Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Journal of Curriculum Theorizing ♦ Volume 28, Number 2, 2012


Copyright 2012 C. Schlein & E. Chan


CANADA IS BECOMING increasingly diverse through immigration and the birth of children into immigrant families (Statistics Canada, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2008). This cultural pluralism is also reflected in school communities. Thus, there is a related growing requisite for issues of educational quality to be defined according to notions pertaining to multicultural education in order for educators to identify and to develop innovative ways of meeting the needs of diverse classroom populations. Moreover, there is a progressive need for pre–service and in–service educators to learn about effective ways of working with English Language Learners (ELLs) to support their rapid integration into mainstream classrooms (Janzen, 2008). This practice would be in line with the recent move in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction toward integrating ELLs into mainstream classes earlier as a means of engaging students in content area instruction, which might challenge students toward higher levels of English language proficiency (Janzen, 2008).

In this article, we discuss the findings of a narrative inquiry into the development of a classroom–based experiential and multicultural curriculum in the context of an urban, public, and culturally diverse comprehensive elementary and middle school located in Toronto, Canada. In particular, we present the implementation of curriculum activities that drew upon students’ lived stories of culture, immigration, and settlement to explore the social and linguistic impact of such activities for ELLs. We highlight via the findings of our qualitative study into diverse learners’ educational experiences the formation of a multicultural curriculum that intermingles academic objectives for Language Arts and ELL lessons with curricular goals toward education for diversity. We further illustrate how students’ own stories of schooling, culture, and cross–cultural movement have the potential to expand possibilities for teacher preparation and development for engaging in curricular situations and interactions with diverse student populations as a means of cultivating hopeful imaginings of multicultural education.

While statistics exhibit growth in the areas of culturally diverse populations, and thereby increasingly diverse student populations, across Canada, such information does not delve into the pragmatic interactions of multicultural education in school contexts. Using the integrated education of ELLs within a highly culturally diverse school and classroom as one lens for examining the multiple facets extant within the concept of multicultural education, we explore students’ narratives of multicultural curricular experiences. We aim to breathe life into statistical information by gaining insight into what it means to learn, teach, and live in culturally diverse societies. In this way, we move beyond societal constructions to highlight stories of hope and hopeful possibilities for students from multicultural backgrounds. Although this inquiry is contextualized within Canada, it is anticipated that the findings might be applicable in other countries with diverse populations, such as the United States.