A little over 60 years have passed since Brown v. Board of Education, one of the most important Supreme Court cases in United States history. The decision made it illegal to segregate public schools by race. This landmark decision of the civil rights movement played a significant role in removing racial barriers for decades to come. It has also enabled social scientists to study how diversity in the classroom leads to greater cultural understanding in students, stronger critical thinking skills, and greater creativity, which better prepares them for adult life.
The National Education Association reports that 2014 was the first year in which a majority of US public school students represented racial and ethnic minorities. Additionally, the Southern Education Foundation found that in 2013, 51% of children in public schools were from low-income families. While student demographics vary widely across the country, there is no doubt that cultural respect and inclusion are very important values in the modern classroom. Those considering enrolling in a Doctor of Education (EdD) program should look for a program that emphasizes the importance of inclusion and diversity in the classroom and the benefits they can provide.
Discover the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the classroom
The various schools vary in ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, reading level, athletic ability, background, gender, personality, and more. Strong EdD programs teach educators to appreciate the unique aspects of what makes each student different and help them embrace those differences in the classroom.
An in-depth examination of dozens of other studies on diversity, conducted by The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank, found that different and divergent perspectives can lead to positive learning outcomes. These outcomes, explored below, can have benefits that go well beyond students' graduation and can impact their lives in the future.
Diversity improves cognitive skills and critical thinking
The presence of diversity in the classroom allows students to consider perspectives and opinions beyond those formed or formed by family and friends in their early years. By presenting students with perspectives that are very different from their own, it gives them the opportunity to critically question their own beliefs and examine the world in new ways. As noted in a Scientific American article, exposure to diversity changes the way people think, fostering creativity and innovation, as well as decision-making and problem-solving skills. As the article summarizes, "diversity drives us to act cognitively in a way that homogeneity simply does not."
Encountering diversity helps students step into adulthood
When students enter the professional world, they join a large and diverse workforce. Interacting with people from different backgrounds and different mindsets can be challenging without prior exposure to diversity, especially at a younger age. Companies look to their employees' ability to handle diversity gracefully and maturely; 96% of top employers say it's important for employees to be able to work with people from diverse backgrounds, according to the Century Foundation.
Diversity prepares students for citizenship
As part of the Century Foundation's Diversity Research Study, the authors reviewed 27 different studies on the impact of diversity on people's willingness to engage with and improve their local community, a concept known as civic engagement. The study found that experiences of diversity in college lead to greater civic engagement. This suggests that the more involved citizens are with their government and its political landscape, and the better informed they are about governmental processes, the more informed decisions they can make about how they are governed. As the US Department of Education notes, students' experiences of diversity help them become more engaged citizens.
Diversity encourages creativity
At its core, creativity is bringing different ideas together and transforming them to create something new, unique and personal. The more ideas and experiences people are exposed to, the more creative they can be. In fact, Scientific American cites a study by several research professors who found that racially diverse groups perform significantly better than non-racially diverse groups at problem solving. In professional and non-professional situations that require creativity, it makes sense to bring different perspectives together.
Discover how you can promote inclusion and diversity as an educator
As previously mentioned, diversity in the classroom has numerous positive benefits for students, but how can educators ensure their students get the most out of interacting with their diverse peers? Well-trained educators, like those with an EdD, are equipped with the tools to encourage idea-sharing and interpersonal understanding. Regardless of educational level, elementary school teachers through to college professors can use the following strategies to help their classrooms.
Learn more about the cultural background of the students
Classroom students aren't the only ones who can benefit from learning what makes them diverse. According to the NDT Resource Center, an academic resource dedicated to non-destructive assessment, educators also need to get to know their students and what makes them unique, thereby discovering their point of view from which they see the world and their personal learning style. . For an educator, understanding cultural diversity in the classroom is a crucial part of being able to anticipate where certain lessons might lead or what problems might arise between students from different backgrounds. Educators can set the tone of inclusion and emphasize that all perspectives are valuable.
Create a culturally appropriate learning environment
An educator who properly creates a culturally appealing environment will have fostered a classroom in which students become respectful and understanding of cultures other than their own. These students are often more willing to respectfully listen to other viewpoints than to mock, belittle, or fear the unknown. The best way for educators to achieve this, according to The Edvocate, is to teach students that people who don't look like them, or who have a different socioeconomic background, follow different religious traditions, speak different languages, or have different orientations and different genders . Gender orientation or identity - you are still the same as they are on the inside.
Allow students to learn more about their community
Learning about one's own culture is just as important as learning about others in developing cultural understanding among students. Educators with strong teacher training like EdD can facilitate projects for their students that encourage them to learn about their own history. The NDT Resource Center suggests activities such as visiting community landmarks important to your culture and interviewing key members of your community. Students then have the opportunity to share their discoveries with their classmates.
Establish a policy of negative behavior without indifference
In recent years schools have adopted a zero tolerance policy to curb bullying, harassment and intimidation. According to GLSEN, however, the tide is now turning towards a zero-indifference policy. Zero Disregard is an alternative that promotes safety in schools by consistently and decisively addressing disrespectful behavior. Unlike zero tolerance, where a first violation results in penalties as severe as suspension or expulsion, zero disrespect allows the teacher to use culturally insensitive moments as opportunities for learning and understanding. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Tolerance.org project, like the Anti-Defamation League, recommends a zero-indifference policy when dealing with bullying and harassment; the American Civil Liberties Union; the Respect for All project; and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, according to research by Jacqueline Leung of the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs.
Learn to promote cultural diversity in the classroom
Teachers who want to be at the forefront of their profession must have a solid foundation in understanding diversity and creating an inclusive classroom. To achieve this, educators would do well to establish an award-winning educational program such asAmerican University Online-PhD in Pädagogik. The curriculum is designed to provide educators with the tools and understanding to adapt to any classroom, regardless of the diverse makeup of its students, and ultimately foster a broader appreciation of our human differences.
Education Week, “Six Ways Teachers Can Promote Cultural Awareness in the Classroom”
Leung, Jacqueline, "Reforming School Discipline for Equity and Excellence in Oregon: Recommendations for Policy and Practice"
National Education Association, "Different Student Populations Are in the Classroom"
Scientific American, "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter"
The Century Foundation, "How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students"
The Edvocate, "Ways to Foster Diverse Cultures in the Classroom"
Tolerance.org, “Critical Practices for Anti-Budget Education”