Diversity in the Classroom
With increased globalization especially due to improved transportation technologies, the modern classroom has become more diverse than any other period in the history of education. As such, today’s classroom is influenced by various forms of diversity based on factors such as race, culture, ethnicity, religion, and gender. In addition, there is diversity related to academics and the specific learning styles. The later forms of diversity have emerged due to the dynamic learning environment and the emergence of new knowledge and teaching techniques. The teacher should be aware of the different forms of diversity that he/she may encounter in today’s classrooms. This can help in adequately preparing to impact knowledge on the diverse group of students. This paper examines the concept of diversity in today’s classroom as well as the needs of the elementary school learner.
Gender diversity is one of the common forms of diversity in the modern classroom. Gender diversity can enable the teacher to provide a non-discriminatory and supportive environment to all students, and regardless of their gender. Modern day classrooms are more diverse in terms of gender compared to the traditional classrooms. For instance, there are students who consider themselves as gender-nonconforming, while others may identify themselves as transgender. In the past, the teacher could discriminate students for identifying one as transgender. Moving forward, current regulations require that the teacher will develop a conducive environment to learning for all gender. The teacher should not only be aware of the existence of multiple gender but also take necessary action to bring about gender inclusivity in the learning environment. As Parker (2012) asserts, people should always go the extra mile. As such, the teacher should go the extra mile in helping students feel comfortable.
Racial diversity is also common in today’s classroom. Race is unitary and relates to how others see or treat an individual. Racial diversity in the classroom ensures that there are varying understandings and life experiences among individuals. For instance, African Americans and the Whites hold divergent views on many issues touching on politics, lifestyle, religion, death penalty, and other things. The teacher should note that race significantly affects perception. According to Packard (2013), Black students hold distinct communication styles from their White counterparts. They also have different learning styles. For instance, while Black students are more likely to discuss issues to do with minority groups, their White counterparts are likely to discuss issues concerning sexual orientation, class and gender. Black students show a stronger connection between their own experiences and social theory. On the other hand, White students show exhibit a weak connection between their own experiences and social theory.
Ethnicity has a close link to race. This concept refers to the particular way in which people see themselves or one’s group membership. Ethnicity describes one’s affiliation. Thus, an individual can have more than one ethnicity. In order for learning to be effective, teachers must engage the learners effectively to know more about them in a personal manner. This ensures that the teacher does not rely on ethnic stereotypes perpetuated through decades. In addition, the teacher does not rely on the prior knowledge gained from his/her interaction with other students of similar ethnic background. According to Packard (2013), students must feel welcomed and acknowledged in the classroom environment for them to be at ease and for any meaningful learning to take place. For instance, White students records the highest positive scores when asked their experience of the classroom. On the other hand, Black students reported a lower concerning how welcome they feel in the classroom.
Culture relates to the social aspect of a person’s life. Culture relates to the values, norms, beliefs, and expressive symbols that people learn by associating with others. A normal classroom contains students who hold different beliefs, values, norms, and expressive symbols. The major role of the teacher with regard to cultural diversity is to ensure that students are aware and respect other cultures. In a typical classroom setting, students are more likely to exhibit in-group and out-group behaviors. As such, students are likely to react in a neutral or positive manner when dealing with another student from a familiar culture. However, the learners may be apprehensive of another learner who holds an unfamiliar culture. The teacher should ensure that students could tolerate and cherish different lifestyles of other students. Teaching students to appreciate different cultures is a way of introducing them to the real world. As Parker (2012) puts it, he fear is always there, but it all depends on the choices we make to do about fear.
Religious diversity is also common in the classrooms. Due to immigration, today’s classroom is more diverse than ever in terms of religion. Common religions in the United States include Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other smaller religious denominations (Southerland & Scharmann, 2013). In addition, there are those who are unaffiliated with other groups such as the atheists. The U.S. adopts a neutral approach in matters concerning religion and education. This means that there is separation of school curriculum and the many religious groups that exists. This helps prevent conflict between the curriculum and religious sects. In science learning, sometimes the student learns about things directly conflict with his/her life. For instance, science theories on origins of life may conflict with some religious views held by some of the students.
Diversity concerning academics and learning styles also exist. Individuals may require different learning styles in order to ensure learning takes place. Al-Azawei and Lundqvist (2015) categorize learners into two depending on the learning styles; the sensing learner and the intuitive learner. The sensing learners are methodical. This means that they can easily memorize facts. In addition, they can be able to follow standard procedures and to follow specific rules. The intuitive learner is defined by two key characteristics; they are highly imaginative and tend to abstract things. The intuitive learners enjoy discovering new things. There is also diversity in the way the learners prefer receiving content. The visual leaners prefer information that is presented visually, such as through diagrams, charts, pictures, and others. On the other hand, there are verbal learners who prefer learning through spoken words.
Diversity exists in the classroom relating to academic success. While some students are academically talented, others could be struggling in their education. Generally, Whites perform better compared to African Americans. Various issues contribute to the academic gap between Whites and the Blacks. Some of these include educational level of parents, poverty levels, and the environment. According to Blume (2016), cross-racial interactions could significantly improve the learning experiences of minority students. The study identifies a number of factors that improve the feelings of belonging among ethnic minority learners. These include the racial climate at school, cross-racial interactions, and co-curricular activities. The teacher should ensure that he/she helps even the weaker students to progress in their education (Parker, 2012). Teachers have the opportunity to transform students’ lives.
Emotional diversity is another key aspect in determining a student’s success. Emotional diversity relates to the diverse range of emotions exhibited by learners in the process of acquiring knowledge. Text anxiety is of the dominant topics in matters involving emotional diversity. Test anxiety can significantly affect the performance of the students in tests and exams. According to Weiner (2015), emotions are intrapsychic as opposed to being the products of a social phenomenon. In other words, emotions are private experiences that may have a positive or negative influence on the person involved. The personal aspect of emotions leads to the emergence of the concept of antecedents and the specific details involved in measurement and identification. For instance, one may develop the antecedents of feeling where one holds the thought that he/she is going fail. It is impossible to consider emotions as social occurrences since some of these are inborn.
Another significant concept relating to diversity in the classroom is multiple intelligences. The concept of multiple intelligence holds that intelligence is fragmented into different specific modalities rather than a domination by a particular ability. The implication of this is that a teacher should assess student using multiple intelligence rather than a specific intelligence. According to the multiple intelligence theory, teachers should consider eight human intelligences. The multiple intelligences include musical/rhythmic, verbal-linguistic, visual-spatial, bodily kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In the earlier period, the focus was on two multiple intelligences, namely verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligence. Teachers should tailor classroom activities to fit the specific needs of the students in order to implement the multiple intelligence concept. Multiple intelligence approach can be a good way for the teacher to introduce flexibility in learning.
Language is another major source of diversity in the globalized world. Language diversity affects students who come from overseas countries, and especially the non-English speaking countries. The hearing-impaired students who prefer to through regular classes also experience language diversity. When handling students with language issues, the teacher must try to ensure that the language he/she uses is appropriate to the level of those affected by language diversity. The teacher may give more attention to those students whose language skills are below the English level. The teacher should not criticize the students for their poor language skills since this might make them to become disinterested in learning the language.
Physical diversity is also common in most classrooms. The teacher is likely to encounter physical diversity on occasional basis. Physical diversity relates to the various physical abilities of the students. The teacher should educate students about physically disabled and the need to treat them fairly without discrimination. This can ensure that the physically challenged are not segregated or shunned by other students. The teacher must be aware of the stigma associated with those who suffer from some forms of physical disability. According to Parker (2012), people should always be willing to help those others who are not in a better position comparing to the “us”. This is what is described in learning how to care.
Al-Azawei, A., & Lundqvist, K. (2015). Learner differences in perceived satisfaction of an online learning: An extension to the technology acceptance model in an Arabic sample. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 13(5), 408.
Blume, A. K. (2016). Diversity-related experiences and academic performance among ethnic minority college students. All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 5089. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6140&context=etd
Packard, J. (2013). The Impact of Racial Diversity in the Classroom: Activating the Sociological Imagination. Teaching Sociology, 41(2), 144-158. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187351.
Parker, D. V. (2012). Christian teachers in public schools: 13 essentials for the classroom. Kansas City, KS: Beacon Hill Press.
Southerland, S. A., & Scharmann, L. C. (2013). Acknowledging the religious beliefs students bring into the science classroom: Using the bounded nature of science. Theory into Practice, 52(1), 59-65. doi:10.1080/07351690.2013.743778.
Weiner, B. (2015). Examining emotional diversity in the classroom: An attribution theorist considers the moral emotions. Research Gate.