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How Diversity Influences Student Achievement

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha is currently an Information Technology Specialist and a EdD student at the University of Delaware.

Diversity includes the differences among people. In this lesson, we will learn about how poverty, social class, culture and ethnicity impact student achievement.

Diversity and Student Achievement

A diverse school that actively enrolls students from diverse environments allows for students to learn from each other, and this can help in increasing student academic achievement. The following examples help to understand how being a culturally responsive teacher and allowing students to interact with others from different ethnic or economic backgrounds can improve student achievement.

Student Ethnicity and Student Achievement

When students from different ethnic backgrounds are given the opportunity to interact and learn from each other, both students benefit as can be seen from this example.

For a school project, Laura's teacher paired her up with Li from a different grade and who had recently moved from China to the US. Laura's teacher explained to the girls that they could learn about their different cultures from each other. Laura was excited as she told her mom about her new friend. ''I'm going to learn about Chinese food and clothes from my new friend Li,'' Laura exclaimed to her mother.

Li also was happy to have a new friend in Laura. They spent time talking to each other and learning about their cultures. Li learned how to read and speak American English from Laura. Laura shared some of her story books with Li. Li was excited to read them and ask Laura questions. Before she knew it, Li was getting higher grades in English!

Laura also learned from Li about the Chinese culture and foods. Laura soon figured out that Li was good in math and Li was able to teach Laura some of the Chinese math methods that helped Laura learn and understand math so much better!

Student Poverty and Student Achievement

Allowing students from different economic backgrounds to work on school projects and become friends gives both students the opportunity to learn the value of sharing and allows them to appreciate each other's positive traits and characters.

Dave lived in inner city Philadelphia. His mother was single and he had six brothers and sisters. His mother had to work two jobs to support him and his siblings. Many times Dave went to bed hungry. He did not have the expensive video games that his other schoolmates had. He did not even have a laptop that he could work his school assignments from.

The public school that Dave attended was promoting diversity so Dave was fortunate to meet other students from different economic and social backgrounds. One of Dave's friends, John, came from an upper middle class family and both his parents were professionals. John and Dave were very good friends so John would let Dave borrow his laptop and sometimes even his video games! Dave was very excited to have John as a friend and was always grateful to John for sharing his technological gadgets with him. Dave was otherwise a bright kid and so by being able to use a laptop to complete his projects and learn technical skills through video games, Dave soon showed a marked improvement in his grades!

From being Dave's friend, John was able to better appreciate how fortunate he was and how helping others was a very rewarding experience. John learned to appreciate Dave for who he was as a person instead of focusing on his background. John also learned from Dave to think logically and solve problems patiently. John was sometimes impatient and did not take the time and effort to think things though but after becoming friends with Dave, John was so much more understanding and he was able to improve his reasoning skills.

Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher

Teachers need to make an extra effort to be aware of what it means to be culturally diverse and the activities they can include to promote diversity in their classrooms.

Anne is a teacher in a school that promotes diversity. What this means is that Anne has to learn how to relate to the different students who are of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. One of the things that Anne did was to read literature written by African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans in addition to American literature. This helped Anne understand culture from the perspectives of different groups.

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