Students are diverse. They are diverse in their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, their ability level, gender, sexual orientation, age and perspectives. Therefore, students who learn in diverse settings are better problem solvers, more likely to attend college, less likely to be in prison later in life and are able to gain important social networking skills needed for employment. However, throughout history there has been a struggle for equality and equity in education. That is why it is imperative that educators consider all students when planning and implementing lessons.
Unfortunately, there are privileged and oppressed groups of people and this is due to socialization. From a young age, students are given the message that being white and a male equals success and knowledge. There are teachers who hold unconscious bias. In science and math classes, women are not called on or respected as much as their male counterparts. These realizations were shocking, but unfortunately relatable and understandable at the same time. After reading the course assignments and participating in discussions, I have already began to change how I teach. I no longer refer to my class as “guys” when I address them. I make a conscious effort to call on female students when engaging in a class discussion. I try to include the scientific discoveries of minorities, instead of addressing the same usual male, white scientists. Whenever I hear students say things like, “This is too hard” or “I’ll never understand this” I try to encourage them to change their language to reflect a growth mindset to “I can learn to do anything I want” and “failure is an opportunity to grow.”
Students should engage in multicultural learning and take action on diversity issues in their community.
Stereotype threat is the added pressure some individuals may
feel in certain situations and how it affects that individual’s performance.
For example, Steele (2010) discusses a study with white college students being
evaluated on their natural athletic ability. Overall, white students performed
poorly when told the test measured “natural athletic ability” when compared to
a group of students that were told nothing about the task. These white students
felt the pressure to perform and disprove the stereotype that whites don’t have
a natural athletic ability. All identities have a negative stereotype threat.
Weather you are old or young, gay or straight, liberal or conservative, there
will be situations in which you will be seen negatively based on your identity.
As instructors, we must reduce this threat to make a fair
learning environment for all our students. The one method that spoke to me as a
physics teacher was promoting a growth mindset. Often, so many students come
into physics with the preconceived idea that physics is hard, and they won’t be
able to understand it. Students should instead see intelligence as something that
grows with effort, not something that is fixed. I’ve noticed that some students
believe that I know all the answers to every single physics question and that
solving these problems is so simple to me. However, this is not true. I struggled in a lot of my physics classes in
college and it would take me multiple attempts to solve just one problem. If I
shared this with my class, perhaps they may see that making mistakes and struggling
is a great way to learn physics. One of my physics professors called it the “productive
struggle.” I also liked the idea of having my current students write letters to
my future students on how they struggled in physics and how they overcame it.
In addition, in my class quizzes are only 7% of students’ overall averages. This low-stake assignment provides my students with the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them without completely jeopardizing their grades. They can then perform better on tests which are 60% of their marking period averages.
It is no secret that technology is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Technology is a global, interactive and collaborative tool that is used at home, the workplace, school and endless other outlets. It is our responsibility as teachers to model and teach students on how to be digitally competent to succeed and thrive in our digital world.
In order to be a positive digital citizen, one must create and consume content and communicate to contribute to a better world. As a digital citizen, we are apart of a much broader community made up of people from various cultures, religions, genders, ages and ability levels. When students and all people participate in a global, online community, it is important to be aware, open-minded and respectful of other’s beliefs and values. It is important to question the information you come across on the web and think critically and analytically.
Unfortunately, not all individuals contribute positively to our digital community. Hate speech and misinformation and spread quickly and efficiently. A study conducted by researchers at MIT found that falsehoods on Twitter were 70% more likely to be shared than accurate news. Facebook also reported that only 38% of hate speech was flagged in the past year.
In is our job as teachers to teach students on how to be digital and global citizens. Telling students to “put their phone away” is unrealistic. Instead, we must embrace that technology is here to stay and change our future. As teachers, we can model how to be empathetic and responsible adults. Students may spread hate speech on social media and use slurs in class to see how you as a teacher will react. If we model respectful and appropriate conversations, our students will follow. It is often easy to take the path of least resistance, to turn your ear when you hear a student make a joke at the expense of another, to scroll past a derogatory post on your Twitter or Facebook feed. However, if we don’t follow the path of least resistance, if we become up-standers and encourage our students to do the same, we might see a decrease in the spread of hate crime. Or if we teach our students to not accept everything on the internet as fact, and to think critically and question information, derogatory content may stop being accepted as true and spread around. In my physics class, we came up with a web search strategy to determine the validity and reputation of websites and their content. Students evaluated the authority, accuracy, currency, objectivity, documentation and purpose of the websites. Perhaps I can spread this to an even larger scale and include social media to better prepare students to be effective and positive digital citizens.