There has always been diversity in the classroom, but in today’s society, it is important to embrace it and make positive use of it. Valuing diversity is one of the most important actions an educator takes in the classroom to ensure engaged and equitable learning, virtual or not.
It’s important to consider other broad factors when valuing student diversity to boost engagement for all learners.
- Take the time to learn about your students’ backgrounds, interests, and cultural contexts. Ask questions to prompt students to share how you can best support their learning. Questions might include: What can I, and other adults in your life, do to help you learn? Do you prefer to work independently or with others?
- Don’t ask students of color to be “experts” on their race. Asking students of color for their point of view is important in class discussions but don’t assume that they are authorities on their race. Race is only one part of their social identity.
- Diversify your curriculum. To the extent that you can control your curriculum, expose students to a spectrum of multicultural and female experts, writers, and artists. You will more accurately represent contributors to your class subject and potentially establish a cultural connection for your students.
- Hold every student to high expectations. Students of color report being held to lower expectations than white students. Meanwhile, research tells us that female students hear more comments about their appearance than their academic skills. By setting a high bar for achievement, for all students, you encourage them to engage with your class and avoid any stereotypes of what they’re capable of accomplishing.
- Avoid assumptions about students’ backgrounds. It may be tempting to assume that your students share similar life experiences. This can be problematic since everyone’s circumstances are different. Schools with large student populations may represent a greater variety of racial and economic backgrounds, as well as students with undefined gender identities.
- Provide daily access to photographs of people of different ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and garb. Allow students to see people that look very different from themselves and their family engaging in the same types of activities that they and their family participate in. You can help humanize types of people that your students have never had an opportunity to meet.
- Take the time to learn about your students’ learning styles. You can create an environment that is conducive to each student. Allow time for the students to learn about each other and gain an appreciation for the diversity they bring to the classroom.
Having a diverse group of students simply means recognizing that all people are unique in their own way. Their differences could consist of their reading level, athletic ability, cultural background, personality, religious beliefs, and the list goes on. Remind your students how boring it would be if we were all alike and there were no differences among us! Next week, we’ll dig into strategies and tools for using social emotional learning to increase learner engagement.