What should you think about when implementing strategies that support diversity in learning in your teaching
Teaching philosophy: I believe in student-centred learning. I think about the contribution I am making to the development of students’ skills and capabilities for their future professional lives.
Pedagogies: Approaches that encourage diversity in learning and characteristically emphasise constructivist learning suit my teaching.
Curriculum: There are specific learning outcomes that I wish my students to have in my course.
Tools for learning: I can motivate my students to adopt learning strategies that encourage diversity in learning and knowing. I can incorporate these strategies into my course.
Commitment: I can identify an ‘active or self-directed learning’ champion who will support innovative practice.
Why is it important?
An increase in student numbers and massification of higher education means that there is more diversity in class, gender, race, ethnicity, academic preparation, mature age in the university classroom (Barrington, 2004). Responding to cultural diversity encourages students and staff to become interculturally knowledgeable for today’s globalised world (Hermida, 2009).
There are many ways to know and be intelligent (Gardner, 1999). Acknowledging different ways of knowing could support students to find greater meaning in their work and thus augment their learning (Barrington, 2004).
A constructivist approach to learning and teaching validates the different realities that students bring to the learning space, therefore embracing diversity. Constructivist learning strives for the individual to achieve goals of deep understanding, cognitive development and changed conceptions (Biggs, 2003).
What is it and how does it support learning? What does recent research say?
Diversity is not just about access to education for underrepresented groups, but acknowledging diversity of passion, intelligence and preference. Teaching should encourage students to engage in different modes and ways of learning and to explore constructions beyond the traditions of the discipline (Parker, 2007).
A pedagogy that respects and supports diversity could be based on any of a huge number of learning style models. For instance, Gardner’s (2006) Multiple Intelligences acknowledges there are eight ways of knowing and allows students to draw on their strengths and learn in ways beyond the traditional academic verbal and logical intelligences while Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory categorises learners in any of four types. Snook (2007) cautions against the use or even validity of learning style models stating there is contradictory evidence about their effectiveness for supporting learning.
An awareness of the learning culture from which international students come and an understanding of the issues they face as students is essential for creating appropriate environments that will build on their inherent learning approaches and give them confidence to adopt other ways of learning (Valiente, 2008). For instance, strategies such as memorization, external motivation, passiveness and collaborative learning which are generally regarded in Western higher education as ‘inferior’ approaches to learning tend to be adopted by international students. It does not necessarily mean that such learning behavior leads to low quality learning as evident in their local cultural settings, however students need help to acculturate and adjust to the learning requirements of their new environment (Valiente, 2008).