Sociocultural Diversity in Educational Psychology Essay

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Sociocultural Diversity in the Classroom

Advances in technology have brought about many changes in the society in which we live. One of these changes centers on our ability to meet persons from different cultures and to interact with them in a manner that increases our knowledge and acceptance of their society. We have contact with more persons of a different cultural background than we ever have in the past. The increasingly diverse world that we live in continues to grow and change. As educators prepare children for their future roles in society, it is important to help them develop an understanding and sense of tolerance for those that are different from themselves. The world that they will inherit will be a diverse world that is full of different ideals and cultural concepts. Borders are slowly disappearing and children will have to approach the new world with a sense of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance. This research will explore how to approach socio-cultural diversity in the elementary classroom.

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The first task in understanding the implications of social diversity in the classroom is to define what diversity means. In its most common usage, diversity refers to persons of different cultures. Culture refers to a social group that has several shared things in common. They may share the same geography, history, language, cuisine, mode of dress, attitudes and many other features that help to differentiate them from others. Often, our own culture is invisible to us. We do not see what makes us like those around us, but we do realize it when others are distinctly different, although we may not know why (Alliance, 2010).

TOPIC: Essay on Sociocultural Diversity in Educational Psychology Assignment

Culture provides the basis for our worldview. One's culture is manifest in their behaviors and actions. Cultural context refers to the bias that culture places on our actions and behaviors, particularly the manner in which we treat others (Alliance, 2010). Culture changes over time. This change is caused by contact with other cultures, technological advances, and situations such as economics, food shortage, food abundance and a number of other factors (Alliance, 2010). Culture is considered to be a dynamic, rather than a static force in our lives.

Diversity simply refers to those from other cultures. However, it may be noted that recently it has been proposed that a broader definition needs to be adopted. The proposed definition of diversity is not limited to demographics or race. It will include ideals, religious, and philosophical views as well (Shackleford, 2005). However, for the purposes of the elementary classroom, the most obvious differences will be the topic of discussion. Including cultural education in the elementary curriculum will play a key role in developing a tolerant school setting where cultural differences represent an asset rather than a divide.

Diversity in the Educational Context

Diversity has become an important topic in the business world due to the need to interact with suppliers, distributors, and customers from different cultural backgrounds. The need to understand persons of different cultural backgrounds extends into the educational realm for several reasons. First, the children of today will be the businesspersons of tomorrow. Their educational experience must prepare for the cultural challenges that they face. Secondly, the educational system must find a way to deliver their educational services to an increasingly diverse student body.

In order to meet the needs of a diverse student population, the school system must have an accurate way to measure diversity within their school system. Using diversity to improve the educational experience of the students has a positive affect on student motivation and the development of culturally responsive teaching methods (Enterline, 2007). Structural diversity refers to student characteristics including race, gender, socioeconomic status, language, family composition and religion (Enterline, 2007). These traits represent items over which the student has little control. Understanding these elements in the classroom can help the teacher to develop methods that help learners of all cultural backgrounds to gain a better grasp of the material.

Integrating a socially diverse student population was found to have a direct educational benefit. However, mere contact with persons from a different culture are not enough to stimulate the educational advantages of the racially diverse classroom (Gurin, Nagda, & Lopez, 2003). Desegregation demonstrated that simply placing diverse students together did not reap the expected benefits. In order for diverse student bodies to experience the educational benefits, students had to have equality in status, common goals and intimate interaction with each other (Gurin, Nagda, & Lopez, 2003). Students need to get to know one another on a personal level in order to allow for the educational benefits to take place. It has been proposed that in order for a democratic society to exist, tolerance must be the norm for a diverse population (Gurin, Nagda, & Lopez, 2003).

The topic of diversity demonstrates that the educational system does not exist in a world that is separate from the community and the society that it serves. The system must respond to the needs of the community and the society of which it is a part. Various communities and countries have varying diversity in their population. In many, children that are not of the dominant culture may experience language difficulties in school, as they are limited in their abilities with the dominant language (Arneson, Birzea, & Dumont et al., 2008). This damages the ability of the students to learn the necessary material and to acquire the skills that they will need in the future. Providing for the needs of a diverse student population is not limited to certain countries, but represents a key issue in all countries of the world (Arneson, Birzea, & Dumont et al., 2008).

Language as a Social Process

Children learn about language long before they enter into the school setting. They learn about language and its uses implicitly, rather than waiting to learn it explicitly when they enter school (Potter, 2007/2008). Children in a literate society experience language and literacy as a social process and understand that print words have meaning before they enter the school setting. Interests in print media are not a biological process, but rather a cultural one. Children born into different cultures places a greater or lesser interest on print media and the ability to read and write. Likewise, children that are not born into a culture where print media is a part of their world do not place an emphasis on learning to read and write. They do not hold the process with the same importance as children born into literate societies (Potter, 2007/2008).

These cultural differences have a major impact on the ability to teach literacy in differing cultural settings. Print language represents a code that is used to represent the world. Children that do not grow up in cultures where print language is important will not understand the connection between print language and their world in the same manner as a child who grew up in a literate society. The teacher of these children will have to start with instilling the importance of written language to these children, something the other children may already know. In this way, culture plays a key role in the ability of the learner to grasp the knowledge that is being passed to them. Children bring their life experiences with them, which can represent either a positive or a negative force in their lives (Potter, 2007/2008).

Children from minority cultures can succeed in school, but they have to work especially hard to do so. They must overcome cultural as well as academic challenges. Inequality in education is not always a function of minority status or of socioeconomic status. A lack of readiness skills prior to entering kindergarten was a key hindrance in the ability of children to learn language. It was found that high quality preschool programs played a key role in preparing children for school. This was found to apply to majority children of the middle classes, as well as low socioeconomic status minority children (Liu, 2007/2008). This study emphasizes the importance of quality preschool programs in preparing children for the challenges that they face due to cultural factors. Cultural factors may present special challenges for some children, but they can be overcome by providing quality preschool programs that prepare them to learn. The community can play a key role in mitigating negative effects of culture on the desire to learn through exposure to children from different cultures in the preschool setting.

Language learning occurs in distinct stages, regardless of the culture in which the child grows up. Language learning is a highly social process that involves the acquisition of rules from others. They are not typically informed of these rules in a formal fashion. They learn them through doing and making assumptions from the language of others. Imitation and social processes play a key role in the ability to learn language by the child (Bernstein & Nash, 2008). It would be easier to view language as being developed, rather than learned in children. They acquire it through informal social processes. Often times,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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