A Question of Diversity in Modern Education

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Diversity is a word bearing various meaning based on context. This article mainly focused on different approaches to diversity in the classroom. Most of the Colleges and Universities in America have a common goal of promoting diversity, however accomplishing it in reality in the daily classrooms is usually difficult to do. Recently I got an opportunity to contact a local Early Childhood Program in my area where we discussed their approach to diversity. Much discussion on diversity was emphasizing on various from of marginalization such as; sexual orientation, race, class, along with gender. As a matter of fact they confirmed it to me that student who attend schools bear distinct backgrounds, sets of practices, approaches of the world, and sets of experiences. Some of the approaches to diversity in classroom highlighted were; student background, cognitive aptitude, level of motivation, and diversity of opinion (Flanigan, n.d). In the classroom of today, teacher face a diverse group of student with some bearing obvious diversity while others having diversity that is not easily visible.

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The first approach to diversity highlighted was student background. America is a country having multiple cultures. Children in classrooms, specifically in a diverse urban centre, mostly come from several distinct racial as well as ethnic backgrounds. Teachers are also likely to come across students wearing visible symbols of their faith, for example female children belonging to Islamic religion wear the hijab while male children belonging to Jewish religion wear the Kippah or skullcap (Flanigan, n.d). At the same time, depending on background a student may be using English as a second language while others as a first language.

The second approach to diversity was cognitive aptitude where a teacher will find out that learners have wide range of cognitive abilities. In the inclusive classroom of nowadays, a teacher may have a higher academic performer neighboring a student bearing a cognitive disability who will be providing a one-to-one aide to assist the academically weak student comprehend fundamental concepts (Flanigan, n.d). This is a challenge to even the most experienced teachers especially when tasked with the role of classifying learners into distinct classes according to their academic performance. However, the easiest way to achieve this is by administering individualized work to the highest and the lowest academic achievers in a mixed group (Flanigan, n.d). While those supporting academically slow students praise the inclusive classroom those supporting academically gifted students criticize the inclusive class because it impedes the academically gifted students by anticipating the to learn personally as others participate in teacher-led instruction.

Teachers will discover that leaners bear different levels of motivation leading to the third approach to diversity. Some of the factors influencing motivation of learners include but not limited to; home life of a learner, cognitive ability, and general attitude (Flanigan, n.d). Learners whose problems can be traced from home may bear more pressing matter on their mind as compared to school assignments; on the surface, this is observed as a motivational problem. Just like a learner who is academically weak as compared to the rest in class may despair and decline to work instead of unraveling how frustrated he or she is. At the same time, an academically gifted learner may get bored easily with the assignments and boycott doing the assignments (Flanigan, n.d). Eventually, there is a defiant student having the attitude of “I will not do it and you cannot force me” may decide to perform dismally just to prove to himself or others that he is responsible for controlling his life.

Teachers are called upon to identify diversity of opinion in children during classroom teaching, forming the last approach to diversity. Albeit his is not an important issue to students in the lower grades, high school students commence to establish their personal opinions concerning politics, religion among other controversial topics (Flanigan, n.d). In the event a teacher makes an attempt to impose his persona point of view on the students, or a student tries to impose his personal perspective on the class, a conflict is likely to arise. Certain learners may decide to remain silent or parrot opinion of the teacher instead of risking a bad grade (Flanigan, n.d). To curb this problem, organizations exist having a mission to protect personal rights in class, with the inclusion of right to freedom of speech as well as conscience.

Individualism and collectivism in classroom practices.

Generally, individualism put more emphasis on individual freedom as well as achievement. The culture of individualist therefore gifts social status to individual achievements like; innovations, significant discoveries, great art work and humanitarian accomplishments, among other actions defining a person’s success (Roland and Gorodnichenko, 2001). On the contrary, collectivism focuses on embeddedness of people in a larger group. It inspires conformity and at the same time dejects people from rebelling and standing out. We extended our discussion to emphasis on individualism and collectivism in the classroom practices, policies, and/or procedures or early intervention services.

According to the Early Childhood Education practitioners, individualism and collectivism from two extreme spectrums where the former is embraced in classroom by the United States of America, Canada as well as the Western European while the latter is embraced in classroom by the Asian, Latin American along with the countries from Africa. The Early Childhood Education practitioners being US based they put more emphasis on the individualism. One of the practitioners, Mrs. Thatcher, argued that the more individualistic the culture, the more people look forward to become independent in what they think and do. On the other hand, the more collectivist the culture, the more focus is placed on group identity, sense of belonging and relationships (Hall, 2008). Alluding to Hofstede (2001), as cited by (Hall, 2008), the main role of education in culture believing in individualism is to learn how to learn. This type of learning progresses in the entire life of an individualist preparing him or her for life with other people and new circumstances.

In an individualistic culture learners are stimulated to be self-dependent, competitive, and pursue individual goals. The Early Childhood Education practitioners emphasized on individualism because it is a theory that favor freedom of action for individuals other than the collective control. The individual’s goals are given priority over the group agenda. The cultures believing in individualism strive for not only self-expression but also creativity (Atkinson, 2014). In such cultures nuclear family has been the norm. Older parent are anticipated to live independently or in senior houses, and upon graduation of children from high school, they too are anticipated to detach themselves from parent and fend from themselves. One of the reasons leading to the Early Childhood Education practitioners putting less emphasis on collectivism is that, a teacher, by virtue of the training he she gone through, is likely to feel ineffective in a collectivist learning ambience, which may appear to be static and missing dynamism (Hall, 2008). To summarize, from the practitioners approach to individualism, an academic assignment is highly valued where the most significant thing in classroom is to get a student’s work done, relationship with other student comes later.

Strategies used to build partnership with minority groups.

The largest percentage of students in public schools comes from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The growing diversity in schools is one of the most challenging issues linked to over-presentation of minority children in special schools. This means that more minority children are treated with special education than it would be expected based on their percentage in the entire population of school. To end this, the team of Early Childhood programmers with support from the U.S Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) came up with various strategies for building partnership with minority groups.

The first strategy proposed was encouraging family involvement and respect diverse backgrounds. The programmers maintain that family involvement in school and its operation is a basic factor in enhancing achievement of students. Nevertheless, researchers also postulate that for fruitful collaborations to be effected, school personnel ought to revere the cultural background of the families children come from (Burnette & Wager, 2000). The program staff suggested a number of recommendations; learn more about the culture of the student’s family to seek their approach to disabilities and mental health issues, organize parent support groups to enable student’s parents to gather together in the presence of student and support each other, and encouraging parents to discuss their dream for the children without telling them what is wrong with their situation because they already know (Burnette & Wager, 2000). Through parent involvement without discrimination will help in building partnership with minor groups who will feel their presence being valued.

The second strategy proposed was emphasizing on strengths of each student. This has for so long be considered the principle of special education; however it is a specific challenge in educating students who English is their second language. With the help from OSEP, one of the Early Childhood Education practitioners has been studying the strengths and weaknesses of literacy experienced by language minority learners coupled with learning disabilities from fourth to sixth grade. For instance, learners from language-minority backgrounds usually strive to complete the assignment as their main objective believing that reading is analogous to decoding and pronunciation isolated words (Burnette & Wager, 2000). In response to this, the practitioner advocates for unequivocal instruction of strategic reading processes, with the inclusion of how to access what students know in their primary languages. This strategy will enable all students, irrespective of language minority background, to make inferences, draw conclusions, integrate prior knowledge into ongoing meaning construction, as well as making enquiries when comprehension breaks down (Burnette & Wager, 2000). This will help in building partnership with minor groups since the clear instruction of strategic reading processes will be make them recognized the same way as students from language-majority background.

According to Friswell et al., 2013, other strategies that can be used to build partnership with minority groups include; taking a class into the community by planning field trips to interview the local community members, get acquainted with cultural differences as a source of problems in reading difficulties, assessing materials used in teaching for bias then adjust materials accordingly, using a style of communication that is in alignment with the values of the student’s cultures, teacher learning how to pronounce the name of student correctly and identify names with unique meanings, etc.

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