Teaching a Diverse Student Body

Teaching a Diverse Student Body Practical Strategies for Enhancing Our Students’ Learning. A Handbook for Faculty and Teaching Assistants by Deandra Little, Faculty Consultant Teaching Resource Center, University of Virginia.

Purpose of the Handbook
In the Preface of the Handbook the author explains the main purpose: ‘The suggestions in this handbook are meant to help faculty and teaching assistants recognize some broad ways in which students may differ from one another–and from each of us–and to examine what effect these differences may have on our students’ learning and our teaching.

The most effective ways we can recognize and teach this diverse student body are by following the same general principles good teachers use:

  • making our students comfortable in the classroom
  • recognizing differences in their reactions and learning preferences
  • teaching in a flexible manner
  • varying the ways our students participate in the classroom
  • responding to students equitably and inclusively.

Creation of an Inclusive Classroom Environment
In the chapter Teaching a diverse student body of the Handbook one of the paragraphs an  focussed on the  Creation of an Inclusive  Classroom Environment:

‘According to research, traditional teaching methods are often ineffective for learners outside of the majority culture (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 147).
For example, studies have shown that many students, including women and students of colour, may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative and “connected” modes of learning— ones that acknowledge personal experience, examine the relationships between persons and ideas, and encourage students to work together to produce knowledge (Belenky et al). Wlodkowski and Ginsberg point out, for that matter, that “[m]ost human beings—European Americans, people of colour, women, international students—favour learning experiences that are collaborative and participatory” (69). Establishing a classroom tone that is friendly, caring and supportive, and that lets students explore the relationship between course material and personal and social experiences enhances, rather than undermines, students’ learning.’

‘Some questions about the learning environment.

  1. Analyzing the type of learning environment you are creating for your students is one way to begin. As you prepare for class, consider the following questions (adapted from Wladkowski & Ginsberg 16-17):
  2. Are the classroom norms clearly stated, so that students accustomed to different norms in their homes or communities are able to understand and negotiate them? (You can model these and give examples.)
  3. What implicit values of your discipline might disturb or bewilder some students? (You can encourage students to present alternative perspectives, to debate ideas, or to create panels representing different viewpoints.)
  4. Do your examples or illustrations acknowledge the experiences of people from different backgrounds in non-stereotypical ways?
  5.  Are the students welcome to share from their own lives and interests? Are they treated as individuals?
  6. Have you examined your own conscious or unconscious biases about people of other cultures? That is, how would you answer the following questions: Am I comfortable around students from a culture or background different than my own? Do I have different expectations of students of color than I do of white students? Of male or female students?’

See also: Classroom Dynamics & Diversity Learning and the Tipsheet Examples of Hot Moments and Diversity from the  Harvard Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

Other  subjects presented in the Handbook are:
Gender Dynamics in the Classroom, Teaching International Students, Dealing with Conflicts and  Students with Disabilities

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