Open the box
: a narrative inquiry using a culture box to support a multicultural curriculum in a primary school classroom

  • Mary E Phipps

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study responds to shifts away from teaching and learning about race and ethnic diversity since the 1988 National Curriculum in England, and to the downgrading of a Multicultural content within the curriculum and schools. It aimed to explore how children, parents and community members can be engaged in supporting and implementing a multicultural curriculum in a primary school. Through Narrative Inquiry I allow my own autobiography as a Black British child, adult and educator to run through this thesis.

The study is framed by the theory of critical interpretivism and draws on Banks’ (2014) five-dimensional framework of Multicultural Education. My understanding of a multicultural curriculum is developed within the Literature Review, which also reviews other theories. Policies, reports and how they have influenced the UK curriculum and initial teacher education from the late1950s to the present, are explored chronologically like a timeline to show their impact on Multicultural Education.

In the research, I designed a pedagogy in which children collected personal artefacts in a “Culture Box” and then talked about their artefacts. Through Narrative Inquiry, the children’s stories and narrative interviews, I was able to investigate how this pedagogy could support children’s sense of identity, enable children to share their cultural heritage, support their success at school, and be implemented in a primary school. To further understand how family stories can relate to the curriculum, I also conducted narrative interviews with my own and the children’s parents.

Analysing the data using Thematic Analysis, the findings indicated that the Culture Boxes enabled children, parents and community members to talk about their lives, families, homes, culture, religion, heritage and histories. In doing so, they re-created a distinctive cohesive culture. Sharing peers’ narratives expanded the children’s knowledge and appreciation of diverse cultures within the UK. Thus, the research illustrates how children can engage with and contribute to an inclusive multicultural curriculum. Teachers highlighted barriers to implementing a multicultural curriculum as well as ways forward for schools and teacher education programmes. Finally, the thesis concludes with how the use of a Culture Box can help support policy and practice for a Multicultural Education that enables teachers to meet the needs of all pupils so they can achieve their potential. Gollnick and Chinn stated,

This goal can only be accomplished by understanding the cultural strengths brought to the class by students from diverse backgrounds and using these cultural advantages to develop effective instructional strategies. (Gollnick and Chinn, 1983, p.31)
Date of Award6 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorSheila M Trahar (Supervisor), Angeline M Barrett (Supervisor) & Leon P Tikly (Supervisor)

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