June 2004 -- Volume 8, Number 1

One Classroom, Many Worlds: Teaching and learning in the cross-cultural classroom

Jacklyn Blake Clayton (2003)
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Pp. 192.
ISBN 0-325-00548-6 (paper).

Multiculturalism is an attitude toward all of life [ . . . ] understanding on the self and the assumptions that generate our own reality. [ . . . ] Multiculturalism means being proud of the cultural diversity [and] giving up the melting pot" (pp. 169-170)

One Classroom, Many Worlds, as one can infer from the title and Jacklyn Clayton's previous works in the field (1995; 1996), addresses issues of different nature, and many races and lands. Jacklyn Clayton focuses on the cross cultural problems and different realities that integration of immigrant cultures bring into the classroom from diverse points of view. Thus, the book is especially aimed at practicing teachers and researchers in the field of culture in school settings.

Based on the Kluckhohn model of Value Orientations (Kluckhohn and Strodbeck 1961; Ortuno 1991; Orteza-Lee 2001) and focusing on the writer's own idea of the middle class prototypical American teacher, this book analyses behaviors and human values of students from all over the world as seen by typical 'American teachers and people's expectations' (if such type of teachers and expectations really exist). The writer seems to state two unwritten main hypotheses: first, immigrants' behaviors are seen as unexpected and difficult to understand by the common American school teacher; and, second, there are no universals in human values and behaviors. According to these two hypotheses, the author challenges all the school bodies to change their way of looking at these behaviors and proposes a more multicultural and welcoming academic atmosphere.

The book is divided into nine chapters with a clear orientation that moves from theoretical research to social issues (including family) to finally address the same issue in the school context. The structure of each chapter adheres to the following pattern:

  1. The chapter begins with a case study which is solved through the chapter and concludes with a practical reflection about the case at the end of the very same chapter.
  2. Then the author addresses the theoretical framework with many examples to clearly identify and illustrate the point.
  3. Each chapter also includes some reflective exercises and questions under the heading of 'journal time' and ideas for classroom application titled 'Try this'. They are self visible as the author displays these exercises in grey squares which allow the reader to stop and think before going onto the following section.
  4. [-1-]

Besides, at the end of book there is an interesting and extensive bibliography (more than 70 items). Although some readers may miss mentions to previous works in the same field from authors like Genelle Morain, a true pioneer in the issue, Kramsch and Widdowson, Lantolf or Kauchru, there is little question that the author is more centered in school environments than in language learning, and the authors she mentions are self representative of the interdisciplinary approach she uses.

In reference to the thematic distribution, as stated above, the book is divided into nine chapters which are also cyclical. Thus, the conclusive chapter is ideological, utopian and full of hope. The rest of the book is distributed in the following way:

  • Chapter One addresses general issues of culture stressing ethnocentrism as a universal trend, and claims the need to review the reader's ideas about one's cultural perspectives, cultural patterns transfer, and also of acceptable and expected behavior and stereotyping.
  • Chapter Two points out the necessity to discriminate between our expectations of the general student and the newly arrived ones. To achieve this goal, Clayton explains the concept of socialization as cultural transforming force within society, family and the self.
  • Chapter Three tries to illustrate how cultures differ not only geographically in the world but also socially (class, gender, race and the like). As other relevant researchers (Simoes 1981; Scott 1994; Yang 1998), Clayton bases her approach to culture and values on Klockhohn's culture framework which explains and differentiates cultural patterns and behaviors (what I would call, ways of being). It also makes a distinction between the cultures aimed at 'being' and 'doing'.
  • Chapter Four pays special attention to cultural approaches to learning and makes a clear distinction between the individual's learning styles and social approaches to school procedures (including expected the school's culture and ways, and teachers' expectations).
  • Chapter Five addresses a number of issues related to language, thought and how students transfer their ideas to others, how this information and pragmatic discourse oddness is reflected in the speakers' attitudes and cross linguistic understanding (for instance, in peer or teacher--student interaction). It also claims the importance of mutual respect and will of learning-from-one-another.
  • Chapter Six looks at forms and meanings of non verbal communication and how space and time are perceived differently across cultures.
  • Chapter Seven studies the modes of acculturation (Berry, Kin and Boski, 1988) and their influence in the immigrants' daily lives in society, at home and in school. The fact that peers and teachers ignore the process of acculturation and its connotations in the individual's behavior makes socializing communication extremely difficult at times. Therefore this chapter would especially benefit teachers working with such newcomers by familiarizing themselves with these acculturation options. Although the reader will probably miss some type of tables to summarize the differences across cultures.
  • Chapter Eight emphasizes the practitioner teachers' need to go beyond their expectations and make an effort to observe, analyze, understand and learn from their pupils' cultural patterns to acquire an acculturated-free vision of the different behaviors occurring in and out the class (including the relation with parents as well). [-2-]

Throughout the book, Clayton challenges the teachers' idea that 'all the people are exactly alike and should behave in similar ways' from some different and interdisciplinary perspectives: linguistic, sociological, anthropological and, more important, humanistic. The book is amusing and reader-friendly and full of illustrative anecdotes but also culturally biased. In her interest to point out the ignorance of white middle class teachers' attitudes towards their immigrant students, Clayton unintentionally sets other audiences aside. For instance, having been a secondary teacher I in Spain for eight years I have also shared some of the feelings and experiences described in the book. Although mostly interested in the content, I find it difficult to identify myself with the problems and issues presented in the book as the writer constantly addresses this "white middle class American teachers" (p. 79, 97 and many others). Of course, the book was written for certain audience but one wonders how much non-American teachers would learn from this excellent compilation of theory and experiences.

Overall, after reading this book, I believe it is quite thorough and extensive in its coverage. I most value the way the author has approached the topic from theory to practice and those practical ideas ('Try this' and 'Journal time') mentioned above so that the reader gets the feeling he can understand, comprehend and sympathize with the newcomers to his own class. For the international reader, however, it may be a bit de-contextualized but also worth to a read due to the different topics covered in the text. Nevertheless, I would advise the prospective reader to keep always in mind that the book is not an end in itself but a starting point for personal learning and enjoyment because international readers and also the American ones really learn and love something when it can be genuinely understood. Thus, most readers will find that One Classroom, Many Worlds: Teaching and learning in the cross-cultural classroom is a very positive learning experience because it is very attractively written and deep in its invitation to self commit in providing equal educational opportunities to all students (native and immigrant). Clayton offers us the opportunity to change our ways, thought and feelings to introduce affect and multiculturalism in the modern America (and the rest of the World) classrooms. Consequently, I would certainly recommend this book to teacher trainers, practicing teachers or public administrators in multicultural settings who will find the book attractive and most useful in their daily lives.

One last word

Anyone interested in Clayton's work should visit any of the following websites:


Jesus Garcia Laborda
Universidad Politecnica de Valencia


Berry, J. W., Kim, U., & Boski, P. (1988). Psychological acculturation of immigrants. In Y. Y. Kim, & W.B. Gudykunst (Eds.), Cross-cultural adaptation: Current approaches (pp. 62--89). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Clayton, J. B. (1995) Your Land, My Land: Children in the Process of Acculturation. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Clayton, J. B. (1996) "Voices from the Fringe". Voices from the Middle; 3(3): 3-7.

Kluckhohn, F. R. & Fred L. Strodtbeck. (1961) Variations in Value

Orientations. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Orteza-Lee, L. (2001) Teaching Cultural Diversity through Children's Literature: Applying the Kluckhohn Model. Philippines: New Day Publishers.

Ortuno, M. M. (1991) "Cross-Cultural Awareness in the Foreign Language Class: The Kluckhohn Model". Modern Language Journal; 75(4): 449-59.

Simoes, A. Jr. (1981) Data Banks Revisited: The Use of Informational Systems in a Multilingual-Multicultural Environment. ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 212144.

Scott, D. L. (1994) Cross-Cultural Value Orientations: Clinical Implications from an Analysis of the Theory and Research. ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED379201.

Yang, J. (1998). "Understanding worldviews: Global and postmodern perspectives". Proceedings of the International Conference on Counseling in the 21st Century, Sydney, Australia, December 29-31, 1998. ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 439370.

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation..