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Student Achievement and the Diversity of Learning: Week 10

Diversity in occurs naturally in the school environment because of the many different students and teachers involved in school.  Many variables constitute diversity including race, gender, culture, and past experiences.  Because of this inevitable diversity of students, teachers, and faculty, the school setting is a place where one can learn to appreciate differences, but can also be a place of insecurity.  It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that every student feels comfortable in their learning environment and can take away valuable information from their peers.  A teacher can facilitate a safe learning environment by getting to know their students and encourage classroom discussion and the sharing of personal experiences.  A teacher must also be willing to open up themselves and their experiences to their students, while still maintaining the necessary professional teacher-student relationship.  If a student sees their teacher as someone interested in sharing their beliefs and learning from their students, a student will feel comfortable.  In my opinion, if a student feels comfortable in the classroom, the more willing and able they will be to learn, and the better they will do academically.   Unfortunately, some practices in the classroom can hinder student achievement and make students feel inferior to their peers regardless of their differences in culture, race, gender, and experiences.  Another aspect of diversity to consider is the diversity of the student as a learner.  Some students do better than others in school for many different reasons—some of them being that they have more family support or have a higher socioeconomic status with the ability to devote time to education.

This past week we discussed the pros and cons of homogeneous grouping and whether or not it perpetuated inequality of opportunity based on race or socioeconomic status. Homogeneous grouping by definition is “the practice of placing together students with similar achievement levels of ability” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 536).  Personally I see homogeneous grouping as potentially harmful to low-achieving students in the classroom. Homogenous grouping promotes low student self-confidence in their ability to learn and lead to low expectations by teachers. Homogeneous grouping does not benefit all students and leads to stereotypes of students in the low-achieving group as “slow”.  Also, separating the low-achieving students from the high achieving students can foster the belief that the students should be separated and that one is better than the other and that they are smarter than the rest. This impacts the lower placed students’ self confidence level in their own ability to learn and little is expected of them by teachers.  It is then important to consider the reasons why these students are doing poorly in school—it could be that they have little to no support from their families.  Personally, I see benefits to both homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping in the classroom.  Sometimes it is important for the teacher to be able to cater a lesson to aid struggling learners or to stimulate higher-level learners to keep them interested.  However, I feel that for teachers who utilize homogeneous grouping in their classrooms, they need to be constantly reevaluating and reassessing their students on a regular basis.  This reevaluation is vital to the students because everyone learns differently.  Some students might just need a little extra help at the beginning of the year in order to succeed academically.  The reevaluation, in my mind, also helps to prevent teachers from labeling their students as belonging to the “low-level group” vs. the “high-level group.”  If teachers begin labeling the students as low achievers, they may not be able to separate that view, and then have low expectations of the student’s ability to learn.

It is important for teachers and students both to recognize and appreciate the diversity of learning.  Homogeneous grouping can inadvertently lead to marginalization and stereotypes of learners that can hinder student achievement.  It is up to the teacher to learn about their students and meet their diverse learning skills.  If a teacher is able to look past differences and labels as well as their own preconceptions and ideas, they will be able to help their students achieve academic success.

Reference

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

~ by hgluchow on .

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