Fresh from reading Brookfield’s chapter on diversity on the classroom, and had a few thoughts. In my business start-up program, there is a six hour class on networking. This particular class focusses on the old-fashioned style of networking: Meeting face to face at a function with the goal to connect others and themselves. We found a great opportunity in several of the networking lessons, to have everyone – conspicuous or not – introduce interesting social and business norms from their culture. These usually centre around hand-shaking, business card exchanges, and general displays of respect in a networking forum. There is always something surprising and interesting that arises from this activity, and it helps to build understanding and camaraderie in a diverse classroom.
Which brings me to the richness that a diversity offers. Leveraging this resource rather than trying to navigate it seems to benefit my classroom so far. Everyone is proud of their cultural heritage and given the opportunity, enjoys bragging about the beauty and history it beholds.
As for instruction and assessment, it is true that an instructor needs to be aware that some cultures may find it rude to interrupt a teacher with a question or that asking for help may not be the norm. I enjoyed reading about Brookfield’s silent exercises that allowed for feedback and assessment without speaking out. This can apply to anyone who is not comfortable speaking out in the class. Even those who are normally outspoken can sometimes be silenced by particularly vocal peers who may monopolize the airways, if you know what I mean.
Beyond cultural differences, there is further diversity in our classroom that needs to be acknowledged. Sexual diversity, whether it is a young woman in police college, or a transgendered student in an electrician’s program, is becoming a critically important issue in the classroom. To be successful in their societal role, I believe classrooms need to be welcoming places where participants of all kinds feel safe to contribute, to participate and to learn. They are places where the highest standards of respect and tolerance are in place. Teachers must lead by example, being self-aware and reflective to correct personal bias. It is a strict code and we may not always get it right, but it is our duty as instructors to champion this example for the rest of our community.