By Bertalan, John
Multicultural Education , Vol. 11, No. 3
I have been the instructor of a course entitled "Teaching Diverse Populations" for approximately six years. Our institution, a community college, is located in a large, culturally rich, metropolitan area. The course is a required pre-requisite for students entering a state-approved college of education. The course can be taught several different ways; however, I have chosen to teach the class as an ethnic studies class.
There are a variety of textbooks and supplementary readers on the market that could be used in a college diversity class. The book that I have chosen has some introductory chapters, but then it details the history and struggles of specific ethnic groups in America. For instance, there are chapters on Arab-Americans, Native-Americans, Hawaiian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans, Mexican-Americans, European-Americans, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. Most of the chapters are authored by scholars who are representative of the respective groups. Additionally, each chapter contains an historical time-line along with statistical data on immigration and educational attainment.
The students have several assignments in the class. One of the assignments is to work in groups of two to four, and to present orally and visually to their classmates and instructor a summary of one the ethnic chapters in the textbook. It is preferred that members of a particular ethnic group make that ethnic group's presentation to the class and contribute personal experiences and other relevant material about their cultural background that is not contained in the course textbook. Offering the class in an urban, international port city allows for a wonderful ethnic mixture of student-presenters. Most students exhibit pride and enthusiasm when talking to the class about their heritage.
Another assignment in the course is for each individual student to give a ten-minute class presentation concerning a specific ethnic, racial, geographic, or special-needs group. This presentation may be about the customs, food, history, or culture of an ethnic group or the culture of the inhabitants of a foreign country. Students may also make a presentation concerning a special-needs group that they may encounter in the classroom.
This project may be a power-point presentation, an audio or visual presentation, or a class involvement presentation. The student may even bring in a guest speaker native to the country or group being discussed. An optimum class session is for students to coordinate their ten-minute individual projects during the same class session when a group is making a chapter presentation on that specific ethnic group. For example, on the day that a group of students made their presentation on the Asian-American chapter, one student discussed Asian religions, another the history and meaning of the Chinese zodiac, and a third dressed up as a geisha and explained traditional Japanese sushi foods while the class practiced making an tiny paper origami chef.
For the last six years, I have witnessed a variety of individual projects and chapter presentations. At the beginning of each semester, I try to describe for my new classes the most stimulating and educational projects that I've seen presented by former students. I explain to them that I hope they will build upon that base of projects and do even better reports for the coming term.
In the past, students have done their chapter summaries in a variety of ways. Some get the class interested and motivated for the content of chapters by playing games with their classmates, like Survivor, Double-Dare, Family Feud, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, The Weakest Link, or Tic-Tack-Toe. They use the content of the chapters for the games' questions. Other students make up little skits to present the material. The chapter presenters are the screenwriters and the actors, and the class is the audience. …