Capitalise upon diversity in the classroom responsibly and positively
Objective: To enable students to benefit from the diverse backgrounds of fellow students through encouraging student interaction in the class and managing diversity through tutor-managed groups.
Description: Consider how to manage the curriculum and learning in order to capitalise upon the diverse backgrounds of students in the classroom. Just because you have diversity in the classroom does not mean that students will automatically benefit from the diverse perspectives and experiences in the classroom. Ippolitto (2007) that found that due to student preferences to work with students from a similar background, that diversify had to be managed in order for students to reap the benefits.
In class for example students may sit with fellow students from similar backgrounds rather than mixing. Consider ways of increasing the interaction between students and be aware of group dynamics and that some students may actually feel marginalised.
Consider how you can encourage students to better integrate with each other and learn from each other. Group work is a good way to achieve this by organising tutor-managed groups which ensure that students can learn from different perspectives, learn about different cultures and enable students to develop inter-cultural communication competences.
Background: Both International students and home students form ethnic minority backgrounds can feel marginalised in group work
Source: Scotland Race Equality ToolKit
Staff Case Study (Ros Hill) - Increasing integration and student interaction
For several years on my 2nd year module, students have been required to get into groups of four and carry out a group project. Persuading approximately 150 students to organise themselves into groups of four, and not five or three, is always an issue. In addition, it is always noticeable that there is very little mix of ethnic backgrounds within the groups.
This year students were put into groups, ensuring a mix of gender and ethnicity. The allocation was made just on name, rather than any detailed knowledge of ethnicity, and carried out by the LHS School Office. Students were given the number of their group and during the teaching session they met with the rest of the group. This was achieved by designating an area of the room for each group and identifying it with an A4 label.
The merits of working in allocated groups were outlined at the beginning of the session (transferable skill of establishing working relationships in teams, opportunity to meet new people, etc) and the groups were given time to get to know each other using an ‘icebreaker’ task.
Rather than the expected outcry from students about preferring to work with people they knew, the feedback was positive. As members of each group were more often than not strangers to each other, everyone started off on an equal footing, rather than groups where, for instance, three members were friends and the fourth an outsider. The groups were more business-like in the way they approached the task and there were no reported incidences of non-participation.
“Much as you like your friends, sometimes it’s easier to work with other people who you don’t know as well.”
“It’s like you all feel equal when you don’t really know each other well.”
“Us older students tend to stick together so it’s nice to have a chance to get to know some of the younger students.”
“I like my friends but I don’t always want to work with them and this way, you don’t have to feel awkward about not being in the same group.”