Autobiography and Instructional Implications Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1647 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Teaching

Diversity Education

Fostering and Serving Diversity in Education: A Review of Literature and a Personal Reflection

Throughout my experience in educational institutions, both as a student and more recently as an instructor, I have grown increasingly aware of the many differences that existed in the learning communities I have inhabited. This awareness did not begin early on -- as a young child, I was more aware of the similarities that existed between my fellow learners and I; though difference in some respects was the focus of much teasing and observation, as is typical of children that age, my consciousness of the "important" differences that would be classified later on was non-existent in my first few years of schooling. As differences in race, culture, ethnicity, gender, class, and other traditional demographic features grew in importance over what kind of shoes someone was wearing or what their face looked like, I became more aware of how closely identity was linked to these variables.

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These are also the variables that, perhaps with good reason, form the typical categories of "diversity" in most research into the subject, especially in the field of education. In this perspective, the definition of diversity is the collection of differences in demographic features and other biological and psychological factors that influence the learning style and/or capabilities of any individual (Grant & Sleeter 2006; Hinton & Barry 2004; Farstrup 2002). This paper will explore the concept of diversity and how it has shaped my personal perspective on teaching.

Term Paper on Autobiography and Instructional Implications Assignment

Throughout this personal reflection, I will be focusing on three areas of diversity insofar as they have impacted my own experience and as they are discussed in the literature. These are the areas of class, age, and culture/ethnicity. The educational system has grown increasingly diverse as the population has also increased in its diversity, and cultural/ethnic differences were some of the first major interpersonal differences that I became aware of. The differences in expectations and customs of various cultures have a major impact on learning styles and levels of engagement, and class differences also significantly affect the practical ability to engage in learning (though not the aptitude, all else being equal). Class differences also cause major changes in the social aspects of educational communities, which can also have an impact on learning, and age also creates a great deal of difference especially in higher education. I have noticed a great deal of difference in self-perception and learning engagement based on these features, which is why they have been selected for specific focus here.

Influence of Course Readings

One of the most important epiphanies I came to as a result of the readings for this course was a realization of the ongoing nature of diversity training. Though it is not impossible to maintain a constant awareness of the diverse needs and individual positions within any educational community, a frequent repositioning of the educator's perspective in regards to this diversity is key in maintaining adequate attention to diversity issues (Baldwin et al. 2007). Though I understood this intellectually before, it truly became a part of my awareness through a reading of Baldwin et al. (2007).

Farstrup's (2002) discussion of growing diversity in college campuses, though already somewhat dated, was also a pivotal reading that I came upon in this course. Again, the reading illustrated a concept with which I was intellectually familiar, but that had not really reached the level of true visceral importance until a moment of epiphany occurred through the act of reading the text. This was the concept that diversity is often viewed as a challenge that must be somehow "dealt with" by educators and administrators, rather than an asset that is to be used to provide greater overall educational opportunities (Farstrup 2002). There is real value in diversity, Farstrup (2002) asserts, and makes the call for recognizing this diversity quite clear not only in the title of this article but also in the eloquent and highly cogent argument that is laid out quite concretely in the text of the article itself.

Without a doubt, however, the most important realization I cam to during this course, and one that will undoubtedly have a massive effect on my performance as an educator, is the realization of the true justice aspects of incorporating diversity awareness in the educational community. Boyer (1990) shows that it is not simply a problem of ensuring that individual learners are given a fair and encouraging opportunity to progress in their education, but that whole categories of individuals are being under-served by institutions of higher education (and by extension, by most educational institutions) in a way that is directly related to larger inequalities in society. Instituting change in educational facilities is thus a major step in addressing equality in society, and is thus of immense importance.

Diversity and Classroom Management

One strategy that has been found to be effective in creating greater justice and opportunity for diverse communities of learners is "service learning," in which an ongoing assessment of diversity in the specific learning environment coupled with a frequent connection to relevant literature and knowledge advancements in the educational fields allows for unjust practices to be stopped and more effective and equal practices put into place (Baldwin et al. 2007). This is an over-arching theory on how to approach the issue of diversity in the educational field, but can lead to effective specific strategies in the provision of education, as well. Classroom management is the most direct way to alter injustices in educational practices and deliver full opportunities to all learners, and specific strategies for classroom management are easily extrapolated from the practice of service learning.

Personal engagement of each learner in the various curricula taught in a given learning community has been identified as being of supreme importance in providing a fair and equal education to all learners (Grant & Sleeter 2006). Combining this with the concept of service learning as described by Baldwin et al. (2007) presents a classroom management strategy that focuses on individual attention to learning and disciplinary issues that might arise, with the instructor maintaining an entirely receptive attitude in investigating the learner's assessments of these issues. A style of classroom management that involves engagement on a personal level rather than a domination of the classroom collective serves diverse learning communities best.

Reading Skills Instruction

Literature circles are one way in which to utilize classroom diversity to create a richer learning experience for each individual in the learning community. By allowing students to choose from a broad selection of readings based on their own values and interests, students are more likely to become engaged in their reading choices, according to my own personal experiences both as a student and a teacher. This is also in keeping with the idea of seeing diversity as a value and an asset rather than an additional challenge in the classroom; it changes the focus from "how can an approach be modified to meet diverse needs" to "how can this diversity be utilized in teaching (Farstrup 2002). By encouraging each group to share their reading selections with the entire class, this also provides for a more expanded learning experience than would be achieved through the entire class reading only a single text.

Keeping a learning log is also an effective way to ensure continued personal engagement on the part of every individual learn, and can also help the instructor learn the frustrations and hindrances to learning that each individual experiences. If the instructor regularly collects and examines the learning logs, adjustments to the curriculum can be made that more completely and adequately serves the needs of the diverse learners in the classroom. External issues with the material, such as a lack of diversity of authorship in the texts chosen can be made evident through such learning logs and can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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