Namrata Saxena, Asst Professor, PCER, New Panvel.
a) Childhood and growing up in the context of Diversity
“You find strength within the classroom, not based simply on the commonalties….Those are
there, but the strength comes through the differences…the different stories you have to tell,
the different things[you] can learn from one another and about one another and then
celebrate….”—Jan Currence, Teacher, Maryland
Diversity is a natural part of human communities.
Responding to the increasing diversity among students is one of the biggest challenges for
school leadership in the 21st century (Leithwood, Jantzi and Steinback, 1999.)
School education in India has witnessed a steady growth over the years in enrolment
of children from all sections of society, particularly from weaker and disadvantaged
sections such as girls, SCs, STs, and linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities. Owing to
the increased inflow of children from weaker and disadvantaged sections, classrooms and
schools are becoming increasingly diverse. There has always been diversity in the classroom,
but in today society it is important to embrace it and make positive use of it.
Definition of Diversity
The word Diversity comes from Old French word ‘diversité’ which means ‘making
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary (2013) it defines diversity as:
“the condition of having or being composed of differing elements; especially the inclusion
of different types of people in a group or organization”.
Diversity: The inclusionof individualsrepresentingmore thanone national origin,color,religion,
Oklahoma State University defines learner diversity as:
"Diversity usually is related to the ethnic background of students. It is, however, a much
broader concept. Anytime that a student is different from the rest of the students in a class,
that student is diverse. Diversity can relate to gender, sexual orientation, economic status,
ethnicity, country of national origin, etc." (Oklahoma State University, no date)
Central Michigan University defines diversity as:
-The ranges of differences among people in the community
-An attitude that recognizes the value and contributions of all members of our community
- A commitment to respect and to provide equitable treatment for members if our community
(Central Michigan University)
Meaning of Learner Diversity:
Classrooms are diverse in terms of the types of children and the ways in which
they learn. Children learn in different ways because of experience, environment and
socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
In the classroom, "diversity" applies to learning styles, background,
educational backgrounds, language, and support at home.
Diversity means valuing the differences between people and the ways in which those
differences can contribute to a richer, more creative and more productive working
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.
It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual
It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing
It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to
embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each
Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and by recognizing
these individual differences and similarities, we add to the richness and texture of the
Diversity is about respecting individual’s
and much more.
IF YOU CAN REMEMBER THE TWO TYPES AS GIVEN BELOW THEN
YOU MAY DIVIDE THE ABOVE POINTS IN THESE TWO TYPES.
• Primary DimensionsofDiversity
• Physical abilities/qualities
• Mental abilities/characteristics
• SecondaryDimensionsof Diversity
• Work background
• Work style
• Marital status
• Parental status
Learner Diversity in classroom:
Having a diverse group of students simply means recognizing that all the people are unique in
their own way.
Their differences could consist of
1. SOCIO-ECONOMIC DIFFERENCES
2. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
3. GENDER DIFFERENCES
4. SEXUAL PREFERENCE DIFFERENCE
5. DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES: mental growth, physical growth, motor skills
and abilities & moral development
6. PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES
– Temperament – the different ways a person has of thinking, behaving and reacting.
This is shaped by other people and events in students’ lives. This combine into 3 types
of temperament types:
• Easy or flexible children
• Difficult, active or feisty children
• Slow to warm up or cautious children
7. LEARNING AND THINKING STYLES DIFFERENCES
-refer to the preferred way an individual processes information.
Sensory Preferences- individuals tend to gravitate toward one or two types of sensory
inputs and maintain dominance in one of the following types:
Visual Learners: may think in pictures and learn best from visual aids like diagrams,
illustrated textbooks, overhead transparencies, videos, flip charts and hand-outs.
Auditory Learners: learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through
and listening to what others have to say.
Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners prefer “learning by doing”, benefit much from hands-on
approach, actively exploring the physical world around them.
Also there are Multiple Intelligences by Gardner:
Visual/ Spatial (Picture Smart)
Verbal/Linguistic (Word Smart)
Mathematical/Logical (Number/Logic Smart)
Bodily/Kinesthetic (Body Smart)
Musical/Rhythmic (Music Smart)
Intrapersonal (Self Smart)
Interpersonal (People Smart)
Naturalist (Nature Smart)
8. INTEREST DIFFERENCES: Learners perform differently according to their
interests, motivations and cultural background. Try to meet the interest of learners.
Support children working within academic or vocational areas that they enjoy.
9. LEARNING APTITUDE DIFFERENCES:
Children with Exceptional Abilities or Special Needs
• Gifted and Talented Learners and Underachievers
• Handicapped or Challenged Children
• Communication Disorders: Speech, Language and Hearing
• Learning Disabilities
These refer to learners who are different in some way from the normal or average. Most
of these learners require a lot of understanding and patience as well as special education
and related services if they are to reach their full potential and development.
1. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
2. Learning Disabilities
3. Intellectual Differences (Gifted and Talented)
4. Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
5. Visual Impairment
6. Hearing Impairment
7. Oral Communication Problems
8. Orthopedic Impairments
2. Racial, ethnic or cultural background
3. Socioeconomic status
• Positive:Heterogeneousgrouping,Inclusive classrooms,Beingmore open-minded,Positive
• Positive:Heterogeneousgrouping,Inclusive classrooms,beingmore open-minded,Positive
outlooktowardsembracingthe differencespositive effectof diversityonindividual
• (1) inmore diverse schools,goodstudentsmayhelpweakerfellow students,eitherbygiving
actual helporby settinganexample;
• (2) inmore diverse schools,weakerstudentshave agreaterchance of encounteringa
challengingcurriculum,becausethe teachersteachsuchsubjectmattertothe better
• (3) more capable studentsinmore diverse schoolsalsolearnbetterthemselves,because
• Diversityinthe workplace isgenerallyregardedasapositive forcompaniesthatmanage it
genderandotherindividual traitscanproduce negativeeffects,especiallyif notwell-
managed.These negativeeffectsof diversityare understandable if the workculture does
not supporttolerance andacceptance of differences.
• (1) a more homogeneousstudentpopulationincreasesthe possibilitythatteachers
specialize inteachingtheirspecificstudents,thusincreasingschool effectiveness;
• (2) Ina more homogeneouspopulation,lesstime needstobe spentonbridgingethnicand
socio-cultural differencesbetweenstudents,leavingmore time forteachingandlearning,
and hence school effectivenessishigher;
• (3) inmore homogeneousschools,the mutual trustamongstudents,parents,andteachers
isassumedto be higher,resultingingreaterinvolvementof students,parents,andteachers,
and hence greatereffectivenessof suchschools.
• Proper knowledge of the individual’s potentialities, interests, aptitude and other
• Ability grouping
• Adjusting the curriculum
• Adjusting the methods of teaching
• Adopting special programs or methods for individualizing instruction
• Remaking the size of the classroom
• Special coaching and guidance programs
• Role of the teacher
• Teachingina CulturallyDiverse SchoolFollowingare some recommendationsforpromoting
social harmonyand equal opportunityamongstudentsinraciallyandethnicallydiverse
• • Use fairnessandbalance indealingwithstudents.Studentsshouldneverhave anyjustifi
cationfor believingthat“peoplelikeme [whites,AfricanAmericans,Latinos,Vietnamese]
• • Choose textsandinstructional materialsthatshow all ethnicgroupsinequallypositive and
• Make sure underrepresentedgroupsare notmisrepresented.
• Themesshouldbe nonbiased,andindividualsfromunder-representedgroupsshould
appearin nonstereotypical high-statusroles.
• Supplementtextbookswithauthenticmaterial fromdifferentculturestakenfrom
newspapers,magazines,andothermediaof the culture.
• • Reachout to children’sparentsandfamilieswithinformationandactivitiesappropriateto
theirlanguage andculture .
• Avoidcommunicatingbias,butdiscussracial orethnicrelationswithempathy(Stephan&
Finlay,1999) and openly,ratherthantryingto pretendthere are nodifferences(Polite &
• • Avoidstereotypingandemphasizethe diversityof individuals,notgroups(Aboud&
• • Let studentsknowthatracial or ethnicbias,includingslurs,taunts,andjokes,will not be
toleratedinthe classroomorin the school.
• Institute consequencestoenforce thisstandard(Wessler,2001).
• • Helpall studentstovalue theirownandothers’cultural heritagesandcontributionsto
historyandcivilization.Atthe same time,avoid trivializingorstereotypingculturesmerelyin
• • Decorate classrooms,hallways,andthe library/mediacenterwithmurals,bulletinboards,
posters,artifacts,andothermaterialsthatare representativeof the students inthe classor
school or of the otherculturesbeingstudied.
• • Avoidresegregation.Tracking,orbetween-classabilitygrouping,tendstosegregate high
and lowachievers,andbecause of historical andeconomicfactors,studentsfromunder-
represented groupstendtobe over-representedinthe ranksof low achievers.
• • Be sure that assignmentsare notoffensive orfrustratingtostudentsof diverse cultural
groups.For example,askingstudentstowrite abouttheirChristmasexperiencesis
• • Provide structure forintergroupinteraction.Proximityalonedoesnotleadtosocial
goals(Cooper& Slavin,2004; Kagan, 2001). For example,studentswhoparticipate in
integratedsportsandextracurricularactivitiesare more likely thanotherstudentstohave
• • Use cooperative learning,whichhasbeenshowntoimprove relationsacrossracial and
ethniclines(Cooper&Slavin,2004; National ResearchCouncil,2000).The positive effectsof
cooperative learningexperiencesoftenoutlastthe teamsorgroupsthemselvesandmay
extendtorelationshipsoutside of school.Cooperative learningcontributestoboth
achievementandsocial harmony(Johnson&Johnson,1998; Slavin,Hurley,&Chamberlain,
2003) andcan increase the participationof childrenfromunder-representedgroups(Cohen,
• NeverpubliclyembarrasschildrenbycorrectingtheirEnglish.Instead,praise theircorrect
answerandrestate it correctly.To encourage studentstouse theirEnglish,establisha
classwide normof neverteasingorlaughingatEnglisherrors
• Whenyouhave a groupwithstudentsfromdifferentculturesandcountries,youincrease
the numberof communicationfiltersandlanguage barriersthatimpactinternal andexternal
communicationprocesses.WorkingGroupsthatare more heterogeneoususuallyfind
communicationeasierbecause membersdonothave towork as hard to overcome language
and culture issues.Some largerorganizationshire interpretersanddiversitytrainerstohelp
• Cultural Resistance
• In "Diversityinthe Workplace:Benefits,ChallengesandSolutions,"inThe Multicultural
Advantage,JoshGreenberg,presidentof employee-surveyfirmAlphaMeasure inBoulder,
Colorado,pointsoutthatresistance tochange is commoninworkplaces.Whencompanies
become more diverse,itchangesthe relationshipsandnature of the workplace.These
changescan cause stressamong employeesandcontribute tonegativeworking
relationshipsandpoorworkplace morale,if notwell-plannedandmanaged.Training
employeesaboutdiversityisimportantif itwill effecttheir workrolesandprocesses.
• Diverse Experience
• Co-workerswithdiverse cultural backgroundsbringunique experiencesandperceptionsto
the table ingroups andwork teams.Poolingthe diverse knowledgeandskillsof culturally
• Each employee inadiverse workplace possessesunique strengthsandweaknessesderived
workplace canleverage the strengthsandcomplementthe weaknessesof eachworkerto
make the impact of the workforce greaterthanthe sum of its parts.
• Anotheradvantage of workplace diversityisthe opportunity foremployees'personal
out intellectuallyandgainaclearerview of theirsurroundingsandtheirplace inthe world.
Spendingtime withculturallydiverseco-workerscanslowlybreakdownthe subconscious
barriersof ethnocentrismandxenophobia,encouragingemployeestobe more well-rounded
• Diversityimpactsworkplacecommunicationinpositiveandnegative ways.Betweenco-
workers,diversitycanplace impedimentsinthe wayof effectivecommunication,whichcan
directlydampenproductivityandthe cohesivenessof small groups.Spendingtime with
diverse employeescanbreakdowncommunicationbarriersoverthe long-term, butfirst
impressionsandco-workers'orientationperiodscanbe difficulttocontrol whencultures
makingcommunicationmore effective.Customerservice representativescanbe pairedup
withcustomersfromtheirspecificdemographic,makingthe customerfeel comfortable with
the representative,andthuswiththe company.A numberof companiesinthe southwest
UnitedStates,forexample,prefertohire bi-lingualcustomerservice repstodeal with
• Diversityinthe workplace encompassesarange of elements.Differencesinnational origin,
primarylanguage,religion,social statusandage can benefitorharm organizations.
Managing diversityeffectivelyisthe keytoleveragingthe advantagesandminimizingthe
disadvantagesof diversityinthe workplace.