How to Create a Diverse Learning Environment
A diverse learning environment is an integral part of creating a successfully accepting and tolerant educational experience. The value of exposure to diversity, particularly in school settings, cannot be overstated. In fact, an Early Childhood Research Quarterly study on the reading skills of first graders found that the scores of African American children were lower at schools that were racially segregated.
There are many ways to create a diverse learning experience in your classroom:
1. Encourage open discussions. A multicultural atmosphere will encourage students to recognize differences and similarities among all people. First, take the time to educate yourself on the backgrounds of your students, as well as the populations represented in your area. Encourage the students to share their traditions, including holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and family traditions. It's important to impart that while we are all equal, we are also unique.
2. Remain aware of current events. Keep informed on anti-bias education issues and incorporate them into your teaching. Post age-appropriate articles from newspapers and magazines in the classroom so students understand that it is an ongoing learning process.
3. Teach, don't preach. While it may be your instinct to "preach" to your students, exhortation has been found to be ineffective when attempting to change prejudice attitudes and may also produce the opposite result. Instead, provide opportunities for students to resolve conflict and work in diverse teams.
4. It starts at home. Involve parents, family members, and community members in the learning process. These figures provide the context in which students are motivated to learn and should feel interconnected with the classroom experience.
5. Be patient. Many students - especially older ones who have not always been exposed to a diverse learning environment - may make mistakes and biases may surface. It's important to allow the time for the process to develop and to initially introduce less complex topics and gauge your students' receptiveness, before addressing more complex issues.
Looking to assume a greater role in creating diverse learning environments? Consider Molloy College's Educational Leadership for Diverse Learning Communities (Ed.D.) program. Designed to prepare teachers, school administrators, educational professionals, and future professors for instructional leadership roles that embrace diversity, social justice and equity, the program's flexible learning options--including weekend and hybrid course options - enable you to earn your Ed.D. on your terms. Read more.