Theories into Multiculturalism

By Angelina Russo- Van Houten

Three Theories to Consider

  • Mechanistic (Behavioral) Approach
  • Cognitive (Psychological) Approach
  • Sociocultural (Contextual) Approach

Using Mechanistic Approach

This theory focuses on someone's past behaviors and experiences leading to future behaviors and experiences. The theory mostly shows that development is measured by quantitivity.

This is an important aspect of adult learning in a multicultural setting because every person is going to bring past experiences and behaviors to the work place. Knowing how to incorporate this theory will help build stronger behaviors and experiences to organization.

This can be done using the following strategies:
  • Giving employees plenty of practice in their new role
  • Having a grading system to measure growth
  • Rewarding with small prizes and praise

To put this into motion it is best to assess prior knowledge the person will have on the topic and than teach based on what is already known.

Using Cognitive Approach

This theory focuses on the internal development of a person by using their interactions with environment to differentiate between life events.

This theory is important for multicultural adult learners because every person will be going through different life states while employed. Some cultures will experience different life stages than others.

To use this theory one should consider that people are actively participating in their own development and that the development is never ending. This means that skills learned will impact their life outside of the organization.

This theory can be incorporated by using the following strategies:
  • Role playing
  • Reverse role playing
  • journal writing that uses feelings and observations

This type of approach will only be successful if the instructor creates an atmosphere of trust, safety, and respect for the fellow learners.

Using Sociocultural Approach

This approach focuses on the idea that people are not separated from the context in which they live but are actually part of it. It outlines that social influences such as race, gender, and class impact social, verbal, and reading skills. These skills then determine who the person will become.

This theory is important to consider because it allows a company to really focus on some of the more challenging aspects of multicultural learning. By catering to this theory an organization is able to create a valued employee that feels they are treated fairly.

The teacher and student participate in this learning style.

This theory can be incorporated by using the following strategies:
  • Using observations in learning
  • Collaborating in a learning enviroment
  • Scaffolding

This learning type focuses on justice and fairness for all employees.


Four Adult Development Theories and Their Implications for Practice. (2001). Retrieved from