Cultural Diversity Research Project

The United States truly is the “melting pot” that it is known to be. Individuals are different in a number of ways from gender and sexual orientation to their culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic diversity This diversity is ever present in our schools today but these students are facing unique issues of their own due to this diversity. This report will focus on gender and sexual orientation, cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity and the bias that these individuals face in schools and also some methods that can be used to combat this bias. Through this research I hope to discover new and innovative learning methods and techniques in order to address these issues in my classroom. Overall, I hope to make my classroom an accepting one for diverse students of all kinds and also do what I can to make sure that they are receiving the opportunities and support that they need to succeed academically.

Gender and Sexual Orientation

One of the ways that students can be diverse is through their gender and also through their sexual orientation. Males and females often have different experiences in schools starting at a young age and these differing experiences can have an impact on their respective educations. The same goes for students that identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) community. Students in the LGBTQ community often face bias and issues due to their sexual orientation, which in turn can also affect their education experiences.

Gender bias has been found to affect students in variety of areas, such as course selection, career choice, and class participation (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 140). Very few females decide to pursue careers in the fields of science or mathematics (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 140). One reason may be due to their lack of familiarity and interest with the tools involved in science (Snowman & McCown, 2015, pp.140-141). In classroom settings, males typically spend more time handling and working with scientific lab equipment than females do (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141). A second reason may be due to self-efficacy, or how confident someone feels that they can complete a task (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141).Females show a decreased level of self-efficacy for classes such as science and mathematics in comparison to males (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141). A third reason could be due to encouragement and expectations projected by parents and teachers (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141). Females who felt that they could succeed in the fields of science and mathematics were often encouraged by an adult figure in their lives, such as a parent or a teacher (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141).

Class participation can also be affected by gender bias. From early on certain traits are associated with the different genders. For example, females tend to be considered more polite, quiet, and obedient whereas males tend to be considered more assertive, independent, curious, and competitive (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141). These traits are reinforced for the different genders. Due to this reinforcement, adolescent females usually suppress their actual beliefs and personalities, which can then affect many aspects of their lives such as classroom participation (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141). They do not give their true opinion on a topic and will instead either voice no opinion or adopt an opinion that they think others in the class want to hear (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 141).

Research has found there to be differences in cognitive functioning and achievement between the genders (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 137). Males usually outscore females on tests dealing with visual-spatial ability, mathematical operations, college entrance, memory, and language use (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 137).Research also showed that females usually receive higher grades in language arts, social studies, science, and mathematics in comparison to males (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p.138). Despite this, females exhibited higher levels of anxiety and depression and were more worried about their academic performance than males (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 138).This may be due to the fact that females are more concerned about pleasing adult figures, such as teachers and parents, and they are more likely to relate their academic performance to gauge their other abilities (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 138). Another theory is for these results is that females have more self-discipline on average than males do (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 139).

Children feel pressure from other individuals, even other students, to conform to gender stereotypes that may go against their true feelings (Lamb, Bigler, Liben, & Green, n.d.).Students who do not fit in to the gender norms are often bullied and therefore start to have negative feelings about themselves and about school (Lamb et al., n.d.). There are more and more students that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning in schools and they are also undergoing bias and difficulties in the classrooms and around school. Society has upheld a stigma against homosexuality for a number of years and unfortunately it is still very much present today against members of the LGBTQ community. Students who identify as LGBTQ are often bullied, which leads to negative feelings about themselves and about school and can often lead to thoughts of suicide or other issues (Stufft & Graff, 2011). This can lead students to have less positive interactions with others and can therefore affect their emotional and behavioral health. LGBTQ students have a high risk of dropping out of school among other issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse, depression, self-mutilation, and unsafe sex (Stufft & Graff, 2011).

Science is one of the fields in which few females choose to pursue and this may be stemming from issues in the classroom. As a science teacher, what can I do in my own classroom to make males and females feel equally engaged and interested in the subject of science? Are there any aspects of my teaching that I need to evaluate for gender bias, such as the language or materials that I use?

Cultural, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Diversity

Students can also be diverse through their culture, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. These three aspects of a student’s personal self can also affect their educational experiences as they can also lead to bias and other issues in the classroom.

Culture includes the beliefs and thoughts of a group of people. As a country the United States consists of individuals with different cultural backgrounds and values. Cultural diversity, also called cultural pluralism, focuses on the idea that societies should uphold different cultures (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 153).Cultural diversity assumes that all of the different cultures in a society should be respected and that individuals should not have to give up their cultural identity in order to be part of society (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 153).The number of immigrants entering the United States from numerous different countries around the world has only continued to increase and therefore cultural diversity will continue to be relevant well into the future.

One theory that has been laid out by scholars to explain issues that students of color face academically is because of a perceived gap between their culture and the culture of the school that they attend (Melvin, 2004). The theory states that the public-school system represents the culture of power, which in this case is a white dominated society (Melvin, 2004). A conflict then arises in students of color between their identity at home and the identity that they believe is required to be successful at their school (Melvin, 2004).

There are two factors, ethnicity and social class, that can help to distinguish between different cultures (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 156).An ethnic group can be defined as a group of people who can identify with each other on one or more certain characteristics (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 156).These characteristics can include race, language, religion, values, political or economic interests, or ancestor’s home country (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 156).There are five parts of ethnicity that could cause potential problems in the classroom either between the students or between the student and the teacher (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 156).These five parts are learning processes, verbal communication patterns, time orientation, nonverbal communication, and social values (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 156).

Individuals that identify as linguistically and culturally diverse (LCD) are increasing in numbers at public schools around the United States (Meidl & Meidl, 2011). These students typically do not perform as well as non-LCD students on standardized tests contributing to the achievement gap between these two groups of students (Meidl & Meidl, 2011). Many public schools have curricula that are meant to prepare students for standardized tests and met certain state standards Teachers are often not included in the making of these curricula and therefore, they usually are not made to meet the needs of LCD students (Meidl & Meidl, 2011).Teachers are often not given the proper tools that they need in order to meet these state standards and also meet the needs of all of the students in their classroom, including the LCD students (Meidl & Meidl, 2011).

Social class relates to an individual’s standing in society and it is determined by a number of factors (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).Some of these factors include occupation, annual income, education, residence, and possessions (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).Annual income, occupation, and education are used by the federal government to determine socioeconomic status (SES) (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).Many ethnic groups of color tend to have less education, less illustrious occupation, and lower income and therefore lower socioeconomic status in comparison to the average White individual (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).Living in poverty can have many effects on children and it can also impact their level of engagement in school (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).They tend to have feelings of inferiority and insecurity (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 159).There is also usually an achievement gap for low socioeconomic minority students in school in comparison to White students that are usually of a higher socioeconomic status (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p.160).This gap can be due to living conditions, family environment, classroom environment, and the overall characteristics of the student (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p.160).Low socioeconomic status students usually do not have health care and therefore may suffer from more diseases and conditions that can affect their performance in school (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 161).The experiences that a child has can affect their cognitive development as well as their performance and achievement in school (Snowman & McCown, 2015, p. 161).

The majority of students at my school are culturally, ethnically, or socioeconomically diverse in some way and therefore this is an issue that would be extremely relevant to my classroom. Many of my students have a culture that is different than my own and from their peers and a large number of my students come from households of low socioeconomic status. What can I do in my classroom to better take these considerations into account and make these students feel more accepted and included? How should I tweak my teaching in order to address their needs? What strategies can I implement to make sure that these students needs are being met not only academically at school but also socially and emotionally?

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

There are many different methods and strategies that teachers can apply in their classrooms in order to help combat the bias that may occur for many students due to gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and more. Employing these strategies may help these students academically but also emotionally and socially as well.

There are many ways that teachers can help to combat gender bias and work toward having a classroom filled with gender equality. Some of the ways to do so would be to encourage all students and place an emphasis on group success, utilize materials that showcase the accomplishments of women, and incorporate some subjects, such as math and science, into other subjects, such as history and art (Snowman & McCown, 2015, pp.142-143). Teachers also need to be aware of the gender bias imbedded in many educational materials and texts and need to take steps to combat this bias (Chapman, 2002). Curriculum researchers have established six attributes that need to be considered when trying to establish a gender-equitable curriculum (Chapman, 2002). Gender-fair materials need to acknowledge and affirm variation (Chapman, 2002). They need to be inclusive, accurate, affirmative, representative, and integrated, weaving together the experiences, needs, and interests of both males and females Chapman, 2002).

One way to help combat the issues that LGBTQ students are encountering in schools would be to educate and prepare the teachers (Stufft & Graff, 2011). Teachers should be current on research regarding homosexuality and education so that they are able to be more knowledge and comfortable about the topic (Stufft & Graff, 2011). Teachers should also be aware of the language and education materials that they are using as these can also contribute to bias in the classroom (Stufft & Graff, 2011).

Many schools consider themselves to be multicultural based on their student population alone and how diverse they are (Rosado, 1998). A school should be defined as multicultural based on the 5 Ps, perspectives, policies, programs, personnel, and practices (Rosado, 1998). There are also four imperatives that make up multicultural education (Rosado, 1998). These four imperatives include reflecting the heterogeneity of dynamic of the school, being sensitive to the needs of the different groups of students, incorporating the different groups into the overall school mission, and creating an environment that is inclusive and empowering to all of those groups (Rosado, 1998). This can help students as well as their parents to feel more welcome and included in the school which can therefore make a better learning environment for the students.

As with a jigsaw puzzle, a jigsaw classroom involved each student playing a part that is essential to the classroom (Aronson, n.d.). The jigsaw method starts with dividing students into groups, usually made up of about 5-6 students (Aronson, n.d.). Then one student is appointed to be the group leader (Aronson, n.d.). The lesson for the day is then divided into 5-6 segments and each student in the group is assigned one of those segments (Aronson, n.d.). The students are then given time to familiarize themselves with their segment (Aronson, n.d.). Temporary groups are then formed and they are made up of the students that share the same segments (Aronson, n.d.). These temporary groups will have the students discussing what they learned and how to present what they learned to the class (Aronson, n.d.). These students then rejoin their original jigsaw groups and present their segment to the group (Aronson, n.d.). During this time the teacher should be observing the progress of each group (Aronson, n.d.).At the end of the presentations, a quiz can be given on the material to see how well the students learned the material from their peers (Aronson, n.d.). This classroom method has been found to reduce racial conflict and also increase other academic areas, such as increased test performance and less absences (Aronson, n.d.).

One method to help with cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic bias in the classroom would be to employ more teachers of color in public schools. Teachers of color may be more likely to connect with students of color and act as role models in an academic environment (Melvin, 2004). This can then make the students more willing to learn and more likely to succeed academically (Melvin, 2004).

I hope to try and implement some of these methods in my own classroom in order to make it more accepting to all kinds of students and to help them with their academic achievement. Students in my school are very diverse and I believe that these would be extremely beneficial in order for them to have a better learning experience.

References

Aronson, E. (n.d.). The Jigsaw Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.jigsaw.org/

Chapman, A. (2002). Gender bias in education. Critical Multicultural Pavilion Research Room.

Retrieved from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/genderbias.html

Lamb, L., Bigler, R., Liben, L., & Green, V. (n.d.) Gender doesn’t limit you. Teaching Tolerance.

Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/gender-doesnt-limit-you

Meidl, T., & Meidl, C. (2011). Curriculum integration and adaptation: Individualizing pedagogy

for linguistically and culturally diverse students. Current Issues in Education, 14(1).

Retrieved from http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/579/148

Melvin, J. (2004). Their view—my view:A white teacher’s quest to understand his African

American middle school students’ perceptions of racism. Critical Multicultural Pavilion

Research Room. Retrieved from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers.html

Rosado, C. (1998) What makes a school multicultural? Critical Multicultural Pavilion Research

Room. Retrieved from

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/caleb/multicultural.html

Snowman, J., & McCown, R. (2015). Psychology Applied to Teaching. Stamford: Cengage

Learning.

Stufft, D., & Graff, C. (2011). Increasing visibility for LGBTQ students: What schools can do to

create inclusive classroom communities. Current Issues in Education, 14(1). Retrieved

from http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/636/87