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Student Diversity

1) Cultural Differences:
     Students come from different backgrounds, which can create an environment in the classroom that is quite diverse. Culture has an impact on teaching and learning. Differences in behaviours, attitudes, dress, language and food exist in all cultures. Many of the behaviours that are associated with being brought up in a particular culture have consequences for classroom instruction. There is a tendency in our cultures to value the mainstream, high status groups such as the middle-class US or Canadian family. Therefore, children not brought up in this sort of family may encounter difficulty. Often, schools expect children to speak standard English, but this may be difficult for those students whose families speak a language other than English at home. As well, schools expect children to be highly verbal and do a lot of their work independently, and to compete with other students for grades and recognition. However, many other cultures value co-operation over independence and competitiveness. Therefore, understanding students backgrounds is very crucial in making sure they are receiving the education they need.

2) Socio-economic Status and Achievement:
     Another way that students differ from one another is social class. Social class is based on income, education and prestige in society. There are differences in child-rearing practises between different social classes. Many children from low-income families receive an upbringing that is less consistent with what they will be expected to do in school. By the time they reach school-age, children from middle class families are good at following instructions, explaining and understanding reasons, and using and understanding complex language, while lower class children have less experience in all these areas.

     Another difference in these families are the types of activities that the parents tend to do with their children. Middle class parents are more likely to express high expectations for their children and to reward them for intellectual development. They are likely to provide good models for language use, to talk and read to their children frequently and to encourage reading and other learning activities.

     Often children from low-income families are placed at risk for school failure by the characteristics of the communities they live in and the schools they attend. School-funding is often associated with the social class of the neighbourhood that they are situated in. Middle class schools are equipped with better resources and higher qualified and better paid teachers. As well, schools in lower income neighbourhoods may have to spend more of their budget on security, and on services for children having difficulties. In very poor neighbourhoods crime and a lack of positive role models, inadequate social and health services and other factors can create an environment that is not helpful to a child's development.

How do we get around this?
     Schools can do a lot to help low-income children to succeed in school. For example, programs have been put in place to help develop children's cognitive skills early in life and to help their parents do a better job in preparing them for school. Teachers must realize that children enter school with varying degrees of preparedness and success. However, they must be wary about stereotyping certain children because of their social class. Low expectations of someone can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

3) Underrepresented Ethnic Groups and Underachievement:
     There are many reasons that students from underrepresented groups lag behind in achievement:

* The most important reason is that in our society, under-represented ethnic groups tend to occupy lower rungs on the social class ladder. Therefore, parents in these families are unable to provide their children with the stimulation and academic preparation that is needed.
* Children in these groups face academically inferior and overcrowded urban schools.
* The instruction that these children receive in school is inconsistent with their cultural background.
* Certain ethnic groups tend to prefer to work in collaboration with others and perform better in co-operative settings than in traditional competitive ones.
* Some minority ethnic groups suffer from low expectations of teachers and others, which affect their own expectations for themselves.

4) Gender and Gender Bias:
     Gender affects a child's performance. Because sex is visible and a permanent attribute, gender roles are among the first that individuals learn and that all societies treat males differently from females. There often exist the stereotypes that males and females think and learn differently. It has never been proven that these differences were due to biological factors such as sex. It is generally from the fact that male and female babies have been traditionally treated differently from birth. This is known as the socialization process. Therefore, a child may differ from that of a child of the opposite gender because of what they are expected to know and do.

Related Links

Educational Psychology
Good Teachers
Childhood Development & Education
Effective Lessons
Students Needs
Motivation
Achievement Anxiety
Learning Environments
Dealing with Misbehaviour
Testing Students