, and Practice,” in James A. Banks and Cherry A. McGee
Banks, eds., Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001), pp. 1-24.
2. William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and
Changing American Institutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
3. A. Wade Boykin, “The Triple Quandary and the Schooling of AfroAmerican Children,” in Ulric Neisser, ed., The School Achievement of
Minority Children: New Perspectives (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1986),
pp. 57-92.
4. Geneva Gay, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (New York: Teachers College Press, 2000).
5. Linda Darling-Hammond, The Right to Learn (San Francisco: JosseyBass, 1997).
6. Robert Dreeben and Adam Gamoran, “Race, Instruction, and Learning,” American Sociological Review, vol. 51, 1986, pp. 660-69.
7. James A. Banks, Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching, 4th ed. (Boston: Allyn and
Bacon, 2001).
8. Jomills Braddock, “Bouncing Back: Sports and Academic
Resilience Among African-American Males,” Education and
Urban Society, vol. 24, 1991, pp. 113-31; Jacquelynne S.
Eccles and Bonnie L. Barber, “Student Council, Volunteering,
Basketball, or Marching Band: What Kind of Extracurricular
Involvement Matters?,” Journal of Adolescence Research, January 1999, pp. 10-43; and Jennifer A. Gootman, ed., AfterSchool Programs to Promote Child and Adolescent Development:
Summary of a Workshop (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000).
9. Kris D. Gutiérrez et al., “Building a Culture of Collaboration
Through Hybrid Language Practices,” Theory into Practice, vol.
38, 1999, pp. 87-93.
10. Braddock, op. cit.
11. Samuel Gaertner et al., “The Contact Hypothesis: The
Role of a Common Ingroup Identity on Reducing Intergroup
Bias,” Small Group Research, vol. 25, 1994, pp. 224-49.
12. Henri Tajfel and John C. Turner, “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior,” in Stephen Worchel and William G. Austin, eds.,
Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986),
pp. 7-24.
13. Lucy Johnston and Miles Hewstone, “Cognitive Models of Stereotype Change,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 28, 1992,
pp. 360-86.
14. Lawrence Kohlberg, Essays on Moral Development (New York: Harper & Row, 1981).
15. Samuel L. Gaertner and John F. Dovidio, “The Aversive Form of
Racism,” in John F. Dovidio and Samuel L. Gaertner, eds., Prejudice,
Discrimination, and Racism (Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press, 1986), pp.
61-90; and Irwin Katz, David C. Glass, and Joyce Wackenhut, “An Ambivalence-Amplification Theory of Behavior Toward the Stigmatized,”
in Worchel and Austin, pp. 103-17.
16. Stephen Bochner, “Culture Shock,” in Walter Lonner and Roy Malpass, eds., Psychology and Culture (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1994), pp.
17. Louis Kamfer and David J. L. Venter, “First Evaluation of a Stereotype Reduction Workshop,” South African Journal of Psychology, vol. 24,
1994, pp. 13-20.
18. Ximena Zúñiga and Biren Nagda, “Dialogue Groups: An Innovative Approach to Multicultural Learning,” in David Schoem et al., eds.,
Multicultural Teaching in the University (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1993),
pp. 233-48.
19. Morton Deutsch, “Cooperative Learning and Conflict Resolution
in an Alternative High School,” Cooperative Learning, vol. 13, 1993, pp.
20. Gaertner and Dovidio, op. cit.; and Walter G. Stephan, Reducing
Prejudice and Stereotyping in Schools (New York: Teachers College Press,
21. Sonia Nieto, The Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999).
22. Joyce L. Epstein, “School and Family Partnerships,” in Marvin C.
Alkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Educational Research, 6th ed. (New York:
Macmillan, 1992), pp. 1139-51.
23. Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
(New York: Crown Publishers, 1991).
24. Eric A. Hanushek, “School Resources and Student Performance,”
in Gary Burtless, ed., Does Money Matter? The Effect of School Resources
on Student Achievement and Adult Success (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1996), pp. 43-73. K
NOVEMBER 2001 203

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