Diversity in Elementary School Learners

Introduction

It is upon the Christian teachers to combine personal narratives, useful materials to understand complex people or situations, and the use of scriptures to progress in their teaching in the classroom (Parker, 2012). Modern students have much diversity and their teachers must learn how to handle the diversities. There are those that are visible like differences in race, religion, language, ethnicity, and invisible ones like motivational levels, styles of learning, and differences in their world view. Handling the diversities is not always easy but the teacher must find ways of learning the differences among his or her students and find appropriate ways of handling them so that no learner gets disadvantaged (Billingsley, 2002).

Analysis

One of the most recognizable diversity in the classroom is gender. Males and females have outstanding attributes that make them react to certain issues differently. Students may be coming from various ethnicities or races and may be of different religious beliefs and practices with some putting on clothes that make them stand out or carry out certain unique activities that others may find strange. Some students may also have problems with not being fluent in a certain language as it might not be their first language.

Physical diversity may also occur in the sexual orientation of the students. There might be those who consider themselves gay and those who consider themselves ‘straight’. In the classroom, students with physical, social, emotional, or cognitive disorders may also exist. Some of the disabilities may bring discomfort amongst the affected students and hinder their learning, but this should not make them be segregated (Brownlie, 2006).

Differences also exist in the learning capabilities of students. There will be both high achievers who grasp concepts very fast and slower learners who will need more time to understand basic concepts or require special attention. Several factors may influence the motivation levels of students. They may include the life the student leads at home, the student’s levels of understanding, and his or her general view of the world. Domestic problems may hinder students’ motivation.

Slow learners may also at times tend to give up than stand out and face the frustrations they face. The fast learners may also get bored when they are always ahead and have to wait for the others who slow them down. The student with a generally negative attitude, on the other hand, may simply just refuse not to work towards the goals set by the teacher (Deppeler, Harvey & Loreman, 2005).

Diversities also exist in the opinions of the students. The opinions may be religious, political, or other issues in society. Conflict may come out in an instance where a student or teacher attempts to impose their opinions on others who have divergent views. This may at times make certain students be silent with their opinions in fear of facing the teacher’s wrath if he or she is of a different opinion. The varying diversities in the classroom may mean that certain students need special care or special facilities to ease their learning process.

Davis, in her book Tools for teaching, recommends the need for sensitivity and thoughtfulness among the teachers. The teacher should find out any biases that may be in existence. He or she should handle students independently while according them the respect they deserve no matter the uniqueness. The teacher should also get opinions from the students in case the coverage of the course they are taking would make them feel uneasy in any way (Davis, 2009).

Davis continues to suggest that the teacher should learn various aspects of students’ cultures to understand them and should not make any demeaning remarks about a student of a specific culture. The teacher should occasionally invite external guests from various occupations and cultures to address the students and help in building a positive look at diversity. The teacher should also ensure that the curriculum he or she utilizes recognizes the diversities in society. The learning materials used in class should also have a language that does not favor any stereotype or have an inclination towards people of a certain gender (Davis, 2009).

There are ways of differentiation that ensure quality learning for all students. The teacher should ensure there are constant reflections when making decisions in teaching techniques including lesson planning, and ensuring a safe learning environment for students (Kellough & Jarolimeck, 2008). One of the criteria could be assigning of tasks whereby students would receive assignments or exercises depending on their different capabilities or their diverse abilities. The fast learner will quickly advance to the more complicated questions while the slower learner will need to concentrate more on the basics first (Brownlie, 2006).

Grouping is another method that can be applied in differentiation. In this method, learning takes place collaboratively by students being divided into smaller groups. This would give shy students an opportunity for expression. The slow learners would get support from the fast learners while the more skilled learners also get a chance to model their peers by sharing their thoughts and ideas with them. It also provides opportunities for delegation of duties which helps in the recognition of the skills and capabilities of each member in the group.

The pace can be used as another avenue for differentiation. The time used in learning by both slow and fast learners needs to be flexible. This ensures that the slow learners do not drag the fast learners and consequently they are not disadvantaged and left behind in learning. This method is good in lesson planning to ensure that while the slow learners are still concentrating on the basic concepts, their fast colleagues get involved in complicated tasks (Grossman, 2003).

Resources can also be used as another basis for differentiation. This method takes into consideration the abilities of different learners in using various resources. The method allows the usage of a wide range of learning materials for a common objective while taking into consideration preference by each learner.

The outcome is another approach whereby the students perform the same tasks but varying results are expected from them depending on their capabilities. It is a criterion whereby there is no exact “pass mark” or “right answer” set by the teacher. The risk of some students falling below the expected levels could be taken care of by coming up with guidelines covering all the students, but caution should be taken not to have prior segmentation of the students.

Dialogue can also be used in differentiation. The teacher should come up with different approaches to providing explanations to different students. The teacher needs to recognize which students need in-depth explanation by use of simple terms and those that can be given an explanation in more complicated ways. This will also dictate how the teacher engages both categories of students in discussions (Green, 2010).

Conclusion

The emphasis of differentiation is recognizing the diversity of each student and addressing their needs at an individual level. The process should be continuous, progressive, and flexible and the teacher should be able to identify and consider the adjustments to ensure the students’ diversities do not hinder their learning. The main aim of differentiation is making learning to be more student-focused than subject-focused.

References

Parker, D.V. (2012). Christian teachers in public schools: 13 essentials for the classroom. Kansas City, KS: Beacon Hill Press.

Kellough, R.D., & Jarolimeck, J. (2008). Teaching and learning K-8: A guide to methods and resources. 9th Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA: Prentise Hall.

Billingsley, R. (2002). Fostering diversity in the classroom: teaching by discussion. On Diversity in Teaching and Learning; A Compendium, 8-10.

Brownlie, F. (2006). Student Diversity: Classroom Strategies to Meet the Learning Needs of All Students. Ontario, Canada: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Davis, B. (2009). Tools for teaching. New Jersey, USA: John Willey & Sons.

Deppeler, J., Harvey, D. & Loreman, T. (2005). Inclusive Education: A Practical Guide to Supporting Diversity in the Classroom. East Sussex, United Kingdom: Psychology Press.

Green, T. (2010). How to be successful in your first year of teaching elementary school: everything you need to know that they don’t teach you in school. Washington State, USA: Atlantic Publishing Company.

Grossman, H. (2003). Classroom Behavior Management for Diverse and Inclusive Schools. Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield.