Diversity in Education: Engaging Learners in Dialogue about Difference (2016)
‘Nine out of 10 gypsy and traveller children have suffered racial abuse’
(The Independent, 22 October 2014)
‘Britain swamped by Asylum seekers ‘
(The Daily Mail, 22 December 2014)
These types of headlines are common and many newspapers and websites provide similar claims that reveal prejudices about the diverse groups that make up our society. In this article we provide an account of how we designed and taught a module to support Year 3 undergraduate students to examine the issues of difference and diversity in a supportive environment. The module is taught in the final year of an undergraduate course at a post-1992 Midlands university and focuses on a wide range of diverse groups such as those highlighted in the opening quotes.
We are committed to providing opportunities for learners to explore the diversity in society and the societal changes this produces so they may challenge ill-founded assumptions and develop understandings about living and working in a diverse society (Cole et al., 2011; Garci and Van Soest, 2000). This, together with our experiences of working with marginalised children and young people, has driven our desire to ensure we prepare our graduates to enter work well placed to understand and meet the needs of marginalised groups. We also wanted to challenge our learners’ perceptions of what it might be like to be 'excluded' from society and to identify and question possible personal and societal assumptions.
Across the Higher Education sector, our own institution included, the last few years have seen an increasing emphasis on ensuring that learners are fully prepared to enter the workplace. Smith and Wolf-Wendel (2005) and Sciame-Giesecke et al. (2009) highlighted that educational establishments are now expected to prepare learners to work and live in a diverse world. Garcia and Van Soest develop this further, arguing that in order to prepare learners to become ‘multiculturally competent professionals’ (2014: 21) they need to be taught about oppression, social identity, racism, economies and political systems. They also suggest this may require learners to examine and reflect on their personal experiences and to confront their own prejudices and assumptions. Reflection is an important tool in this process as it supports learners’ understandings and helps them to develop new insights into their own and others behaviour (Ghaye, 2013). We believe the notion of engaging learners in critical debate and reflection is fundamental in the preparation of future practitioners who are capable of supporting the needs of diverse groups. Against this backdrop we designed a module to support learners to examine issues of difference and diversity. This paper details some of the activities and processes we used. Whilst our work takes place within a university environment, the strategies and concepts we use could be adapted and used with a range of learners in different contexts.
ANZSRC Fields of Research39 - Education::3904 - Specialist studies in education::390410 - Multicultural education (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Māori and Pacific Peoples)
39 - Education::3904 - Specialist studies in education::390401 - Comparative and cross-cultural education
47 - Language, communication and culture::4702 - Cultural studies::470212 - Multicultural, intercultural and cross-cultural studies
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