Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

4.6: Accommodating Diversity in Practice

  • Page ID
  • Hopefully I have persuaded you— if you did need persuading— that students are indeed diverse. The important question that follows from this point is what to do about the diversity. I have begun answering that question by including a number of suggestions in the sections and paragraphs of this chapter. But there is obviously more to be said about accommodating diversity— about actually working with students' diversity and turning it into a resource rather than a burden or challenge. In the rest of this book therefore I offer more suggestions not only about knowing how different one student can be from another, but also about diversifying teaching to acknowledge this fact. Differences among students remain a challenge during all phases of teaching, from planning instruction, to implementing lessons and activities, to assessing students' learning after lessons or activities are all finished. In the next chapter, I illustrate this reality by describing how students with disabilities can be included in classroom life- one of the more telling examples of accommodating to diversity.

    Chapter summary

    Students differ in a multitude of ways, both individually and as groups. Individually, for example, students have a preferred learning style as well as preferred cognitive or thinking styles. They also have unique profiles or intelligence or competence that affect how and what they learn most successfully.

    In addition to individual diversity, students tend to differ according to their gender, although there are numerous individual exceptions. Motor abilities as well as motivation and experience with athletics gradually differentiate boys and girls, especially when they reach and begin high school. Socially, boys tend to adopt relationships that are more active and wide-ranging than do girls. Academically, girls tend to be a bit more motivated to receive slightly higher marks in school. Teachers sometimes contribute to gender role differences— perhaps without intending— by paying attention to boys more frequently and more publicly in class, and by distributing praise and criticism in ways differentiated by sex.

    Students also differ according to cultures, language, and ethnic groups of their families. Many students are bilingual, with educational consequences that depend on their fluency in each of their two languages. If they have more difficulty with English, then programs that add their first language together with English have proved to be helpful. If they have more difficulty with their first language, they are risk for language loss, and the consequences are also negative even if more hidden from teachers' views.

    In addition to language differences as such, students differ according to culture in how language is used or practiced— in taking turns at speaking, in eye contact, social distance, wait time, and the use of questions. Some of these differences in practice stem from cultural differences in attitudes about self-identity, with non-Anglo culturally tending to support a more interdependent view of the self than Anglo culture or the schools. Differences in attitudes and in use of language have several consequences for teachers. In particular— where appropriate— they should consider using cooperative activities, avoid highlighting individuals' accomplishments or failures, and be patient about students' learning to be punctual.

    On the Internet

    < > This is the website for the National Association of Bilingual Educators, which represents both English Language Learners and their teachers. The website offers a variety of information, free of charge, about all aspects of bilingual education, including introductory summaries of the field, position papers released to the government and the press, and research articles from their journals.

    < > This website represents the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, which as its name implies advocates for all-girl and all-boy classes and schools. The website contains thoughtful summaries of the advantages to both boys and girls if they are educated separately and in public schools. Whether you agree with their point of view or not, their point of view is worth considering; though keep in mind that their supporting information tends to come from media sources (e.g. newspapers) instead of full-fledged research studies.

    Key terms
    African- American English Impulsivity
    Balanced bilingualism Independent self
    Bilingual Individual differences
    Cognitive styles Interdependent self
    Culture IRE cycle
    Dialect Language loss
    Ebonics Learning styles
    English language learner (ELL) Limited English learner (LEL)
    Ethnicity Metacognition
    Eye contact Multiple intelligences
    Field dependence Reflectivity
    Field independence Social distance
    Gender roles Test questions
    Group differences Unbalanced bilingualism
    Identity Wait time


    Basow, S. & Rubenfeld, K. (2003). "Troubles talk": Effects of gender and gender-typing. Sex Roles, 48(3/4), 183-188.

    Beykont, Z. (Ed.). (2002). The power of culture: Teaching across language difference. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Publishing Group.

    Beaulieu, C. (2004). Intercultural study of personal space: A case study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(4), 794-805.

    Birx, H. J. (2005). Encyclopedia of human anthropology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Bohn, A. (2003). Familiar voices: Using Ebonics communication techniques in the primary classroom. Urban Education, 38(6), 688-707.

    Braddock, J., Sokol-Katz, J., Greene, A., & Basinger-Fleischman, L. (2005). Uneven playing fields: State variations in boys' and girls' access to and participation in high school interscholastic sports. Sociological Spectrum, 25(2), 231-250.

    Cazden, C. (2001). Classroom discourse, 2 nd edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman Publishers.

    Cohen, E. (2004). Teaching cooperative learning: The challenge for teacher education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Davies, J. (2005). Expressions of gender: An analysis of pupils' gendered discourse styles in small group classroom discussions. Discourse and Society, 14(2), 115-132.

    Davis, G. & Rimm, S. (2004). Education of the gifted and talented, 5 th edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Delamont, S. (1996). Women's place in education. Brookfield, MA: Avebury Publishers.

    Ebert, J. (2005). Linguistics: Tongue tied. Nature, 438, 148-149.

    Erden, F. & Wolfgang, C. (2004). An exploration of the differences in teachers' beliefs related to discipline when dealing with male and female students. Early Child Development and Care, 174(1), 3-11.

    Eisner, E. (2004). Multiple intelligences: Its tensions and possibilities. Teachers College Record, 106(1), 31.

    Espelage, D. & Swearer, S. (2004). Bullying in American schools: A socio-ecological perspective on prevention and intervention. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Evans, C. (2004). Exploring the relationship between cognitive style and teaching style. Educational psychology, 24(4), 509-530.

    Francis, N. (2006). The development of secondary discourse ability and metalinguistic awareness in second language learners. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16, 37-47.

    Freeman, D. (2004). Trends in educational equity of girls and women. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.

    Friend, M. (2007). Special education: Contemporary perspectives for school professionals, 2 nd edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

    Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after twenty years. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

    Garlick, K. (2002). Understanding the nature of the general factor of intelligence. Psychological review, 109(1), 116-136.

    Golombok, S. & Fivush, R. (1994). Gender development. New York: Cambridge University Press. Student diversity Greenfield, P. (1994). Independence and interdependence as cultural scripts. In P. Greenfield & R. Cocking (Eds.), Cross-cultural roots of minority child development, pp. 1-40. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Greenfield, P., Keller, H., Fuligni, A., & Maynard, A. (2003). Cultural pathways through universal development. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 461-490.

    Gottfredson, L. (2004). Intelligence: Is it the epidemiologists' elusive "fundamental cause" of social class inequalities in health? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 174-199.

    Hansen, L., Umeda, Y., & McKinney, M. (2002). Savings in the relearning of second language vocabulary: The effects of time and proficiency. Language Learning, 52, 653-663.

    Hyde, J. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581-592.

    Jimenez, R., Garcia, G., & Pearson. D. (1995). Three children, two languages, and strategic reading: Case studies in bilingual/monolingual reading. American Educational Research Journal, 32(1), 67-97.

    Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. (1998). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning, 5" 1 edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Kohn, A. (2004). Test today, privatize tomorrow. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(8), 568-577.

    Kohnert, K., Yim, D., Nett, K., Kan, P., & Duran, L. (2005). Intervention with linguistically diverse preschool children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 251-263.

    Loo, R. (2004). Kolb's learning styles and learning preferences: Is there a linkage? Educational psychology, 24(f), 99-108.

    Lubinski, D. (2004). 100 years after Spearman's "'General Intelligence,' Objectively Determined and Measured". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 86(1), 96-111.

    Macbeth, D. (2003). Hugh Mehan's "Learning Lessons" reconsidered: On the differences between naturalistic and critical analysis of classroom discourse. American Educational Research Journal, 40(1), 239-280.

    Maccoby, E. (2002). Gender and social exchange: A developmental perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Martinez-Roldan, C. & Malave, G. (2004). Language ideologies mediating literacy and identity in bilingual contexts. Journal of early childhood literacy, 4(2), 155-180.

    Measor, L. & Sykes, P. (1992). Gender and schools. New York: Cassell.

    Mehan, H. (1979). Learning lessons: social organization in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Messner, M., Dunca, M., & Cooky, C. (2003). Silence, sports bras, and wrestling porn. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 27(1), 38-51.

    Meyers-Sutton, C. (2005). Multiple voices: An introduction to bilingualism. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

    Minami, M. (2002). Culture-specific language styles: The development of oral narrative and literacy. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

    Myaskovsky, L, Unikel, E., & Dew, M. (2005). Effects of gender diversity on performance and interpersonal behavior in small work groups. Sex Roles, 52(9/10), 645-657.

    Pritchard, A. (2005). Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom. London, UK: David Fulton.

    Rogers, R., Malancharuvil-Berkes, E., Mosely, M., Hui, D., & O'Garro, G. (2005). Critical discourse analysis in education: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 365-416.

    Rogoff, B. (2003). The culture of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Sadker, D. (2002). An educator's primer on the gender war. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(3), 235-240.

    Shiever, S. & Maker, C. (2003). New directions in enrichment and acceleration. In N. Colangelo & G. Davis (Eds.), Handbook fo gifted education, 3 rd edition (pp. 163-173). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Stahl, S. (2002). Different strokes for different folks? In L. Abbeduto (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing on controversial issue sin educational psychology (pp. 98-107). Guilford, CT: McGraw Hill.

    Steiner, H. & Carr, M. (2003). Cognitive development in gifted children: Toward a more precise understanding of emerging differences in intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 215-246.

    Tannen, D. (2001). You just don't understand: Men and women in conversation. New York: Quill.

    Tharp, R. & Gallimore, R. (1989). Rousing minds to life. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Torres-Guzman, M. (1998). Language culture, and literacy in Puerto Rican communities. In B. Perez (Ed.), Sociocultural contexts of language and literacy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Tse, L. (2001). Why don't they learn English? New York: Teachers' College Press.

    United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. (2003). American community survey. Washington, D.C.: Author.

    Wilkinson, L. & Marrett, C. (Eds.). (1985). Gender influences in classroom interaction. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

    Zhang, L. & Sternberg, R. (2005). Three-fold model of intellectual styles. Educational psychology review, 17(1). Zhang, L. & Sternberg, R. (2006). The nature of intellectual styles. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum