Publishing Web for Students' Final Papers
Diversity in the Classroom
From: Wishard, Alison
Course: psych100G: Issues of Diversity in Developmental Psychology
College: Universtiy of California at Santa Cruz
Instructor: Eugene Matusov
Date: 13 Dec 1996
Remote Name: tsb-59.ucsc.edu
This paper is an extension of a group project conducted by Nancy Ullrich, Kathy Hiroko, Pamela Geisler, Blanca Navarro, Melanie Meyer, and myself. I would like to thank and acknowledge them for the time and effort they contributed in the research and writing of the project. I would also like thank my dear friends Nicole Daro and Eduardo Guerra for their contributions in editing and discussion of ideas. Their help is greatly appreciated and has contributed a great deal to the final product which is this paper. This paper presents the challenges that diversity brings into the classroom and offers solutions and practical applications to these challenges. As we reach the twenty-first century, ther is an increasing population of minorities who come from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. Because our current educational system operates to serve the "white, middle-class" majority, minorities are faced with a barrier and often denied the opportunity to receive an equal education (Ogbu, 1995). To understand and work towards taking down the barriers it is essential that we understand the ways in which social class and ethnicity interact with language and culture (Mehan, 1991). As a result, teachers must learn to be responsive to the different needs of students from different backgrounds. The challenges teachers face in teaching a diverse classroom are often seen as a barrier to effective schooling because it slows the learning process. However, overwhelming research has shown that diversity is, in fact, an invaluable advantage to teachers and students of all backgrounds; local households of all diversities represent a wealth of knowledge and resouces which can develop, transfrom, and enrich any classroom. With proper application of culturally relevant pedagogy and other proposed solutions we are headed towards an educational system in the United States that adheres to all groups of students and uses diversity as a beneficial factor to learn about different cultures and personal experiences.
The classrooms of today are comprised of students from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and socio-cultural backgrounds. A look inside of a typical American classroom would reveal a significant population of minority students from backgrounds which are culturally distinct from that of the white majority. As the 21st century comes near, we face the prominent issue of the ever-increasing diversity of students within our educational system. It is estimated that by the year 2056 minority students will outnumber the white majority in the overall student population (Henry, 1990:30). As a result, the classroom has become a nucleus of convergence for children of different cultures and abilities. However, schools and teachers are not traditionally prepared to deal with the diversity of their classrooms. Teachers, classrooms, and curriculum are constructed to serve the specific interests of white, middle class students, prohibiting those students from non-white, non-middle class backgrounds from receiving a quality education (Osborne, 1996).
We know that classrooms are becoming more and more diverse as everyday goes by and we know that minority children are falling behind the white, middle-class majority children, that they are not receiving equal educational opportunities. In order to begin to think constructively about how to take down the barriers faced by minority and low-income students it is necessary to first understand how social class and ethnicity interact with language and culture (Mehan, 1991). According to Bourdieu's(1977) ideas about "cultural capital", each ethnic group, or rather social class has developed distinct cultural practices; ways of talking, acting, and utilizing cultural and economic resources at their reach. America's public school systems are traditionally organized around the practice of rewarding the language and socialization practices of middle-class while systematically devaluing those of lower-class students. Teachers teach, judge, and question students on their acquisition of the discourse and culture of the school. Accordingly, the academic success of minority students is completely dependent upon their complete assimilation to and acquirement of these mainstream the discourse of the school. Following this same train of thought, or domino affect, teachers then proceed by placing students into ability groups and segregating them into different tacks and programs which prevents educational opportunities to be equally available to all groups.
Every child brings to the classroom the morals, beliefs, and attitudes that are learned at home. Although this is true for both middle-income children and for low-income and minority children, the cultural values and beliefs that minority children bring from home will most often clash with those of the school culture. Accordingly, a student's academic success does not depend solely on what happens in school, rather there are a number of external influences which can play a powerful role. The most influential of these out-of-school influences in the response of parents to their child's education and the extent of their involvement in the schooling of their child.
Due to the fact that low-income parents generally have little time and disposable income to play a significant, authoritative role in their child's schooling, they tend to leave the education of the child up to the sole responsibility of the teacher. Parents of middle-income students, on the other hand, tend to have more time and disposable income have more resources to become more involved in the schooling process of their child and to assist the teacher's efforts. However, according to results from a study done by Mehan (1991) the strategy used by minority parents of leaving the sole responsibility of the education of the child up to the teacher may not promote success. Whereas the strategy used by middle-class parents of actively participating in the education of their children tends to foster educational success. Because the classroom reflects the white, middle-class culture, it provides little opportunity for minority students or their families to incorporate their own cultural values and realities into the schooling process as do the middle-income students and families.
As a result of these challenges, diversity in the classroom has traditionally been looked upon as a disadvantage and an obstacle to effective teaching. For example, Harrison (1993) found that in native Alaskan and New Zealand Maon settings parents felt that teachers needed to be members of the community in order to provide the children of that community with an adequate education. Furthermore, research done by Ogbu (1995) suggests that the students themselves must completely assimilate and acquire the dominant culture of the school in order to succeed. This research suggests that it is not the responsibility of the teachers to change the structure of the classroom as a means to guarantee the success of the minority students. Rather, it is the responsibility of the students to accommodate to the teaching style of the teacher.
Recently more and more researcher is being conducted as to the actual positive, negative, or neutral affects of a diverse student population in the classroom. As a result, innovative educational projects attempting to create a more culturally relevant classroom are becoming more common. These researchers have found that diversity in the classroom can be a gift which allows students to learn from each other and to learn about different cultures, languages and backgrounds. For example, in Spanish/English bilingual classrooms English-speaking students have the opportunity to learn Spanish, while Spanish-speaking students can learn English. Furthermore, students can develop social and communication skills through interaction with those from different backgrounds. Although diversity in the classroom creates challenges for teachers and students, it also opens up opportunities for teaching and learning. In Systematic Reform: Perspectives on Personalizing Education it stated, "If matching were achieved, then all teachers would teach only their kind, and children would be limited in educational advantages of learning from and about other peoples." (pp. 3)
As a result of today's increasingly diverse classrooms, an increasing number of children are not fitting into the generic "white, middle-class" standard, thus not receiving an adequate education. (Price, 1995) In response to these findings, measures need to be taken to incorporate cultural differences in the classroom as a positive aspect and to adopt new teaching strategies that will work to benefit both Anglo and non-Anglo students.
Researchers are calling for a change in the structures of classroom discourse. This calls for a move away from the deficit model where minorities represent a "lack" of necessary skills or knowledge and the majority students and their families represent a "wealth" of resources and information. Diversity within the classroom can provide a wealth of information to both majority and minority students as well as to the teacher. Schools tend to emphasize what minority students lack rather than focus on the knowledge that they bring to school with them. Thus, by emphasizing their disadvantages, they are in turn justifying their lower expectations of said students. Rather than approaching the idea of having a diverse classroom according to the deficit model, educators need to move towards an approach that follows the idea that minority students and their families can be a wealth of information which can help to develop, transform and enrich classroom practices; an approach which calls for equal familiarity of personal experiences with both majority and minority students, thus calling for equal expectations.
A project funded by the National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning teachers experimented with the benefits of making home visits to students' houses as a means of gaining knowledge about the child's home life and family culture and as a means of increasing the teacher's closeness with the student and family members. The project was conducted in Tucson, Arizona where there is a high Mexican student population. The idea behind the project was that working class Latino students' households are rich in "funds of knowledge". Therefore a study performed by the teacher of their own students households would prove to be a viable method for bridging the gap between home life and school life, which for minority students can present two very distinct and contrasting worlds.
This project embodied three main areas of emphasis: the community, teacher labs, and the schools. First, in the area of the community, the idea was to turn the teacher into the learner by conducting an ethnographic study of "funds of knowledge" among households of working class Latinos through house visits with the family on a friendly, casual basis, not emphasizing discipline or schooling aspects of their child. The teacher labs served as an opportunity to allow the teachers to share their findings and information with other teachers and researchers; to form a collaboration between anthropology and education. The teacher and researchers would then examine the existing teaching methods and make efforts to implement innovations based on the new "funds of knowledge".
The resulting payoffs from this study was that there was an emergence of teachers as ethnographers and qualitative researchers, there was an increased access to school felt by the parents of Latino students, there was a change in relationship between teacher and student whose households they visit, and there was an emergence of curriculum practices based on the household "funds of knowledge". This combination of home visits with the actual implementation of innovative curriculum empowers teachers with the realization that they actually do play an active role in changing the educational experience of their students.
Research done by Ladson-Billings (Bowman,1992) shows that what is needed is a "culturally relevant pedagogy" resting on three main propositions: 1.) students must experience success by working up to teacher expectations, 2.) students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence through the integration of cultural issues, and 3.) students must develop a critical consciousness to challenge the status quo through collaborative teaching strategies in which the teacher and student play an active and equal role in education.
Osborne(1996) took these three propositions a step further by dividing them into five core theories and four different classroom strategies: Fundamental understandings: 1.) Culturally relevant teachers need not come from the same ethnic minority group as the students they teach. Teachers can address the diversity of the classroom through sharing their backgrounds and cultures with their students. Furthermore, teachers who are sensitive and culturally aware are able to recognize and meet the needs of their students.
2.) Socio-historical-political realities beyond the school constrain much of what happens in classrooms and must be understood well by the teacher who implements culturally relevant curriculum. The teacher must have knowledge about the history of the backgrounds represented in the classroom. They must also recognize the realities of their students' daily lives and experiences such as economic status, divorce, etc.
3.) It is desirable to teach content that is culturally relevant to students' previous experiences that fosters their natal cultural identity, and empowers them with the knowledge and practices to operate successfully in mainstream society. It is important that the teacher is aware and understands the realities of his/her students' community in order to present classroom material that is culturally relevant.
4.) It is desirable to involve the parents and families of the children belonging to both marginalized and normalized groups. The family and the school need to work cooperatively to enable the child to receive positive reinforcement from both sides and come to feel a positive sense if ethnic identity as a member of both cultures. This can be achieved through involving parents in classroom activities and assigning work which draws on knowledge learned at home.
5.) It is desirable to include students' first languages in the school program and in classroom interactions. Children need to have a sense of continuity between their home and school experiences, and bilingual/bicultural programs can help to fill the gap between home and school through connecting the two languages. Classroom Practices:
1.) Culturally relevant teachers are personally warm towards and respectful of, as well as academically demanding of, all students. Regardless of race or economic background, teachers need to clearly communicate their high expectations of all students.
2.) Teachers who teach in culturally relevant ways spell out the cultural assumptions within which the classroom (and schooling) operate.
3.) There are five components of culturally relevant classroom management:
- Using group work to make the educational setting a collaborative effort, yet also competitive.
- Controlling indirectly rather than confrontationally. This includes directly making teachers' expectations clear to the students and clarifying requirements through "negotiation".
- Avoiding "spotlighting" (i.e. not separating children for public performances) in an effort to emphasize collaborative presentations.
- Using an unhurried pace giving children a longer "wait time" and time to get organized in groups. This is especially important for children of lower grades and those involved in bilingual programs.
- Using the home participation structures of the children. Children are more likely to participate if familiar communication strategies are used. This depends on the teachers familiarity with the culture of the community.
4.) Racism is prevalent in schools and needs to be addressed. Racism, sexism and classism exist, and the only way it can begin to be tackled is if we accept it and try to understand it. (Osborne, 1996)
These suggested starting points for teachers to begin to incorporate issues of diversity into the classroom are also starting points for teachers to reconsider their social justice strategies concerning marginalized students. This requires that we first uderstand the way in which social class and ethnicity interact with language and culture in order to enhance the participatory democracy for all students(Osborne, 1996). These teaching strategies not only benefit the marginalized students, but they work to benefit teachers and students from all backgrounds. Although integrating a culturally relevant pedagogy is not an easy task and it demands teachers to broaden their ideas, it also serves as a tool for growth and educational enrichment for both marginalized and mainstream students and teachers. After all, education is a two-way street and requires collaborative strategies. Teachers need to learn how to learn from their students, and how to get them to learn from the diversity found within their community. A child's education is not limited to the classroom. Teachers and eductors need to keep this in mind in order to tap into all resources available to enhance the learning of all the children.
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Last modified January 12, 1997
Сьюзан, это Дэвид. Я тебя разбудил. Она улыбнулась и поудобнее устроилась в постели. - Ты мне только что приснился.