I am particularly interested in learning how to improve my teaching to a diverse student population. This blog post examines Brookfield’s Chapter 8 titled ‘Teaching in Diverse Classrooms.’ I work in a nursing program that has a wide range of students: from students with much professional, life or work experience, to students who are right out of high school who have never held a long term job, to a wide range of multicultural groups, to students that have a large range of learning preferences and personalities. As Bonner, Marbley and Howard-Hamilton noted, the student body is becoming more and more diverse each and every year (as cited in Brookfield, 2015). Hence the importance to ensure that as teachers, we address this diversity effectively.
It is freeing to read in this chapter that, as teachers, we cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot reach each student all of the time. Letting go of this expectation gives me some breathing room to instead aim for addressing diversity by individualizing my teaching approaches based on student feedback. Brookfield looked at a few ways to accurately gauge the diverse needs of the students. Many of them pose problems however. I find that a large number of students in my program, especially in the first year of the program, have little self awareness about their learning needs. When I ask them what their learning needs are, they tend to focus on whether they are visual, kinesthetic or auditory. I have started to do an appreciative inquiry exercise that asks them to reflect on a positive learning experience and explore what it was about that experience that made it positive, individually , in dialogue with a peer capturing the discussion in writing. The student is then asked to make a visual representation of the key theme from this dialogue. This exercise occasionally yields great insights, mostly with those more mature, reflective students, but for those students who are less reflective it usually yields more of a superficial response instead. I find this disappointing time after time. Upon reflecting, I recognize that this is because the students are at different points on the self-directed learning spectrum and that I need to adjust my expectations. I also may need to be more explicit with my directions to aid them in the process of reflection so that they can gain more depth of reflection in this activity.
On reflection I am seeing more and more benefits to using weekly CIQs, as Brookfield (2015) suggests to assess the students’ learning experience. The weekly CIQs would give us the benefit of getting feedback to whether our efforts of diversification are successful and allow us to modify our approaches along the way. I believe also that the weekly CIQs will help the student gain more insight into their individual learning needs. This would therefore help move the student toward more self awareness, thus improve their reflection and self regulating skills, to move them closer to becoming self directed learners. I talk more about this feedback loop process in my following post this week.
Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.