Inspire - a Teaching Fellow's newsletter

A quarterly publication on the contemporary issues influencing teaching and learning.

An inclusive approach to promoting stability in the classroom

By Dr Doirean Wilson, Business School

Today’s global society means we educators are now teaching cohorts of students who are becoming more culturally diverse.

This trend makes it crucial to understand students’ different cultural upbringing, which governs their beliefs about what is “good or bad”, “right or wrong”.

Differing cultural beliefs among learners in the classroom can create instability where these beliefs are challenged by another. This can lead to negative learning outcomes, hence cultural diversity in education needs to be effectively managed to promote stability that yields learning benefits.

Akin to my own research, Terenzini, Cabrera, Colbeck, Bjorklund & Parente (2001) also recognise that there is much to be gained from cultural diversity in the classroom. They believe “students engaged in a diversity-related activity” or environment, culturally or otherwise, “reap a wide array of positive educational benefits”.


Maitzen (1997) asserts, “we should look on diversity not as something negative or even neutral, but as something positive and valuable”, so educators should take heed that if we wish to gain the most out of our students, we need to acknowledge that diversity provides the opportunity to nurture inclusion, and as such is one that we cannot “afford to pass up” (ibid).

To nurture inclusion among those of cultural difference in the classroom aids stability. The following six key factors give insight to how this can be achieved:

  1. Change attitude. This might be required where prior experiences of teaching culturally diverse cohorts of learners, were negative.

    As Leatherman & Niemeyer (2005) argued, “teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion appear to be influenced by their previous experiences”.

    The remaining five factors are born of my study (Wilson, 2010) and Kendall’s work (1983);
  2.  Enable students to know how to respect others' values and cultures in  class

  3. Give students the support needed to interact and function successfully in culturally diverse learning environments and across wider society
  4. Encourage students to develop a feeling of self-worth and positive self-concept
  5. Help students to embrace their cultural differences and to recognise what they have in common with other fellow human beings
  6. Encourage students to view others of cultural difference as unique parts of the same community worthy of respect

References:

Kendall, F. E. (1983). Diversity in the Classroom: A Multicultural Approach to the Education of Young Children. Early Childhood Education Series. Teachers College Press, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.

Leatherman, J. M., & Niemeyer, J. A. (2005). Teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion: Factors influencing classroom practice. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 26(1), 23-36.

Maitzen, S. (1997). Diversity in the Classroom. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 16(3), 293-302.
Terenzini, P. T., Cabrera, A. F., Colbeck, C. L., Bjorklund, S. A., & Parente, J. M. (2001). Racial and ethnic diversity in the classroom: Does it promote student learning?. The Journal of Higher Education, 72(5), 509-531

Wilson, D. (2010). 'What Price Respect'-Exploring The Notion Of Respect In A 21st Century Global Learning Environment. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(1), 95.