As teachers we are going to encounter numerous students from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is our responsibility to figure out ways to reach such a diverse group of students so as to maximize their learning potential and set them up for success in the next grade, in college, and in life. This can often be a very hard task for teachers to accomplish.
As I stated above, our students will come from many different places and offer many different perspectives. Each student is going to have their own racial, social, and sexual identities. These identities can often clash in a classroom, making the classroom environment very toxic. As teachers, it is our responsibility to bring these different students together to try and teach them, not only the course content, but also to teach them to respect where each person comes from.
One of the biggest differences among students is their family’s socio-economic status. Poverty level or low socio-economic status is the biggest indicator as to how a student will do in class (Keddie, p. 326, 2012). When families struggle with money, they are often more concerned with more pressing issues than their child’s education. For instance, they may be more worried about putting food on the table that night, rather than a low grade their child got on an assignment. This can often be the hardest thing to work around as a teacher because we do not have any control over it. Some schools have attempted to counteract some of this issue by providing free breakfast and lunches to all students (Keddie, p. 329, 2012). That way the poorer students can rely on getting some type of meal at least twice daily during the school week. Teachers are often encouraged to go out and buy supplies that they can give to or loan out to students so they may complete their assignments on time (Keddie, p. 329, 2012).
There are a few different ways in which teachers can try to counteract these differences. Researchers found that putting students in small, heterogeneous groups allowed each student to benefit from the talents that the other student’s brought (Miller, McKissik, Ivy, & Moser, p. 87, 2017). What they meant by heterogeneous groups was basically grouping students with a wide range of skill levels. This way students who usually underachieved were helped out by those students who generally did better in class. Those students who did better in class, were able to reinforce the material because they got to teach it to other students. This way each student could learn the material more organically.
They also found that the ideal number of students in these groups was either 4 or 5 (Miller, et al. p. 88, 2017). As a smaller group, each student got to participate a little more equally and did not feel crowded out or intimidated by a larger group of students. They did, however, warn that grouping students together like this might not always work. Student motivation can often be a deterrent when working in groups. Those students who are not motivated, often do not contribute, and therefore are a hindrance to the group’s learning.
Another way in which teachers can try to bring diverse students together in the classroom is through the implementation of technology. Seeing as the world we live in is highly connected through technology, teachers can now connect students to other cultures and people from around the world. Studies have shown that connecting students to some of the cultures and people they may be learning about is very beneficial for their understanding of the material (Sheard & Lynch, p. 250, 2003). When students are able to meet, talk with, or experience what other cultures go through, they gain a whole new perspective on, not only themselves, but their fellow students as well. It was also suggested in the article that a genealogy project would be beneficial for students to understand where they came from (Sheard & Lynch, p. 252, 2003). This would be very beneficial for teachers because it would give them insight into where their students come from and what they may be experiencing at home. This could be a stand in for the “Things I want my teacher to know about me” assignment we did at the beginning of the semester.
Teaching is a hard profession. Teachers are given students from all sorts of backgrounds and places and are expected to reach and teach each and everyone of them. The diversity that teachers face can often be hard to overcome. Each student learns at a different pace, some quickly, others slowly. Outside factors, such as family socio-economic level, can have adverse effects on a student and classroom. Teachers can help offset these factors by grouping students together, so they may learn from each other, or, by connecting these students with other people and cultures through the use of technology. Whichever way works best for the teacher, they must never forget that the learning and success of each student is paramount.
Further Learner Diversity Stuff:
- Miller, N., McKissick, B., Ivy, J., & Moser, K. (2017) Supporting Diverse Young Adolescents: Cooperative Grouping in Inclusive Middle-level Settings, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 90:3, 86-92.
- Keddie, A. (2012). The Complexities, Challenges and Possibilities of an Inquiry-based Approach to Learner Diversity. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 59(3), 325-332.
- Sheard, J., & Lynch, J. (2003). Accommodating Learner Diversity in Web-based Learning Environments:: Imperatives for Future Developments. International Journal Of Computer Processing Of Oriental Languages, 16(4), 243-260.