Teaching “Difficult Knowledge” in the Multicultural Classroom

Conference: The European Conference on Education (ECE2022)
Title: Teaching “Difficult Knowledge” in the Multicultural Classroom
Stream: Education, Sustainability & Society: Social Justice, Development & Political Movements
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Noemi Yovel, College of Education, Israel


How can we teach ‘difficult knowledge’ in the multicultural classroom, and create a save space for students to engage with it inclusively? Difficult knowledge, a concept introduced by Britzman (1998) denotes the representation of social trauma in curricula as well a learner’s encounter with it (Pitt and Britzman, 2003) - an encounter that often triggers strong emotional responses, especially when difficult knowledge is entangled with questions of identity. Choosing content from which students are historically, geographically and politically distanced can prevent students from becoming stuck in negative emotions, but becomes more challenging when teaching a diverse student body. This paper explores links between difficult knowledge, collective trauma and critical thinking through conceptual research and a case study based on classroom observations, assessments and discussions from three consecutive literary courses taught in a teacher education master program in Israel. The data helps determining components within a learning model for a diversity course that stresses the importance of strategic guidance when teaching difficult knowledge.

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