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I.  Definition of Training Piece

  1. Purpose for Instructor
    A Student copies from the paper of another student during a test. How would this be perceived by someone from a culture where helping others is expected? If an individual is unsuccessful, the group has failed. In many cultures, children are taught that a soft voice is polite; a loud voice is rude. The good student is the quiet one. In traditional U.S Culture, people believe that there is no real contact without eye contact. Limited or no eye contact is judged as disrespectful, lack of interest or low self-esteem. Pointing with a finger, particularly at people and even at objects, is characterized as rude in many cultures. These examples of cultural practices illustrate the diversity of society. These cultural differences are very evident in contemporary U.S classrooms. The days of teaching to the "good" student no longer exist. The good student was the one who responded to the teacher's singular approach to presenting a lesson. Today, with greater student diversity in the classroom, educators are adopting new methodologies that include culturally relevant content. Students' experiences and cultural backgrounds play a major role in helping integrate diversity in the classroom curriculum. By including diversity in the classroom curriculum, it validates students' experiences and creates a realistic picture of the ethnic composition of our society today. Furthermore, as it will be outlined in the research section, studies show that students' academic performances can improve when interaction with diverse groups is increased.

    By completing this unit, you will be able to recognize the importance of integrating diversity in the classroom curriculum. In addition, you will be able to identify cultural- specific attributes that lead to greater awareness and appreciation of culturally diverse experiences students bring into the classroom.

  2. Material Covered
    This unit introduces the basic principles and concepts valuable to developing a framework for incorporating cultural diverse content in the classroom, along with offering practical application exercises, pertinent research, and helpful resources.

II.  Foundation

  1. Definition of Concept and Theory
    Why are diversity skills important? If we develop a greater awareness of cultural diversity, both students and teacher will contribute to the learning process. There are many ways to define diversity. The dictionary defines diversity as " a state of unlikeness" or "the condition of being different". Diversity also refers to the ways people are different. Diversity skills are competencies that allow us to interact with others in a way that respects and values difference.

Diversity Components: Communication

Obstacles to Effective Communication
Personal Biases
Limited Tolerance for Cultural Differences
Language Barriers

Pathway to Effective Communication
Moving Beyond Personal Bias
Appreciation and Recognition for Cultural Differences through observations and experiences
Re-affirming an understanding and acceptances of other languages through active listening
Recognizing that stereotyping creates barriers to learning about self and other people

Thinking Rigid vs. Thinking flexible

Obstacles to Creating diversity in the Classroom
Homogenous classroom curriculum
Dismisses students personal experiences
Excludes cultural and social attributes of students
Lacks integration of communication across cultures

Creating Diversity in the Classroom
Classroom curriculum promotes diversity
Student personal experiences are encouraged by teacher
Cultural awareness and understanding is encouraged
Deal effectively with differences and learn from everyone and anyone through communication across cultures

B.  Summary of Relevant Research

Research shows that a student's learning and self-awareness can increase when his/her personal experiences and cultural background is acknowledged in the classroom. Understanding diversity can help us to acquire an appreciation for others' life experiences and broaden our knowledge of the many societal contributions people make that enrich our lives. Effective communication skills also can be increased through learning about the diversity of people. Being open and objective to understanding people's differences leads to greater cooperation for team building, problem solving, leadership, and other resources to help overcome barriers leading to close-mindedness. According to research, understanding diversity can help teachers capitalize on the diverse experiences and resources students bring to the classroom. David Porter, President Emeritus, Skidmore College, stated "Diversity has always been a powerful, even a necessary, catalyst for intellectual progress". In a study, conducted by Alexander Astin, (1993) of undergraduates, he examined whether students' direct involvement in "diversity experiences" affects their academic progress. One component of the study was to determine the frequency with which students interact with persons from diverse backgrounds. Astin discovered that socializing of this nature has a significant positive effect on all aspects of students' academic progress and promotes a positive image of college. In order words, students' chances for success increase by expanding and diversifying their experiences with persons of diverse backgrounds. Through these experiences students learn more about who they are and their ability to relate to others. This, in turn, helps people develop their diversity consciousness.

There is a great body of research on diversity. Today, diversity is receiving a great amount of attention. This can be attributed to the changing demographics in the U.S. According to data from the U.S Department of Education, college students have become increasingly heterogeneous during the last two decades. This trend will continue as elementary and secondary students become more racially and ethnically diverse in the future. Women and minorities will constitute the majority of the new workforce. In addition, college student populations will increasingly become diverse. U.S Census Bureau, 1990, reported that the Hispanic population increased by 53% from 1980 to 1990, from 14.5 million to 25 million, and it is projected that by 2020 minority children are expected to be the majority. The U.S will continue to change to due its demographics, the need for new workforce, i.e. technological and social changes. What diversity education can do is help propel people to move beyond stereotypes and myths that stifle productivity and growth. Diversity skills can in fact help all of us enhance our chances for success. By developing diverse skills, it is possible to become a better student and a more understanding and valuable employee.

III.  Benefits

  1. Instructor
    Learning about students' cultural backgrounds and encouraging the sharing of personal experiences will help promote greater diversity in the classroom. Diversity in the classroom can help to also integrate different student learning styles. Research reveals that when students feel validated for their diverse backgrounds and experiences, there will be an increase in learning. Instructors who integrate student experiences into the classroom curriculum are promoting diversity while developing a learning community. In effect, all students are being included, which leads to greater student satisfaction in the course.
  2. Student
    Today's students will be tomorrow's workforces. They will be required to work closely with persons of many diverse backgrounds. The ability to collaborate and work successfully in a team setting will be a primary function of their responsibilities. It will be important that they communicate effectively and understand the diverse backgrounds of people. By promoting diversity in the classroom including different learning styles, students can develop valuable skills to help them in college as well as negotiate many of life's challenges.

IV.  Implementation

  1. Exploration Exercise for Instructor
    Exploration 1: To decide the degree diverse activities are used in your classroom, complete the teacher's assessment of classroom diversity. Create link to it here

    Exploration 2: Select a topic that you will be teaching in the next few weeks and integrate activities that promote student experiences and cultural backgrounds. Some sample exercises are listed below in the "student exercises" section.

  2. Student Exercises
    Exercise 1: Who Am I? Students are asked to write the things that best describe them. The responses are than written on the board or overhead transparencies. This is followed by a discussion about student's similarities and differences. Students are asked to share what their thoughts are about what makes a society enriching and how we can help contribute to enhancing a greater understanding of the contributions diversity makes to our community and workplace.

    Exercise 2: Have students define diversity terms followed by group discussions. Some terms are listed below. Students will be able to compare and contrast their definition of terms with classmates. This provides for a stimulating classroom discussion on diversity and increases cultural awareness.

Diversity in the Classroom
Terms to Know

Assimilation Accommodation Acculturalism
Pluralism Biculturalism Prejudice
Racism Bias Bigotry
Ethnocentrism Stereotype Discrimination
Institutional racism Social class Race
Ethnicity Gender Migration
Immigration Self-esteem Diversity
Equity Culture Role
Self-image Custom Minority group

C.  Skill Connection

1.  Thinking Styles and Learning Styles: Probably the greatest diversity our students will ever encounter is the diversity of thinking styles because there are literally as many ways of thinking as there are people in the world. To explore this form of diversity, visit the Thinking Styles and Learning Styles module.

V.  Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I include student's personal experiences in the classroom to promote cultural diversity? A: Encourage students to share their personal experiences in classroom discussions. It is surprising to learn how student's cultural background and personal experiences will enrich the overall experience. In addition, invite students to bring personal artifacts that teach others about their culture and community.

Q: What are ways to change misperceptions about diversity?
A: One of the best ways to work toward changing stereotypes and misunderstandings of diversity is through active learning activities. Get students involved in discussions and activities like those in this module. Have students work in groups and/or provide case studies that require active participation and critical thinking processes. Ask questions of students such as: describe how communication and culture interrelate. Invite students to explore diverse communities and explain how their experiences may be different than their preconceived opinions and ideas of those communities.

VI.  Helpful Resources

Creating cultural awareness requires a commitment to on-going learning. Practical application of diversity is important, however, staying current with literature and research is another way to mean new challenges and expand our views of diversity. The following list of books can contribute to enhancing our understanding and appreciation for diversity in the classroom and our world.

Abi-Nader, J. (1993). Meeting the Needs of Multicultural Classroom: Family Values and the Motivation of Minority Students. In Diversity and Teaching Education Yearbook 1. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1993

Garcia, E. (1994). Understanding and Meeting the Challenge of Student Cultural Diversity. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Nieto, S. (1996) Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (3rd ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman.

Irvine, J. J. (1997) Critical Knowledge for Diverse Teachers and Learners. Washington, DC: American Association fo Colleges for Teacher Education.

Workshop Information to attend a workshop on this topic or bring one to your campus, visit this site or call Faculty Training at (800) 856-5727.

If businesses are going to succeed, regardless of their goals, they need to understand the business case for diversity. It will honestly determine their success.
Carl Jefferson, Diversity Manager, Interstate Hotels Corporation (the largest hotel management firm in the United States.)

Understanding, celebrating and embracing differences provide a rich environment and taps into the best of everybody.
Frank Blethen, CEO of the Seattle Times Company (winner of the 1997 Ida B. Wells Award for his leadership in hiring, training, and advancing minorities in media careers)

Attachment One:

Teacher's Assessment of Classroom Diversity

Do I believe that all students can learn in my classroom and do my attitudes show my belief? No Yes
Do I have high expectations for all of my students?    
Do I understand the differences in culture in my classroom?    
Do I use reality-based learning approaches in my classroom?    
Do I actively involve my students in their learning?    
Do I know and consider my students' learning styles in designing and implementing instruction?    
Do I actively model the behaviors I want my student to acquire?    
Do I give projects and assignments that encourage students to explore the fullest dimensions of thought?    
Do I incorporate multicultural perspectives in my instruction?    
Do I use alternative forms of assessments that help me and my students fully understand their knowledge level?    
Do I maintain high standards and expectations for all my students in my class?    
Do I capitalize on my students' backgrounds?    
Do I use culturally relevant materials in my classroom?    
Do I use group work in my classroom?    

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