Italian socio-cultural landscape has changed dramatically in a relatively short time (since the early 1990s). Due to the influx of immigrants and the changing demographics of classrooms, teachers are faced with pressure to adapt to the classroom environment and the pressures from the Italian educational bureaucracy. The pressures generated by these environmental factors have been particularly acute due to the absence of adequate resources. This research study focuses on the classroom changes in the context of the regional and larger Italian societal changes, addressing the increasingly significant problem of teaching in a multicultural classroom environment.
This study employed ethnographic methods of data collection and analysis employing qualitative, open-ended interviews to examine teachers' perspectives on their everyday practices, actions, and reactions to multicultural changes in classroom environments in central Marche Region. Regional, national, and European policy documents were collected for the analysis. Analysis of policy documents revealed complexity and changeability in mandates under conditions of inadequate resources and additional demands on their time.
Faced with the realities in their classrooms, teachers adapted to the rapid changes by drawing on their own creativity, developing various methodologies to approach the cultural other, such as songs and personal stories. These pedagogical tools were multi-dimensional in terms of their positive effects on the students, which included reducing stereotypes - beyond ethnocentricity - and strengthening student empathy, among others. Other important meta-themes were improved sense of self, students as researchers, and students as resources. These meta-themes support important over-arching themes related to intercultural pedagogy, the valorization of diversity and student engagement. A common unifying theme was identified that teachers who were involved in successfully engaging students were themselves strongly engaged.