School is an extremely important place for students to feel safe and comfortable. In order to learn, students need an environment that makes them feel welcome. If a student feels unsafe and insecure, they will not be able to focus on learning.
Students with a diverse cultural background may feel that they stand out alone in the classroom, they may feel underrepresented in the teaching materials, etc. Children with a diverse background may then feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a classroom when they don’t feel that their diversity is seen or valued. Racial, cultural, and gender differences are important factors in a person's identity, and it's extremely valuable for teaching to help students understand differences better.
Efforts that current and aspiring teachers make to improve diversity in the classroom can benefit all learners in a variety of ways. From elementary students to high school students, it is always a good time for teaching to focus on racial and culturally unique differences in the past, present, and future. It can benefit diverse students who need to be represented and accepted, and can help all students learn from unique perspectives and increase their understanding.
School diversity inclusion and representation is crucial in education, in terms of student demographics, staffing, and lessons. There are many educational benefits from introducing new thoughts on racial or cultural differences in a classroom. Ethnicity, cultural differences, racial differences, and more are all important to talk about as part of a student's education. Resources are available to help teaching these subjects be appropriate and positive. There are many specific reasons why diversity is key in the classroom and schools, including:
Diversity brings new perspectives into a classroom. Students of different genders, races, backgrounds, etc. bring multiple insights and thoughts into a classroom. This enhances a classroom discussion and learning opportunities. It can add well-rounded views and can help students learn more from each other. It will allow students to see things in a new light—one that they may not have considered otherwise. From elementary to high school, new perspectives are important to learn at any age.
Research shows that diverse classrooms improve learning outcomes for every student. Schools that are more diverse, when controlled for socioeconomic factors, see no difference in test scores from schools that are less diverse. There is also research that shows diverse groups are better able to solve problems and work more efficiently. Diverse schools also see students who are more empathetic and less prejudiced, allowing everyone to feel more safe and confident in their learning environment. No matter what age, elementary or high school, introduction to culture and racial differences can have great positive impacts on students.
Including diversity in your curriculum as a teacher improves self-efficacy in learners. Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to meet challenges and accomplish tasks. It also helps improve their self-worth, tolerance and appreciation for different views, and more. Different understandings of culture can help students see how people that are like them have succeeded. White students, black students, Asian students, Hispanic students, female students, male students, high school students, elementary school students—self efficacy is important for every kind of student out there. Cultural individuality helps students understand their worth and feel appreciated.
Diversity in a classroom leads to better discussions among students. When there is more diversity in the classroom, it lends itself to better, well-rounded discussions. Students of a different ethnicity, racial, or cultural background will have a unique perspective to offer. All students can offer their insights from what they understand culturally, helping them to understand one another and connect. Groups are able to benefit from different ideas, students get new perspectives and insights about the world around them.
More classroom diversity prepares students for their future. The world around us is increasingly culturally diverse. It’s extremely likely that students will be working in a field that is incredibly diverse, and classroom diversity can help prepare students for that future. It increase their cultural awareness in a classroom setting, helping set them up for success in their future. Having respect and kindness for culturally unique individuals will help them succeed in a career where it is likely they will interact with those of different races and culture.
Diversity in the classroom fosters creativity. Diverse, cross-cultural classrooms encourage more critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Collaboration encourages creativity inside the classroom, and diverse classrooms where students feel encouraged to collaborate help them learn from each other’s experiences, bouncing ideas off of each other and creating creative solutions. It increases their cultural awareness in a classroom setting, preparing them for a future career.
If you’re a current or aspiring educator it’s important to learn how to foster a culture of diversity inside your classroom. Some things you can do to embrace creativity inside your classroom include:
Students need to be able to express their individuality in the classroom. It’s important that teachers create a classroom that is a space for expression and reflection for students to feel that they can be themselves. This improves self-efficacy and learning outcomes for students. Teachers can do this by making rules that prevent bullying so students feel safe in their classroom. It’s also important for teachers to establish positive relationships with students so they feel they can express their individuality freely.
Teachers can include a diverse range of perspectives by introducing diverse authors and historical figures into teaching materials. This will help all students understand and appreciate diversity more. Diverse learners will be able to be inspired by learning about people who they can look up to and learn from. It’s valuable for teachers to look at lesson plans from other educators to find diverse authors and historical figures to reference in their lessons.
All students have different learning needs, so it’s valuable for teachers to use different strategies to appeal to the different strengths of learners. Teachers can utilize regular reviews of concepts learned to help students retain information, use a variety of visual, audio, and tactile learning activities to meet the needs of different kinds of learners, provide opportunities for group activities as well as one-on-one interactions, and listen to student feedback to adapt based on what each student needs. Being prepared to utilize different teaching methods and strategies will help foster a successful diverse classroom.
Working and collaborating with other teachers is key to helping introduce diversity into a classroom. Teachers who focus on different subjects can help create an interdisciplinary curriculum that highlights the importance of diversity. For example, history and English teachers can come together to talk about cultures and diversity in history across classrooms for Black History Month, giving students additional support and understanding in that area. Doing this gives reinforcement to the ideas of diversity, and helps student apply it in multiple areas of their schooling and life. Teachers can begin each term with a simple email or conversation with other teachers, asking if they would be interested in collaboration on a subject of diversity.
There are many resources teachers can utilize to enhance cultural representation and learning in their classroom including:
If you’re a current or aspiring teacher, understanding how to incorporate diversity into your classroom is crucial for student success. Working to incorporate diversity in learning materials, in staff and students, and encouraging students to be kind and respectful are key to making a safe and happy learning environment for all students.