Teaching Diverse Classrooms

Let's take a look at the future of education shall we - focusing on BC in particular. An article published by CBC claims that "the International Education Strategy aims to double the number of international students and researchers — to 450,000 — in Canada by 2022 in an effort to create jobs and stimulate the domestic economy."

I believe this is a good thing. Sure, there are going to be skeptics, and people who believe they will have to compete for seats in classes, but I say let's get creative. How many different ways can we use the space we already have, and how many more teachers can we hire, if our enrollments are increasing. I digress.

The numbers will tell you that diverse classrooms are the reality most teachers in BC are facing. Here are the stats for UBC, SFU, BCIT, and Langara.

International students make up 10% to 20% of total enrollments. This is helpful in keeping programs open and teachers employed I am sure.

 Teachers face an issue of their students not being able to "keep up" and they feel a strong desire to uphold the integrity of their programs.

I believe in this as well. I wonder, though, why these schools do not have stronger partnerships with ESL schools and their Pathway programs.
I attended the BCTEAL conference this year and felt a saddening pit in my stomach listening to all the teachers in the audience complain that their students can't read the texts, follow the lectures, or write a decent essay.

I thought to myself, "I bet you my pathway graduates can." Why don't you send your students to me, if you don't have the time to teach them.
 I digress again.

Stephen Brookfield states "diversity can never be fully addressed to the satisfaction of all involved. There are just too many variables to account for, too many choices, too many contradictions. But neither can we just throw up our hands in bewilderment" (p. 170-171).

Various types of instruments exist to to help teachers address the diversity in their classrooms and assess personality tests and learning styles based on the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory, on Kolb's cycle of experimental learning, on the Learning Combination Inventory, and the Two Factor Study Process Questionnaire (all referenced in Brookfield's The Skillful Teacher, pg. 155). Use these as a tool to help prepare lessons, and learn about what your students really want out of their learning experience.

Another method teachers could use to gauge the diversity of their classroom is through diagnostic testing. From my experience, teachers could spend more time learning about the histories and background knowledge of their students. This would make for a strong Boomerang style lesson my favourite).

Brookfield also gives a few suggestions, from pages 158-172 of The Skillful Teacher (2006), which include:
  • Team teaching
  • Mixing student groups
  • Mixing modalities
When mixing modalities, things to consider are visual vs oral communication, silent time vs speaking time, teacher demonstration vs student experimentation, abstract conceptualization vs practical illustration, teacher talk vs student talk, and teacher direction vs student direction.

The last suggestion I have for inclusive and diverse classes is to use a variety of thinking strategies. In a previous post, I wrote about creative thinking strategies, and I came across this method below. Enjoy.


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