Classroom Diversity in Adult Arts Education: Challenges and Opportunities Literature Review Chapter

Pages: 9 (2758 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Teaching

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[. . .] Teachers should also be aware that some cultures punish members who challenge authority, but to punish these students for not challenging assumptions or points-of-view would be unfair. These suggestions reveal treating everyone with respect and fairness is insufficient, if the goal is an equal chance at academic success for all students regardless of their racial and ethnic background (Brookfield & Presskill, 1999, p. 127). Race and ethnicity are important considerations, yet each student expects their individual identities to be respected as well.

Strategies for Unlocking the Power of Diversity

Brookfield (1995) recommends that teachers engage in a life-long process of self-reflection in order to identify any biases or stereotypes that would have a negative effect on teacher-student interactions. Teachers can likewise help students learn how to think critically, which involves identifying assumptions that influence our behavior, reflecting on the validity of these assumptions, viewing the assumptions from different perspectives, and taking action to correct any misguided or invalid assumptions (Brookfield, 2012, p. 1). The best setting for learning critical thinking, according to Brookfield's (2012) students, is in a group setting, because a collaborative effort in identifying and checking the validity of assumptions makes this process straightforward. As Brookfield (2013) points out, classroom discussion change the power dynamics in a classroom, with a subtle shift from the teacher to the students. Even though the teacher still retains control, the students' individual, racial, ethnic, economic, and gender identities come into play, as well as an unequal distribution of power associated with these identities. Brookfield (2012) cautions educators that group discussions can also enter into 'group think', which can result in an outcome that undermines, rather than stimulates, collaborative gains in knowledge. The danger lies in leaving biased remarks and invalid assumptions unchallenged due to the felt obligation to give equal weight to each person's contribution to the discussion.

Unlocking the creative potential of collaboration remains a largely unstudied phenomenon, but there is wide agreement that the creative potential of groups is greater than that of individuals. Hoever and colleagues (2012) decided to test this assumption empirically by quantifying the degree of novelty and usefulness associated with a business plan developed by groups of three students. The main variable was perspective taking, which was defined as a deliberate effort to try and understand another group member's views. The interaction between group diversity and perspective taking produced the greatest amount of knowledge elaboration, which was defined as information sharing, careful message framing, constructive evaluation and debate of ideas, and discovery of ways to integrate differing points-of-view. Diversity in this study was based on differing views on how to address the business shortcomings of the theatre; therefore, the authors of this study intentionally manipulated the diversity of perspectives within each group by the careful evaluation and selection of group members. The authors discovered that diversity of perspectives and perspective taking combined to produce the most creative business plans.

From a more traditional perspective it is hard to imagine how an online adult art education class could incorporate group discussions into its curriculum. One possible solution is to implement an online equivalent of an artist's portfolio; only instead of including only original works of art, the portfolio would also contain homework assignments, journal entries, teacher evaluations, and peer-assessments (Lin, Yang, Hung, & Wang, 2006). A web-based portfolio was implemented for a fifth grade class in Taiwan and its main functions were: (1) system administration to allow building student accounts, (2) teacher announcements, opinions, and assignments, (3) student opinions on their own works of art, (4) exchange of teacher's and students' opinions and suggestions, (5) student modification of online portfolio, (6) student viewing of classmates' portfolios, and (7) peer-assessment. Scanners and digital cameras were used to capture images before uploading into portfolios. Based on the assessment of the authors of this study, the fifth graders did not like the peer-assessment function of the online portfolio system, yet believed this function was important for learning. The impact of culture seems evident in the fact that the students preferred not to leave comments about the work of other students, yet students liked getting comments and felt comments by peers improved learning. Analysis of the data over time revealed the web-based portfolios encouraged comments from other students, which nearly doubled in word count over the 12-week study period. The content of the comments became more complex as well, shifting from simply descriptive, evaluative, or suggestive, to a large increase in the number of comments containing both descriptions and evaluations.

Summary

Although the challenges inherent to a diverse classroom may appear daunting to inexperienced educators, there is a clear consensus that diversity increases the potential for collaborative knowledge acquisition. One way to exploit this potential is to structure the curriculum to emphasize discussions, but only after the students have been taught how to engage in critical thinking. Hopefully these strategies will be transferable to an online classroom setting, as suggested by the findings of Lin and colleagues (2006).

Key Points

The first learning objective chosen for this assignment was developing a deeper understanding of the challenges that a racially- and ethnically-diverse classroom would present to an educator interested in teaching a course in adult arts education. Both learning styles and goals will differ between ethnic groups, but fortunately Western theories of adult education have plenty of room for diversity. The main consideration for educators is to recognize, accept, and respect diversity in experiences, attitudes, and knowledge that an ethnically-diverse adult classroom contains, rather than try to ignore or take a naive approach to diversity. Cultural influences necessarily impact learning because the same processes that lead to the formation of ethnic identity will have a similar impact on learning styles and goals.

The second learning objective was to better understand how classroom discussions could be successfully implemented in an ethnically-diverse classroom, especially online. While a diverse classroom is viewed as ideal by most education scholars, those with experience recognize that failure and success are equally possible. Shifting from lectures to discussions in a classroom necessarily shifts the balance of power as the students' racial, ethnic, and social class identities come into play. The socially-defined imbalances in power can be moderated to some extent by intentional perspective taking, thereby increasing the potential for student participation and creativity. Although face-to-face discussions represent the gold standard for collaborative learning, an online discussion could be facilitated by implementing an electronic portfolio system. The expected benefits would be increased engagement and participation.

References

Berry, J.W. (1971). Ecological and cultural factors in spatial perceptual development. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 3(4), 324-36.

Brookfield, S.D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Brookfield, S.D. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques for helping students question their assumptions (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Brookfield, S.D. (2013). Powerful techniques for teaching adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishing.

Brookfield, S.D., & Preskill, S. (1999). Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Cooper, M. (2012, December 13). Census officials, citing increasing diversity, say U.S. will be a 'plurality nation.' New York Times, A20.

Davis, B.G. (1993). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Hoever, I.J., van Knippenberg, D., van Ginkel, W.P., & Barkema, H.G. (2012). Fostering team creativity: Perspective taking as key to unlocking diversity's potential. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 982-96.

Holmes, G., & Abington-Cooper, M. (2000). Pedagogy vs. androgogy: A false dichotomy? Journal of Technology Studies, 26(2), 50-55.

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., & Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Classroom Diversity in Adult Arts Education: Challenges and Opportunities.  (2014, September 30).  Retrieved December 19, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/classroom-diversity-adult-arts-education/6976522

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