Promoting Diversity

Every now and then there’s a single sentence that makes me think more than a novel that I might have spent hours getting through. This weekend is was this statement from Karen Melhuish Spencer reflecting on what was striking in Key Competencies for the Future:

the value on creating experiences that make collaboration and the deliberate collision of diverse perspectives a central strength of an activity – teaching with diversity, not just for diversity

I’ve been thinking a lot about promoting diversity recent, but largely in the context of content. Since thinking about this idea I’ve been quite honest with myself in realising just how limiting that approach is. Diverse content can be poured over students but it matters little if they do not explore the skills required to navigate it.

Take a unit I am teaching at the moment in L2 Media Studies. We are looking at the development of the family unit and how it has changed over time from a standardised traditional family to a modern diverse alternative accepted notions of family. Within this we examine representation of solo parents, cross cultural families, homosexual parents, etc. This is a great opportunity to present diversity and promote acceptance and tolerance. However, while I am fortunate to teach rather liberal and open minded students, I don’t offer them much in the way of counter-discourse and therefore I don’t believe I can claim that my classroom is offering the-liberate collision of diverse perspectives”

“Teaching with diversity, not just for diversity” makes me consider how important it is to offer alternative ways of thinking in order to challenge assumptions. It encourages empathy, critical thinking and the required skills to negotiate situations where one does have to navigate through diverse perspectives. For me this means going beyond just playing ‘devil’s advocate’ or setting up a debate structure and actually offering experiences that place the alternate way of thinking at the heart of a learning experience.

Make them think. I think I’m letting them away too easily.

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