A Research-Based Approach on Teaching to Diversity

Article excerpt

Changes in demographics are having a profound affect on education. Hodgkinson (1997) stated that the United States is the "first world nation in this history of humanity" (p. 3), where every nation in the world has a resident in this country. Former Governor of North Carolina and Chairman of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), James B. Hunt Jr., said in its 2003 report that "It is time for our leaders to redouble their efforts to achieve for reaching education reform by pledging to recruit, prepare, support, and pay for quality teachers". He went on to say: "The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act was a clear expression of national will. Its goal to insure that all children have an opportunity to learn-regardless of income, background, or ethnic identity--cannot be achieved unless we assure that quality teachers stay in the profession" (p. 6). In this paper, salient research on diversity is presented. This research, which comes under the umbrella of multicultural education, provides a mechanism by which teachers can recognize, accept, and affirm diversity as it relates to race, culture, language, social class, gender, and disability. Teachers and their leaders must be knowledgeable and appreciative of this body of literature. It is vital to their success in being able to provide all students with a good education. Specialty area expertise, alone, is not enough. Educators must be guided by policies and practices in multicultural education.

According to Chandra Hawley (1997), classrooms in America have changed in some significant ways:

1. Students come from a variety of racial, cultural, linguistic, and economic backgrounds.

2. Students with disabilities of many kinds are spending more time in regular classrooms.

Hawley went on to say that this increase in diversity among the student population is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers in the years to come (p. 23).

The importance of quality teachers and the challenges they face are made salient in a recent report by The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (2003). NCTAF Chairman and former Governor of North Carolina, James B. Hunt, Jr. said: "It is time for our leaders to redouble their efforts to achieve far reaching education reform by pledging to recruit, prepare, support, and pay for quality teachers." He went on to say: "The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act was a clear expression of national will. Its goal to insure that all children have an opportunity to learn--regardless of income, background, or ethnic identity--cannot be achieved unless we assure that quality teachers stay in the profession. The Act is a pledge to America's children that we must keep" (p. 6).

Certainly classroom teachers are not only in front of the class, but also at the forefront of school reform. In this paper notable research on teaching to diversity will be presented. An awareness of this research will benefit teachers and it may help school leaders and other stakeholders reflect on what can be done to help teachers and their students succeed.

Demographics That Affect Education

Hodgkinson (1985) stated, "The number of minority children in our school is now so large if they do not succeed, all Americans will have a diminished future" (p. 18). How American educators choose to address the issues of diversity will forever influence the success and failure of millions of students now and in the years to come.

According to the population projections, the face of America will become even more diverse in the years to come. Hodgkinson (1997) prefigured that:

African American populations will increase slowly while Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans will increase rapidly in the next twenty-five years. Of the 5.6 billion people in the world, only 17% are white, a percentage that will decline to 9% by 2010. (p. 3)

Also, Hodgkinson (1997) explained that the United States is the "first world nation in this history of the humanity" (p. …