Diversity in the Classroom: Lessons, Types, and Examples (2023)

Learning and understanding diversity in the classroom can improve prospective and developing teachers' perspectives in many ways as they engage with the realities of today's classrooms.

First, today's teachers are likely to encounter a variety of different types of students - students from different socio-economic backgrounds, different learning abilities/disabilities, and different ethnic or religious identities. Second, working effectively with diversity in the classroom is critical to promoting educational equity and optimizing access and outcomes. Third, learning about diversity and developing strategies for productively collaborating with others has both short- and long-term benefits for students. Finally, diversity in the classroom is both a teaching tool and an opportunity for educational enrichment in itself.

Explore the impact of diversity in education, why diversity matters to students, and how teachers can foster diverse and inclusive learning environments.

educational equity

Educational equity refers to the idea that every student should have access to the resources they need to reach their full academic potential.

Without educational equity, academic success is significantly more difficult for some students. Systemic barriers — such as unsafe housing, inadequate nutrition, and underfunded classrooms — continue to prevent students from reaching their full potential. Certain groups of students do not receive the same educational opportunities and housing as their peers. This can lead to a lack of diversity in the workforce, barriers to social mobility, poor mental health and increased poverty.

When students from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the same resources and opportunities as their more advantaged peers, they are more likely to succeed academically and professionally. Educational equity matters because it prioritizes all students having opportunities to reach their potential, regardless of identity or circumstances.

Diversity, culture and social identities

Diversity in the classroom relates to differences in social identity. A person's age, race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, and national origin constitute a person's social identity. Our identities are intersectional and overlapping, and many aspects of our identities change over time.

(Video) Diversity In The Class : How This Can Be Used As Resource To Develop An Understanding Of Environment

The types of diversity that may be present in the classroom include:

  • variety of skills: This includes differences in students’ physical, mental, and learning abilities.
  • age diversity: This includes student age differences.
  • gender diversity: These include differences in gender identity and student expression.
  • ethnic diversity: This includes differences in race, ethnicity, nationality and languages ​​spoken at home.
  • Religious diversity:This includes differences in affiliation and identification with the values ​​and/or practices of a particular religion or sect.
  • socioeconomic diversity: This includes income differences, educational levels, occupations, and housing security and stability in relation to students or their families.
  • variety of experiences: This includes differences in students' life experiences such as immigration, military service, adoption or adoption.
  • Diversity of sexual orientation: This includes differences in students’ sexual orientation.
  • geographic diversity: This includes differences in local or regional identities and student experiences depending on where they live, learn and play.

Diversity in the classroom is not limited to these examples. Individuals can belong to several social groups at the same time. Note that diversity is not just about visible differences. Along with the last three categories above, differences in learning styles, personality, mental health, and more are often present without being visible.

Why a diverse faculty is important

Diversity in the classroom isn't just limited to the student body—it includes teachers, too.

According to data released in 2021 by the Pew Research Center, the US workforce of teachers supporting elementary school students is much less racially and ethnically diverse than the students they teach. While the proportion of Asian American, Black, and Hispanic teachers has increased over the past two decades, this small increase has not kept pace with the rapid diversification of the general US population.

For example, Pew reports that between 2017 and 2018 (the most recent study based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)):

  • 79% of US public school teachers identified themselves as non-Hispanic white, while only 47% of all public elementary school students identified themselves as such.
  • 9% of US public school teachers identify themselves as Hispanic, while 27% of public elementary school students identify as Hispanic.
  • 7 percent of US public school teachers identified as Black, while 15 percent of public elementary school students identified as Black.

Recent empirical studies show evidence of better learning outcomes for students who have teachers of the same racial and/or ethnic group. According to findings compiled by the Brookings Institute in 2022, students who had a teacher of the same race tended to experience educational advantages such as:

  • Improved test results
  • Course notes improved
  • Improved working memory
  • Best Participation
  • Better interpersonal self-management
  • More likely to take an advanced math course
  • They are more likely to be chosen for a gifted and talented program
  • Rather graduate high school
  • Rather intend to enroll in college

The diversification of our education system must therefore include increasing the representation of teachers belonging to different racial and ethnic communities. Black students deserve to have the opportunity to learn from teachers who can share similar cultural experiences as them.

Teaching diversity in the classroom

treasureinclusion in the classroomcan help create a more respectful learning environment for everyone.

(Video) Teaching Culturally Diverse Students

Pupils in preschool and elementary school can learn to use precise terms to describe their own social identity. For example, a child might proudly claim to be black and Korean-American with a black mother from Chicago and a Korean father from Busan. Likewise, a child can proudly claim to simply have two mothers or two fathers.

Students should also learn to celebrate and respect people from cultures other than their own. Diversity is crucial for elementary school students as it helps them appreciate the differences between people and cultures. In a rapidly diversifying world, students deserve educators and educational resources that teach diversity in the classroom and affirm the importance of inclusion, respect and fairness for all.

Learning about diversity early on can lead to more inclusive and respectful interactions with others, and also help students develop a sense of empathy and understanding for people who may have different experiences or perspectives.

Children often show a natural curiosity about food, sports, art, clothing,children's book, games, toys and dances from different cultures. This openness and enthusiasm to learn from and about other people should be encouraged and encouraged by teachers.

Students who learn to appreciate and support diverse group members as children can grow into strong leaders of diverse and inclusive communities.

Contribute to the ongoing effort to diversify education

With the right teaching tools, educators can promote diversity and inclusion for the next generation of students. The importance of diversity in the classroom stems directly from the historical context in which many classrooms have been locatedNOdiverse—whether by policy or educational philosophy—but its impact and mission is to promote equity and positive outcomes for today's students.

If you are interested in an enriching career as an educator dedicated to using diversity in the classroom as an educational opportunity, American University is the place for youOnline Masters in Art Education (MAT)eOnline Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and LeadershipPrograms can be a great next step for you. We equip graduates with the tools they need to approach the landscape of diversity in education with an informed perspective and educate students from diverse backgrounds.

Start pursuing your educational goals at American University.

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