Module 4: Differences in the Classroom

April 5th, 2017

In my future career as a teacher, I expect to encounter students with a range of differences, from cultural background to economic status, and students with disabilities and high performers. From my experience observing in the classroom, I was able to see how a cooperating teacher was able to adjust curriculum for all of her students, which went from high performance classrooms, all the way to low performing students who were mainly ELL or those with IEP’s. I can identify these differences by reviewing assessments and communicating with prior educators as well as special education teachers. Having conferences with students’ families to discuss their background and knowledge of the individual needs of their child would also be beneficial.

One way I can plan to work with a range of scoring students in the classroom would be to implement groupwork regularly into my curriculum. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center of Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, “Group projects can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world (Caruso & Woolley, 2008; Mannix & Neale, 2005). Positive group experiences, moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall college success (Astin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006).” The article goes on to say that working with diverse viewpoints can benefit the development of collaborative skills. Its important to plan for differences in ability and educational level because not all students come in the same, and not all coursework will be at the appropriate level of difficulty for each student. Allowing students to work together gives them additional opportunities to explain work to other students, and therefore deepen their own understanding, while the student having difficulty with work has the opportunity to discuss issues or questions they may not feel comfortable with discussing in a large class setting. This setting also has a breakdown of the student-teacher power dynamic, which can be intimidating for students who are having difficulty with content material and assignments.

Another major difference among students is economic status (and family situation in general), which according to Woolfolk, is the greatest indicator of cultural difference. As per the discussion on Lareau, not all students are given the same opportunities. I mentioned in my Module 4 Activity that I definitely identify with the middle class family and student dynamic. I had the opportunity to participate in groups and activities outside of school. I also had a really supportive family that encouraged me to pursue my interest in reading. Not all students will come into my class with the support from their family, nor the ability to participate in activities and groups outside of the class.

When I was in school, I recall a teacher that assigned each student to buy and bring in wipe-off markers to be left in the classroom bin, which would be a five point grade in the grade book. I remember feeling personally annoyed at having to pay for something for class that I wouldn’t be using, but for a student who didn’t have the funds, this “assignment” could be really frustrating and embarrassing. This would either force the student to speak with the teacher about their financial situation or take the 0/5 grade for not bringing in markers. In the future, I must be more aware of and sensitive to my students’ situations and avoid situations that would force them to either divulge sensitive information they wouldn’t have ordinarily shared, or set them up for failure through no fault of their own.


University, C. M. (n.d.). What are the benefits of group work?-Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation – Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved April, 2017, from
Hoy, A. W. (2017). Educational psychology: active learning edition (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
Lareau, A. (2013, March 26). Do parenting strategies affect the long term outcomes for children? An interview with Annette Lareau [YouTube Video]. Https://

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Marly Harmeling  |  April 24th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    I had never really thought of the practice of buying supplies for the classroom s one that could be discriminatory to those who have limited finances. I think especially of the practice of students being responsible for contributing to the classroom supply of Kleenex boxes; its a popular practice, but could be more difficult for those with limited finances.

    Secondly, although I see the value of group work, I do notice one common problem of one student doing the majority of the work and the others not really learning anything. I see frequently in college and in my O&P observations. How might you combat this problem in your future classroom?

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