Using Cultural Diversity to Improve Education
IX540 Research Methods for Education and Instructional Technology
Professor Marla Smithson
Using Cultural Diversity to Improve Education
As globalization and technological advancements affect various sectors of the economy, the effects trickle at an increasing rate into the education systems across the world. Consequently, the present day teacher faces a highly diversified classroom than the case in the previous decades (Banks, 2015). While exploring the topic that initiated this study, it became inevitable that the teacher’s dilemma in terms of classrooms that are highly diversified could not be altered under all circumstances. The most common social stratification factors that defined the classroom groups include; race, socioeconomic status, class, ethnicity/ culture, and religion (Banks, 2015). Therefore, it was necessary to explore the topic below in order to determine the research title that attempts to understand the parameters surrounding the different racial/ cultural backgrounds that defined the composition of the classroom.
Topic: “Teachers’ Perception towards the Effects of Differences in Racial Identities of Students and Teachers”.
The topic resulted into curiosity about how teachers react to the multiple students’ racial/ cultural identities and the effect on the level of productivity. This study is significant because the findings impact on the performance of the teachers and students within a diverse classroom environment. The teachers will apply the research findings into implementing strategies or interventions aimed at minimizing or eliminating the challenges defined through negative elements resulting from students’ racial diversity. Likewise, the students will appreciate efforts made by the teachers to acknowledge the impact of cultural disparities on the students’ classroom productivity. The school administrators and parents also stand to benefit through receiving the worth of their time/ effort and money, respectively. The administrators should benefit from adopting effective communication channels with the diverse workforce/ customers, as customized from the findings of this study. Since parents share the same or a much worse predicament as their children, the findings of this study will enhance their tolerance, patience and understanding of the challenges faced by both the students and teachers. There has been improvement in the way racial diversity in the classroom is perceived by stakeholders in the education sector, especially the white teachers. White teachers form the majority of the teaching staff in the country while white students are the minority when assessed against the rest of the students from different races/ cultural backgrounds. The white teachers have devised ways of positive interaction with the highly diversified classroom that eliminates intimidation (Banks, 2015). However, the efforts are yet to make a substantial impact across the education sector. Understanding the perception of the teachers with regards to the students’ racial differences should ensure a holistic improvement in classroom performance, especially by students from the minority races.
Despite the changing student demographics in the United States to a highly diversified classroom in terms of race, the teaching fraternity has made minimal changes in terms of the white majority status. Consequently, the racial disparity between the teacher and students continues to widen. This affects the quality and speed of performance by the teacher thus negatively impacting on the students’ productivity (Aguirre, 2003).
Based on the problem statement, there is a need to evaluate the perception of the teachers on racial/ cultural diversity that defines their classroom. The racial disparities in students’ backgrounds influence the dynamics of the classroom and teaching sessions. This study intends to develop a knowledge database on the challenges/ impacts of racial diversity in the classroom with regards to the teachers’ perception of the same. Furthermore, the research also explores the strategies applied by the teachers to address or solve the identified challenges (Cole, 2008). Getting familiar with the problems and their respective solutions should ensure effective use of the students’ cultural/ racial diversity in the classroom to improve the teacher’s content delivery skills and thus increase classroom productivity.
Review of Literature
The article to be reviewed by this paper is “Teacher Perspectives Regarding Gifted Diverse Students” by Szymanski (2013). In this study, the research question to be answered included;
· What are the teachers’ perceptions in training with Hispanic gifted learners?
· How do teachers choose the students to participate in a talented or gifted program?
· How are classroom instructions modified by teachers to meet the talented and gifted students’ needs?
· What barriers are perceived by teachers to affect the participation of Hispanic gifted students in talented or gifted programs?
This article acknowledges that teachers often play a role in recommending variety of programs and services to children in schools. The outcome of this process is influenced by many factors beyond the general classroom. Teachers’ perception of the needs of students is relatively influenced by their individual experiences. This may include the differences in language and culture. According to Szymanski (2013), these are the major reasons why the Hispanics are underrepresented in the gifted and talented programs since teachers are less diverse and less culturally competent therefore, holds little expectations for these students. With respect to the levels of underrepresentation of the minority group and the growing diversity in the student population, it is very crucial to increase the teacher’s understanding (Szymanski, 2013). With a related background of study, this article therefore, will help me understand the perception of teachers towards the effects of differences in racial identities of students. It will also lend a hand in determining the strategies for improving the understanding of teachers and solving the negative effects of such diversities.
After the completion of the study, Szymanski found various results. He found out that teachers’ experience differences as they train to work with diverse, gifted and low income students, teachers use their personal beliefs in compensation in identifying and accommodating gifted students due to their lack of training and lastly, teachers perceive the barriers that exist for students taking part in gifted programs (Afolayan, 1994). These findings from the study give a broader understanding on the perception of teachers towards diverse gifted students and how it shapes the interaction between teachers and students. The findings show the effects of the perception of these diversities which also applies in the effects of perception of student diversities. Also through the results, the researcher is able to find some solutions to these challenges which include understanding the unique needs of gifted learners so as to help teachers identify the needs in the students and integrated training for working with both the gifted students and the English language learners. This will also be essential in solving my research problems by solving the challenges of the teachers’ perceptions.
The state of sharing racial identity between the teacher and students is important in determining the learning process. If the teacher’s race coincides with the students’, there is bound to be some natural connection based on common habits and reasoning (Altugan, 2015). Therefore, the teacher may develop a natural bias for the students because of easy relation to a wide array of themes. Likewise, the students in this scenario enjoy the benefits of similar racial concepts thus forging a stronger relationship with the teacher as compared to their bilingual peers. As a result, the students become highly motivated and engaged to ensure an exciting classroom atmosphere. The same-race students readily trust the teacher while similar combinations from different races may experience natural difficulties that trigger nervousness, resistance, and to some extent dislike for the teacher (Altugan, 2015). All these negative elements attract a retaliatory approach from the teacher thus developing the latter’s negative perception of such students. Such classrooms are dull and the teachers may become harsh and impatient. A common misunderstanding arises from the examples provided by the teacher in class sessions that may directly or indirectly infringe on the socio-cultural aspects of the students. Therefore, such students may lose their focus on how to receive the content and deliberately ignore or rebel against the teacher, despite whether the mistake was deliberate or unintended. When such a teacher regularly loses the context mission, they may subconsciously develop a disliking for the students from different racial backgrounds (Jang, & Jiménez, 2011). It is important for the teacher to appreciate their limited understanding of other cultures in order to strengthen their flexibility in class. The findings of this study should empower the teacher through sensitivity and awareness of the dynamics surrounding multi-cultural interactions.
A notable contribution to this study was the findings of Genesee (2012) through a survey intended to assess the teachers’ perception of cultural diversity. It emerged that age played an important role in determining the relationship between teachers and students. Elderly teachers were found to harbor negative perceptions to racial diversity in their classrooms while the young generation of their peers enjoyed the contrast in terms of students’ race. The elderly teachers are deemed to have learned and plied their trade in an era when racial segregation was common and encouraged through formal structures (Genesee, 2012). Meanwhile, the young generation of teachers has lived through the globalization era characterized by high levels of cultural interactions and coexistence. Therefore, the young teachers are more flexible and enjoy versatility that comes with racial disparities in a learning environment. According to Jang and Jiménez (2011), as human beings advance in age their tolerance and learning abilities diminish. Therefore, the elderly teachers probably lack patience to accommodate the intricate details of racial diversity. An interesting perception by the same authors revealed the advantage of students from different races to enjoy academic advantage due to exposure to more than one culture. Such students may struggle to adapt to the learning process at school and stand a high chance of practicing truancy. However, once they overcome their classroom discomforts or break the racial barriers from a social context, they form a stronger and more positive learning experience and atmosphere that attract the teachers (Jang, & Jiménez, 2011). These findings explain why some teachers have integrated bilingualism and the use of home language in their sessions to create fun in learning and enhance student engagement.
This study employs the cross-sectional research design because little attention is paid to time dimensions thus flexibility of the duration as long as the information or data is collected. Furthermore, the study relies on pre-existing differences that cannot be altered by the researcher but dictate the selection process that cannot be randomized (Rindfleisch, Malter, Ganesan, & Moorman, 2008). The existing differences may also not be instantly changed upon establishing and applying interventions. This study design is perfect for a comparative analysis of the minority and majority races with regard to the research problem. The study design is hinged on employing a passive approach that allows minimum interruptions to the participants or subjects of research paving way for establishing causal inferences based on the findings (Rindfleisch, Malter, Ganesan, & Moorman, 2008). Some advantages of this study design include;
· Low cost: the study design is inexpensive due to the short time involved and application of survey techniques to collect data.
· Flexibility of outcome: Estimations of the prevalence of an outcome is possible since a sample is drawn from the entire population. The study design can also use a large number of targeted respondents or samples, and it is not limited by geographical boundaries (Rindfleisch, Malter, Ganesan, & Moorman, 2008).
This study also involves a mixed system that integrates qualitative and quantitative research models to arrive at the findings. The qualitative aspect stems from the need to assess the unique experiences and find meaning to what defines the relationship between the students and teacher. The quantitative aspect involves collection, counting and interpretation of responses from the different student races as part of the teacher evaluation processes.
The hypothesis to be tested is: The negative perception of culture, religion, family background, and language diversity by teachers is detrimental to academic performance.
Null Hypothesis: The negative perception of culture, religion, family background, and language diversity by teachers does not affect academic performance.
The independent variables are culture, language, religion and family background.
The dependent variable is the perception of teachers.
Participants and Sampling Plan
Participants in the study include white teachers since they form majority of the teaching fraternity in the United States and provide greater ease of selection. The engagement of the participants is made on a voluntary basis. The target classrooms are derived from public schools due to their highly diversified students in terms of race and culture. A total of 20 classroom sessions across 20 different public schools will be used for this study. Careful selection of the schools will be made to accommodate; different regions and a mixture of low, middle and high income areas.
Data Collection Procedures
Questionnaires: This will be the first method of data collection that should define specific data or information that needs further assessment. The questionnaires also serve to verify the commitment of the participants to the research objectives.
Interviews: Face-to-face interviews will be administered to the shortlisted participants that meet the minimum requirements essential to the scope of this study. The essence is to capture preliminary perceptions of the participants to diversity in the classroom. This is essential in defining and eliminating elements of bias.
Observation: The researcher will attend the chosen class sessions in a manner that provides the least interference to the proceedings. They will observe and record the interaction between the teacher and students, especially elements that provide opportunities for racial conflict.
Video/ Tape recording: Due to the potentially generic atmosphere that may be presented as a result of the awareness of the study, the researcher may discreetly record a second set of classroom sessions without the knowledge of the participants. However, this procedure must be sanctioned by the school administration to avoid potential legal actions from the participants.
Framework analysis: the researcher shall use a pre-defined framework that captures the aims, interests and objectives of the study to assess the collected data/ information. This approach is important in the sieving of collected information to retain particular material and discard the rest (Dixon-Woods, 2011).
Thematic network analysis: involves coding of the collected data/ information to enable the researcher link the relevant section of the study findings. Coding is important because it accommodates the input from the participants that may not be captured within the Framework Analysis process. Coding has the potential to provide an independent perspective that may fall outside the study hypothesis.
Statistical analysis: Since some part of the study involves collection and tabulation of responses from the different students’ races, the summations and relevant comparisons of the total will be required to provide some supporting values to framework analysis and thematic network analysis.
Race disparities between the teachers and the students are bound to breed a negative perception of the students by the teachers. Consequently, the quality of education will be affected through; lack of enthusiasm by the teacher, declining students’ engagement, and lack of cooperation from either parties.
Informed consent: Race is a contentious topic capable of raising legal actions at the slightest of provocation. It is important for the researcher to acquire informed consent from all participants and explicitly share the objective nature of the study with his subjects before embarking on the study.
Bias: The volatile nature of the study topic in line with racial disparities may encourage biasness from both the researcher and the participants. Therefore, all the information and analysis must be supported by records or data/ information as directly received from the study processes.
Falsehood: There is a possibility the respondents may attempt to paint a different picture from realty for fear of victimization or exposure. The researcher must strive to ensure the process is authentic and encourages truthful presentation of facts.
· It is difficult to find pure subject based only on racial considerations since other social stratification factors provide further disparities within a particular race including; gender and class. This might differently affect the classroom experience of students from the same race.
· Absolute implementation of the findings and intervention is difficult to achieve in the short-run since race is a historical phenomenon and some of the related concerns that may arise have generally been accepted in the society. Minorities cannot be defined in other ways unless reference is made to the majority.
Most of the teachers (White) negatively perceive racial disparities in classroom thus affecting the quality of education. The relationship is based on social retaliatory coexistence that runs through history that may be passively or actively induced during class sessions. Creating awareness of this concern is an important way of establishing the desire to effect change. Encouraging innovative interactions between teachers and students outside the classroom may expose each to the other’s needs and foster objective and productive classroom experiences.
Afolayan, J.A. (1994). The implications of cultural diversity in American schools. To Improve the Academy. Pp. 135-144.
Aguirre, R.J. (2003). Racial and ethnic diversity in America. Science Handbook. (Vol. 1)
Altugan, A. S. (2015). The Effect of Cultural Identity on Learning. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 190, 455-458.
Banks, J. A. (2015). Cultural diversity and education. London: Routledge.
Cole, W.R. (2008). Educating everybody’s children: Diverse teaching strategies for diverse learners. (2nd Ed.).
Dixon-Woods, M. (2011). Using framework-based synthesis for conducting reviews of qualitative studies. BMC medicine, 9(1), 39.
Genesee, F. (2012). The Home Language: An English Language Learner’s Most Valuable Resource.
Jang, E. Y., & Jiménez, R. T. (2011). A sociocultural perspective on second language learner strategies: Focus on the impact of social context. Theory into Practice, 50(2), 141-148.
Rindfleisch, A., Malter, A. J., Ganesan, S., & Moorman, C. (2008). Cross-sectional versus longitudinal survey research: Concepts, findings, and guidelines. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(3), 261-279.
Szymanski, T. (2013). Teacher perspective regarding gifted diverse students. Gifted Children. 6 (1).
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