What is DivEd?

Housed at the University of Turku, DivEd is a partnership among the Universities of Turku, Tampere, Oulu, Lapland and Åbo Akademi (Swedish), as well as two Universities of Applied Science – DIAK in Helsinki and HAMK in Hämeenlinna. DivEd is one of several projects funded by the Finnish Ministry of Culture in response to changes in the Finnish national curriculum adopted in 2014, specifically in the areas of language awareness and cultural responsiveness. DivEd is also collaborating with advisory partners from other universities in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. What unites us all is seeking to understand how to prepare all teachers to work in the linguistically and culturally diverse world they live in.

Specifically, DivEd’s goals are to

  • Develop / increase culturally sustaining and linguistically responsive pedagogy in Finland
  • Increase awareness among Teacher Educators working with preservice teachers
  • Be a catalyst for changes in Teacher Education curricula
  • Increase awareness and provide specific strategies to in-service teachers

These goals will be addressed through 2 major strands targeted at initial Teacher preparation and in-service teachers. Project personnel with engage Teacher Education faculty at the participating institutions to provide an overarching framework for the work. Community Ambassadors – one from each university – will identify and work with several target schools in their corresponding municipalities to do needs analyses and provide professional development. In addition, individual teachers in each area will be engaged in Action Research regarding their own development as linguistically and culturally responsive educators.

The overarching themes / frameworks that will inform every aspect of the project are

  • Critical sociocultural theory
  • The idea that schools are major sites for the identity development of children
  • Teachers’ actions matter in supporting or undermining students’ potential for fully participating in the larger society with all of its dimensions of power and privilege.

Diversity / Identity include multiple facets: Ethnicity, language, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, religion, social class, migrant status, geography, social exclusion
Explicit recognition of interplay of external socio-political context and student outcomes and success

VISION FOR THIS WEBSITE: This website will become an interactive resource for teachers and teacher educators in Finland, organized around 7 areas of practices synthesized from the current literature on linguistically responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy. These include: Identity & Cultural Competence; Instructional Strategies; Differentiated Assessment; Multilingualism; Language Demand; Home, School, Community Connections; and Promoting Equity. For each of the areas of practice, users will be able to access

  • An overall description of the area of practice
  • The related research and key articles
  • Examples from and interviews with practicing teachers
  • Video clips of practices in action
  • Materials that can be downloaded.


Linguistically Responsive Instruction

Our view of Linguistically Responsive Instruction is based, in large part, on the framework proposed by Lucas & Villegas (2011 & 2013) that includes both the orientations / dispositions that teachers should embrace, as well as particular instructional practices.

The orientations include:

  • An understanding that language, culture, and identity are deeply interconnected;
  • Value for linguistic diversity:
  • Inclination to advocate for [second] language learners:

Pedagogical knowledge and skills of linguistically responsive teachers

  • A repertoire of strategies for learning about the linguistic and academic backgrounds of [second language learners] in [the language of instruction] and their native languages
  • An understanding of and ability to apply key principles of second language learning
  • Ability to identify the language demands of classroom tasks
  • A repertoire of strategies for scaffolding instruction for [second language learners] with study guides, translation, and redundancy in instruction; and providing clear and explicit instructions.

In addition, linguistically responsive teachers view students’ multilingualism as a resource and promote students’ abilities to draw on all of their linguistic resources for learning content, regardless of the type of program they are in or the language of instruction.

See: Lucas, T. & Villegas, A.M (2011) A framework for preparing linguistically responsive teachers Chapter 4 pp 55 – 72 in Lucas, T. (Ed). Teacher Preparation for Linguistically Diverse Classrooms: A Resource for Teacher Educators. NY Routledge
Lucas, T. & Villegas, A.M. (2013) Preparing Linguistically Responsive Teachers: Laying the Foundation in Preservice Teacher Education, Theory Into Practice, 52:2, 98-109,

Culturally Responsive / Sustaining Pedagogy Gay, 200o & 2002; Ladson-Billings, 1994 & 1995; Paris, 2012; Villegas & Lucas, 2007)

Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the idea of Culturally relevant pedagogy to describe ”a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.” (1994) pp 16–17. According to Geneva Gay (2002) culturally responsive teaching connects students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to academic knowledge and intellectual tools in ways that legitimize what students already know.

These perspectives are strongly linked to the idea that schools are sites for students’ identity development and that it is important to get to know students, their families and communities in order to create a classroom setting where all students have a sense of belonging and feel respected. Classrooms are characterized by high expectations, active learning methods, reshaping the curriculum, an asset view of families, student-controlled discourse and an explicit analysis of the power structure of society.

As the field has grown over the past 25 years, the idea of moving from simply recognizing and affirming students’ cultural and identity backgrounds has shifted to a perspective suggested by Paris (2012) of culturally sustaining practices. Culturally sustaining practices are those that not only recognize and affirm students’ home cultures, practices and identities, but seek to develop and expand them in the school context.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Paris, D. (2012) Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice. Educational Researcher, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 93-97 DOI: 10.3102/0013189X12441244