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.
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
< www.nabe.org > 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.
< www.singlesexschools.org > 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.
|African- American English||Impulsivity|
|Balanced bilingualism||Independent self|
|Cognitive styles||Interdependent self|
|English language learner (ELL)||Limited English learner (LEL)|
|Eye contact||Multiple intelligences|
|Field independence||Social distance|
|Gender roles||Test questions|
|Group differences||Unbalanced bilingualism|
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