The world is a huge place; full of people with various cultures and backgrounds. When such people with their differences in language, perception, and understanding come together in a classroom setting, we refer to it as diversity. Diversity can be observed in almost all schools all around the world. It has become a hot topic for educators, since they have been working on creating a system through which they can meet the diverse needs of the students.
Articles on diversity in schools and classrooms Following are five articles from psychology journals, all referring to meeting the diverse needs of students coming from different cultures. Article one: “Our Multicultural Classroom” is an article by Nanette Avery, who teaches in America to Pre-K 8 classroom. She talks about how each year a new student or perhaps more join her class, and these students are from a different background, culture or ethnicity; as compared to the average American child.
In her article she says that it is important to treat each child differently with respect to his diverse needs, but at the same time one should not label them or put them in the front portrayed to be an alien. The problem she talks about is the language differences; not every student is fluent in English due to different cultures. For this she has designed a small English test in which each student writes a poem; just so she can understand the varying English proficiency of each student and then cater to them accordingly.
This particular article was helpful in understanding the fact that while helping students adapt to the different cultural setting, one should not make their differences so obvious, so that they do not feel more awkward. (Avery, 2005) Article two: This article is named Classroom culture and cultural diversity, it is by Olguin. Olguin in his article talks about how a typical school system of most American universities does no address to saving a person’s cultural background, his perceptions; but simply alters the student’s thinking into a typical stereotyped perceptive way of the American society.
Olguin says that in universities, they educate a person according to what they school thinks is right for the student, and changes their thinking into how the school wants the students to think. This is not right because people coming in from various cultures all have a different mind set which should be respected and nourished, rather than making them all into robots who think alike. The syllabus is designed such that it is assumed that everyone who walks into the classroom has a good grip over the American systems and ways; which is not true, as people from all over the world are present.
This causes a lack of understanding and hence poor performance. Olguin says that in his class, he allows for opinions to be expressed and differences to be voiced, so each student understands the cultural diversity; and along side he assigns group projects, so that students learn to respect and understand and work with these differences. I feel this is a really good approach, to create awareness regarding the cultural diversity, to address to it so that each child develops in his own way.
(Olguin, 1991), January) Article three: This article is by Rao Shaila; addressing to the need of a multicultural educational system in order to meet the diversity in classrooms. In this article Shaila has summarized a number of studies taken place regarding the multicultural educational system. It has been identified that there are four dimensions to a multicultural educational system. The first being integration; where knowledge is related to different cultures for better understanding.
The second is construction; where a student is taught how to adapt to the new cultural ways; the third is where the teacher is expected to alter her teaching styles to fit the varying learning styles and needs and the last is empowering, where the student is in the end given the choice to learn; think and educate himself in ways that are most suitable for him. In this article Shaila reviewed a number of studies such as the ones by Banks (1995), and Sleeter and McLaren (1995). Each study had an independent variable being the diversity and the dependent variable was the progress of the students in response to multicultural education.
Basically what the studies have identified was that it is not right to have a standardized syllabus which has to be pushed inside the students minds even at the cost of changing their own ways of thinking. Each child comes from a different background, and hence needs to be treated differently; to be given the right to think and learn in the ways which are best for him. A multicultural education system ensures that such differences are recognized, and the child is given time to adapt to new settings.
Multicultural education does not simply means giving examples from different cultures so that the minorities understand the lecture well, but it allowed the students to develop in unique manners, and not become stereotypical “citizens”. I feel this article is written really strongly. I agree with most of the things stated in this article. The importance of a multicultural education system is immense since all students cannot be assumed to be the same; they have diverse needs which should be catered to effectively for their progress. (Rao, 2005)
Article four: This article is by Robert Shobe. It is called “respecting diversity. ” So in this particular article, he discusses how when he would teach incarcerated male students, he noticed how some students progressed real well, where as others, mostly of the minorities were not doing so well. It diverted his attention towards the cultural diversity which was present in his classroom. He took a survey to better understand this case. The survey was conducted in Indiana, and about 10% of the subjects were African American, Caucasian and Hispanic.
Even though the subject sample was small, it shed some light on the need to understand, respect and cater to the diverse backgrounds that students come from. The results which he obtained were mostly such, that most students from the minority groups, were identified to prefer teachers who understood their needs and catered to them; who did not force them to be like their other fellow Americans. The students from a different background stated they preferred to work alone as then their ideas are not crushed by the overwhelming majority American population.
Basically, in the survey he identified the need for cultural differences awareness. That teachers and fellow students should both have a good understanding of the fact that each person is unique and hence has differences which need to be respected, and not considered wrong. Only with this awareness will the students be able to work in harmony, and the teachers will be able to teach the different groups more effectively. (Shobe, 2003) Article five: Linguistic Diversity and Classroom Management is an article by Mary Elizabeth in which she talks about how in a classroom, there will be students whose first language is not English.
Such students when enter a school where the medium of instruction is English have a very difficult time adapting, if the teachers do not address to cultural diversity and plan their syllabus accordingly. Mary Elizabeth in her article has stated numerous ways in which these students, referred to as English language learners (ELLs) can be dealt with in order to deal with the linguistic diversity that exists due to different backgrounds. One such method she talks about is pairing the students. Each ELLs student can be paired with a student who is fluent in English.
This is will be of great help to the ELL and will help him adapt to the new setting. Another method she outlines is allowing for different students to use their native language wherever necessary. However, I feel this can be a bit too chaotic in a classroom especially if the other students and the teacher have no clue about the students’ native languages. What I strongly agree about from this article is allowing for concessions to be made when it comes to submitting assignments, the deadlines. Mary states that ELLs can be given extra time.
This I feel will make them feel more important and help them learn better. (Curran, 2003) Conclusion After reading the articles mentioned above, I have gained some insight into exactly what cultural diversity refers to and how it should be dealt with. I have understood that it is a very sensitive issue, than can actually make or break ones future. In a school, there are people from different backgrounds, culture, ethnicity, religion, race, cast, language and so forth. This adds diversity to a classroom.
It should not be perceived as negative by the students or the teachers. However, it should be identified and awareness regarding different cultures should be created so that their different ways are not labeled as wrong, but simply as being unique. Multicultural educational systems are important for the success of the students from minority groups. Teachers and students need to understand that different students have different ways of learning and perceptions, which should be encouraged and not compared against a particular culture.
This way each student will be able to develop into a unique individual who will offer different benefits to the society. From the articles, what has been identified is that a cultural awareness needs to be created. Teachers should be more flexible in their teaching styles, and open to different ideas and ways of thinking. This way the student will be able to adapt to new settings in an easier manner, guaranteeing future success. This assignment has increased my insight regarding this topic.
Lesson learnt being that one should never consider a particular culture to be the benchmark against which everyone should be compared. We need to understand that the world is a place full of millions of different people, and to respect their identity and nourish it is of key importance for the benefit of the society.
References Avery, N. (2005). Our Multicultural Classroom. 3. Curran, M. (2003, Fall2003). Linguistic Diversity and Classroom Management. Theory Into Practice, 42(4), 334-340. Retrieved July 11, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.