Directions for Research

Cultural Diversity and Early Education

Chapter 5 and References (of Cultural Diversity and Early Education, Report of a Workshop)

Although both theory and research on learning and instruction have advanced in recent years, only a small share of this work specifically addresses the educational needs of the increasingly diverse student population in the United States. To the extent that a relevant research literature exists, it has tended to examine children in elementary or secondary school, to the neglect of the growing share of children whose first experience with school occurs at 3 or 4 years of age. Given the magnitude of the demographic changes in the composition of preschool and school-age children, it is remarkable how tenuous is the understanding of the myriad of issues that bear on their educational success. Many suggestions for research have been made throughout this report; in this concluding section, those that were noted repeatedly at the workshop are highlighted, along with other important topics not previously mentioned.

Children whose home backgrounds do not correspond to the norms, expectations, and language of their schools negotiate two (or more) cultures on a daily basis. In effect, they serve as cultural brokers and translators for their family, their neighbors, and their teachers and classmates. Only rarely, however, are children studied in more than one context. The field lacks a framework for considering factors that predict successful adaptation on behalf of these children, and even for defining “successful” in this context. What characteristics and skills distinguish children who enjoy and fulfill

Page 35

Suggested Citation:”DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

this role effectively? What supports in children’s communities and schools facilitate their efforts to move between their home and school environments? Is successful adaptation gained at a cost to children’s identity development or to their relations with their families? Is there a set of brokering skills that benefit children in ways that extend beyond their experiences in negotiating between home and school?

Language instruction is among the most politically sensitive facets of educating children from diverse backgrounds. Bilingual education is typically associated with controversial issues, such as U.S. language policy regarding the official status of English and policies regarding access of immigrant families to public education and other services (August and Garcia, 1993; Hakuta, 1986). This context serves to underscore the critical importance of having a solid knowledge base as input to policy discussions about language- minority children.

There is no dearth of researchable issues regarding bilingual education. Three were prominent among the workshop discussions. First, there is virtually no research available to guide decisions that are being made regarding the treatment of language-minority children in the context of education reform. Pressing issues range from effective means of ensuring language-minority students access to high-quality curriculum content to identifying valid assessment methods for these students.

Second, there is a set of unanswered questions regarding the relationship between a child’s home language and English acquisition: When and how should English be introduced? Should instruction in the native language be phased out once children can benefit from English instruction? What adjustments need to be made regarding instructional language for bilingual special education?

Third, it is important to place research on language in the context of children’s lives at home and at school. For example, very little is known about the conditions in homes, in schools, and in communities that influence variation in language acquisition and retention. Similarly, effective language instruction cannot occur in isolation from other aspects of an instructional program, yet questions regarding school and classroom environments that facilitate and sustain successful educational outcomes for language-minority students have not been addressed by research.

The workshop drew into sharp focus the dearth of research that is available to inform teachers’ efforts to provide effective instruction in the con-

Page 36

Suggested Citation:”DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

text of cultural diversity. Some dimensions of effective instruction that warrant careful research are the following:

Minimal attention has been paid to school- and district-level factors that facilitate effective instruction in prekindergarten programs for ethnic and language-minority children.

Early work on the use of math, science, and social studies curricula as an avenue for literacy development points to a particularly intriguing topic for future study with preschool populations.

Models of teacher training designed to promote the experimental approach to instruction that is captured by the term “reflective practitioner” are sorely needed.

Effective means of incorporating parents into their young children ‘s early school experiences also warrant careful study. An appropriate starting point would involve understanding, from parents’ perspectives, different ways in which parents feel comfortable relating to teachers and other school personnel.

Virtually all of the research on the role of cultural diversity in education has focused on children from minority ethnic and language groups. The ramifications of various educational approaches tend to be examined only for these children, to the neglect of their classmates from the majority culture. Yet the diversity of the U.S. population, along with the globalization of economic and geopolitical activity, suggests that all children could benefit from exposure to multilingual and multicultural learning environments. Diverse classrooms afford the opportunity for all students to acquire an expanded repertoire of languages, skills, and capacities to function effectively as citizens in a multicultural society and as workers in a global economy. Examination of the interpersonal and scholastic effects on nonminority students of attending culturally mixed schools, of exposure to dual-language instruction, and of learning cooperatively with children who acquire and express their knowledge in differing ways is a very promising direction for research.

The most long-standing methodological challenge to research on cultural differences in the United States is that of devising sampling strategies that offer greater social-class variability among the cultural groups being

Page 37

Suggested Citation:”DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

studied. This is especially difficult because of the confounding of class and ethnicity among American Indian, African American and many immigrant Latino groups. At a minimum, researchers need to specify which aspect of culture is being targeted for study. Additionally, efforts to specify how selective migration patterns might affect the patterns of behavior observed in the United States and to combine observational research in the United States with research on similar populations in their country of origin (see Landale, 1994) warrant serious exploration.

Luis Laosa noted further that only some groups and some mixes of students have been studied. Of particular importance for future research, given demographic trends in urban areas, is research on classrooms that contain multiple ethnic, immigrant, and linguistic groups. The study of multi-ethnic groups holds the potential to refine understanding of the variability that has been documented within culturally defined groups and to determine both generalities and specifics that are relevant to schooling.

Although the workshop focused on educational issues, several participants called attention to the role that violence has played in the lives of many immigrant and other ethnic minority children. They emphasized the importance of dealing with the stress that many of these children and their parents experience as an integral aspect of helping them adjust to early childhood settings. Barbara Rogoff, for example, has worked with Guatemalan children who have witnessed the torture and killing of family members.

To illustrate the powerful impact that urban violence in the United States can have on young children’s ability to concentrate in school, Delia Pompa described the tensions that children feel between the schoolroom focus on learning to read and the neighborhood pressure to learn how to avoid antagonizing gang members. These experiences undoubtedly have a profound effect on young children’s ability to engage in the new cultural environments that schools present to them, as well as on the anxiety that parents experience when they send their children to the neighborhood schools. Many children who are studied in the context of research on cultural diversity are actually adjusting to two cultures: that of urban communities and that of their preschool programs. The next generation of research needs to cast a broader net in order to capture the full extent of adjustment that these children are experiencing and to examine the undoubtedly intricate ways in which the different environments that children inhabit at home, at school, and in their communities (past and current) influence each other.

Page 38

Suggested Citation:”DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

The workshop suggestions for research are intended to direct scholars toward issues that hold the potential to advance current debates about the early education of children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. For this to occur, however, consideration needs to be given to identifying mechanisms that will promote more effective exchanges between scholars and practitioners in the development and application of research. Appropriate roles for federal agencies (both program and research agencies), foundations, and academic institutions require careful thought and coordination. Effective means are also needed to recruit and retain both junior and senior scholars from multiple disciplines and a range of ethnic groups who are motivated to address these research questions. Without attention to these issues of research capacity, it is unlikely that the country will be in any better position in 10 years than it is today to guide sound early educational policy for an increasingly diverse society.



Au, K. H. 1980 Participation structures in a reading lesson with Hawaiian children: Finding a culturally appropriate instructional event. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 11:91-115.

Au, K. H., and J. M. Mason 1981 Social organizational factors in learning to read: The balance of rights hypothesis. Reading Research Quarterly 17:115-152.

August, D., and K. Hakuta 1993 Federal Education Programs for Limited-English-Proficient Students: A Blueprint for the Second Generation. Report of the Stanford Working Group, Stanford University.

Beals, D. B., J. deTemple, and D. K. Dickinson 1994 Talking and listening that support early literacy development of children from low-income families. In D. K. Dickinson, ed., Bridges to Literacy: Approaches to Supporting Child and Family Literacy . Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell.

Bloom, B. S., A. Davis, and R. Hess 1965 Compensatory Education for Cultural Deprivation. New York: Holt.

Borgas, G. J., and M. Tienda, eds. 1985 Hispanics in the U.S. Economy. New York: Academic Press.

Brayfield, A. A., S. G. Deich, and S. L. Hofferth 1993 Caring for Children in Low-Income Families. A Substudy of the National Child Care Survey, 1990. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute.

Carter, D. J., and R. Wilson 1991 Minorities in Higher Education: Ninth Annual Status Report. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.

Case, R., and S. Griffin 1990 Child cognitive development: The role of central conceptual structures in the devel-

Page 40

Suggested Citation:”REFERENCES.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

opment of scientific and social thought. In C-A. Hauert ed., Developmental Psychology: Cognitive, Perceptuo-Motor and Psychological Perspectives. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier.

Chall, J. 1983 Learning to Read: The Great Debate. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Chang, H. 1993 Affirming Children’s Roots: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Early Care and Education . San Francisco, Calif.: California Tomorrow.

Cole, M., and J. S. Bruner 1971 Cultural differences and inferences about psychological processes . American Psychologist 26:867-876.

Cole, M. 1992 Culture in development. Pp. 731-789 in M.H. Bornstein and M.E. Lamb, eds., Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Coll, C. 1990 Developmental outcome of minority infants: A process-oriented look into our beginnings. Child Development 61:270-289.

Delpit, L. 1988 The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people ‘s children. Harvard Educational Review 58:280-298.

Dickinson, D. K., and D. E. Beals 1994 Not by print alone: Oral language supports for early literacy development . In DeLancy, ed., Emergent Literacy: From Research to Practice. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Dickinson, D. K., and M. W. Smith 1994 Long-term effects of preschool teachers’ book readings on low-income children’s vocabulary, story comprehension, and print skills. Reading Research Quarterly 29(2): 104-122.

Fillmore, L. W. 1991 When learning a second language means losing the first. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6:323-346.

Gallimore, R., and C. Goldenberg 1993 Activity settings of early lieracy: Home and school factors in children ‘s emergent literacy. Pp. 315-335 in E. Forman, N. Minick, and C. A. Stone, eds., Education and Mind: The Integration of Institutional, Social, and Developmental Processes. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Gallimore, R., J. W. Boggs, and C. Jordan 1974 Culture, Behavior, and Education: A Study of Hawaiian-Americans . Beverly Hills, Calif.:Sage.

Goldenberg, C. 1987 Low-income Hispanic parents’ contributions to their first-grade children’s word-recognition skills. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 18:149-179.

In Press Promoting early literacy development among Spanish-speaking children: Lessons from two studies. In E. Hiebert, ed., Teaching Children to Read: The State of Early Interventions. Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon.

Goldenberg, C., and R. Gallimore 1989 Teaching California’s diverse student population: The common ground between educational and cultural research. California Public Schools Forum 3:41-56.

Page 41

Suggested Citation:”REFERENCES.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

Goldenberg, C., L. Reese, and R. Gallimore 1992 Effects of school literacy materials on Latino children’s home experiences and early reading achievement. American Journal of Education 100:497-536.

Greenfield, P. M., and R. R. Cocking, eds. 1994 Cross-Cultural Roots of Minority Child Development. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Griffin, S. A., R. Case, and S. Capodilupo 1995 Teaching for understanding: The importance of central conceptual structures in the elementary school mathematics curriculum. In A. Strauss, ed., Educational Environments. Norwood, N.J.:Ablex.

Griffin, S., R. Case, and R. Sandieson 1992 Synchrony and asynchrony in the acquisition of everyday mathematical knowledge: Towards a representational theory of children’s intellectual growth. In R. Case, ed., The Mind’s Staircase: Exploring the Central Conceptual Underpinnings of Children ‘s Theory and Knowledge. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Press.

Griffin, S., R. Case, and R. Siegler 1992 Rightstart: Providing the Central Conceptual Prerequisites for First Formal Learning of Arithmetic to Students at Risk for School Failure . Unpublished manuscript, Department of Education, Clark University.

Hakuta, K. 1986 Mirrors of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism. New York: Basic Books.

Hakuta, K., and D. D’Andrea 1992 Some properties of bilingual maintenance and loss in Mexican background high-school students. Applied Linguistics 13:72-99.

Hale-Benson, J. 1990 Visions for children: African-American early childhood education programs. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 5:199-213.

Head Start Bureau 1991 Information Memorandum: Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs . Log No. ACYL-IM-91-03, March 5, 1991. Head Start Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, D.C.

Heath, S. B. 1983 Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms . Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Hiebert, J. 1986 Conceptual and Procedural Knowledge: The Case of Mathematics. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Press.

Independent Commission on Chapter 1 1992 Making Schools Work for Children in Poverty: A New Framework Prepared by the Commission on Chapter 1. Washington, D.C.: Independent Commission on Chapter 1.

Jensen, A. 1981 Straight Talk about Mental Tests. New York: Macmillan.

Jipson, J. 1991 Developmentally appropriate practice: Culture, curriculum, connections . Early Education and Development 2:121-136.

Kagan, S. L., and E. Garcia 1991 Educating culturally and linguistically diverse preschoolers: Moving the agenda. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6:427-443.

Page 42

Suggested Citation:”REFERENCES.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

Klenk, L., and A. D. Parecki 1993 Preschool Development in Ethnically and Linguistically Diverse Populations: A Review of the Literature. Paper prepared for the Board on Children and Families, National Research Council. School of Education, University of Michigan.

Landale, N. S. 1994 Migration and the Latino family: The union formation behavior of Puerto Rican women. Demography 31: 133-157.

Laosa, L. M. 1978 Maternal teaching strategies in Chicano families of varied educational and socioeconomic levels. Child Development 49:1129-1135.

1980 Maternal teaching strategies in Chicano and Anglo-American families: The influence of culture and education on maternal behavior. Child Development 51:759-765.

LeVine, R. A. 1977 Child rearing as cultural adaptation. In P. H. Leiderman, S. R. Tulkin, and A. Rosenfeld, eds., Culture and Infancy: Variations in the Human Experience. New York: Academic Press.

Matuti-Bianchi, M. 1986 Ethnic identities and patterns of school success and failure among Mexican-descent and Japanese-American students in a California high school: An ethnographic analysis. American Journal of Education 95:233-255.

McLloyd, V. C. 1990 The impact of economic hardship on black famlies and children: Psychological distress, parenting, and socioemotional development. Child Development 61:311-346.

Moll, L. C., and S. Diaz 1985 Ethnographic pedagogy: Promtoing effective bilingual instruction. Pp. 127-149 in E. Garcia and R. V. Padilla, eds., Advances in Bilingual Education Research. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Moll, L. C., C. Amanti, D. Neff, and N. Gonzalez 1992 Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice 31(2):132-141.

National Association for the Education of Young Children 1989 The Anti-bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

National Association for Family Day Care 1990 Helping Children Love Themselves and Others: A Professional Handbook for Family Day Care Providers. Washington, D.C.: National Association for Family Day Care.

National Association of State Boards of Education 1988 Right from the Start: The Report of the NASBE Task Force on Early Childhood Education. Alexandria, Va.: National Association of State Boards of Education.

National Research Council 1992 Assessing Evaluation Studies: The Case of Bilingual Education Strategies . Panel to Review Evaluation Studies of Bilingual Education, Committee on National Statistics. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

O’Connell, M. 1994 Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements, Fall, 1991. Series P-70, No. 36, Bureau of the Census. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce.

Page 43

Suggested Citation:”REFERENCES.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

Ogbu, J. U. 1978 Minority Education and Caste: The American System in Cross-Cultural Perspective. New York: Academic Press.

1982 Cultural discontinuities and schooling. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 13:290-307.

1993 Differences in cultural frame of reference. International Journal of Behavioral Development 16:483-506.

Obgu, J. U., and M. Matuti-Bianchi 1986 Understanding sociocultural factors: Knowledge, identity, and school adjustment. Pp. 73-142 in Beyond Language: Social and Cultural Factors in Language Minority Students. Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University.

Owen, V., and T. Shanahan 1993 Validating Success: A Three-Year Evaluation of the Children’s Literacy Gains, National Louis University. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, Ga.

Pease-Alvarez, L., and K. Hakuta 1992 Enriching our views of bilingualism and bilingual education. Educational Researcher 21:4-6.

Pease-Alvarez, L., E. Garcia, and R. Espinosa 1991 Effective instruction for language-minority students: An early childhood case study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6:347-361.

Philips, S. 1972 Participant structures and communictive competence: Warm Springs children in community and classroom. In C. Cazden, V. John, and D. Hymes, eds., Functions of Language in the Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Prince, C. D., and L. A. Lawrence 1993 School Readiness and Language Minority Students: Implications of the First National Education Goal. Focus Occasional Papers in Bilingual Education, No. 7. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University.

Resnick, L. B. 1983 A developmental theory of number understanding. In H. P. Ginsburg, ed., The Development of Mathematical Understanding. New York: Academic Press.

Rogoff, B., J. Mistry, A. Goncu, and C. Mosier 1993 Guided participation in cultural activity by toddlers and caregivers . Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development Serial No. 236, 58(8).

Schon D. A. 1987 Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shanahan, T., and F. Rodriguez-Brown 1993 Project FLAME: The Theory and Structure of a Family Literacy Program for the Latino Community, University of Illinois at Chicago. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, Ga.

Siegler, R. S., and M. Robinson 1982 The development of numerical understandings. In H.W. Reese and L.P. Lipsitt, eds., Advances in Child Development and Behavior. New York: Academic Press.

Snow, C. E. 1983 Literacy and language. Harvard Educational Review 53:165-189.

1992 Perspectives on second-language development: Implications for bilingual education. Educational Researcher 21:6-19.

Page 44

Suggested Citation:”REFERENCES.” National Research Council. 1994. Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9197. 

Snow, C. E., and D. K. Dickinson 1991 Skills that aren’t basic in a new conception of literacy. In A. Purves and E. Jennings, eds., Literate Systems and Individual Lives. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press.

Stanford Working Group 1993 Federal Education Programs for Limited-English-Proficient Students: A Blueprint for the Second Generation. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University.

Stipek, D., S. Milburn, D. Galluzzo, and D. Daniels 1992 Parents’ beliefs about appropriate education for young children. Journal of Applied Development Psychology 13(3):293-310.

Teale, W. and E. Sulzby, eds. 1986 Emergent Literacy: Writing and Reading. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.

Tharp, R. G. 1989 Psychocultural variables and constants: Effects on teaching and learning in schools. American Psychologist 44:349-359.

Tharp, R. G., and R. Gallimore 1988 Rousing Minds to Life: Teaching, Learning and Schooling in Social Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

U.S. Department of Education 1992 The Condition of Bilingual Education in the Nation: A Report to the Congress and the President. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.

1993 Reinventing Chapter 1: The Current Chapter 1 Program and New Directions . Final Report to the National Assessment of the Chapter 1 Program. Office of Policy and Planning, Planning and Evaluation Service. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.

Vogt, L. A., C. Jordan, and R. G. Tharp 1987 Explaining school failure, producing school success: Two cases. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 18:276-286.

Weisner, T. W., R. Gallimore, and C. Jordan 1989 Unpackaging cultural effects on classroom learning: Native Hawaiian peer assistance and child-generated activity. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 19(4):327-353.

Williams, L. R. 1991 Curriculum making in two voices: Dilemmas of inclusion in early childhood education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 6:303-311.

Winterton, W. A. 1977 The Effect of Extended Wait-Time on Selected Verbal Response Characteristics of Some Pueblo Indian Children (Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico, 1976). Dissertation Abstracts International 38:620-A. (University Microfilms No. 77-16, 130)

White, S., and R. S. Tharp 1988 Questioning and Wait-Time: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, La.


Cultural Diversity and Early Education

Report of a Workshop


The Challenge of Cultural Diversity, Origins and Purpose of the Workshop, The Role and Meaning of Culture, Assumptions About Children and Learning, The Report

Parental Beliefs, Home Experiences that Support Learning, Social Conventions, Summary


Exposure to Early Learning Experiences, The Social Context of Learning, Effects on Children, Summary


Goals of Early Education, How Teachers View Their Role, Effective Instruction in Diverse Classrooms,The Role of Parents, Summary


Children as Cultural Brokers, Bilingual Language Instruction, Effective Educational Practices, Nonminority Children as Beneficiaries of Cultural Diversity, Sampling Strategies for Studying Culture and Social Class, The Community Context of Multicultural Education, Research Capacity


Leave a Reply