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Chapter 4
Student Diversity

What Is the Impact of Culture on Teaching and Learning?

Culture profoundly affects teaching and learning. Many aspects of culture contribute to the learner's identity and self-concept and affect the learner's beliefs and values, attitudes and expectations, social relations, language use, and other behaviors.

How Does Socioeconomic Status Affect Student Achievement?

Socioeconomic status-based on income, occupation, education, and social prestige-can profoundly influence the learner's attitudes toward school, background knowledge, school readiness, and academic achievement. Working-class and low-income families experience stress that contributes to child-rearing practices, communication patterns, and lowered expectations that may handicap children when they enter school. Low-SES students often learn a normative culture that is different from the middle-class culture of the school, which demands independence, competitiveness, and goal-setting. However, low achievement is not the inevitable result of low socioeconomic status.

How Do Ethnicity and Race Affect Students' School Experiences?

Minority-group populations are growing dramatically as diversity in the United States increases. Students who are members of certain minority groups-self-defined by race, religion, ethnicity, origins, history, language, and culture, such as African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos-tend to have lower scores than those of European Americans on standardized tests of academic achievement. The lower scores correlate with lower socioeconomic status and reflect in part a legacy of discrimination against minority groups and consequent poverty. School desegregation, long intended as a solution to educational inequities due to race and social class, has had mixed benefits. Continuing issues include delivering fairness and equal opportunity, fostering racial harmony, and preventing segregation.

How Do Language Differences and Bilingual Programs Affect Student Achievement?

Bilingual education addresses problems of students who have limited proficiency in English and for whom English is a second language. Research suggests that bilingual education has clear benefits for students. Difficulties include the shortage of bilingual teachers, inadequate transition programs for students entering English-only classes, and conflict between the goals of bilingualism and those of desegregation. Recent legislation, notably in California, has had a chilling effect on bilingual education.

What Is Multicultural Education?

Multicultural education is no single program but a philosophy-with instructional and curriculum recommendations-calling for the celebration of cultural diversity and the promotion of educational equity and social harmony in the schools. Multicultural education includes content integration, knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and an empowering school culture.

How Do Gender and Gender Bias Affect Students' School Experiences?

Many observed differences between males and females are clearly linked to differences in early socialization, when children learn sex-role behaviors regarded as appropriate. Ongoing research shows very few genetically based gender differences in thinking and abilities. However, gender bias in the classroom, including subtle teacher behaviors toward male and female students and curriculum materials that contain sex-role stereotypes, has clearly affected student choices and achievement. One outcome is a gender gap in mathematics and science, though this gap has decreased steadily.

How Do Students Differ in Intelligence and Learning Styles?

Students differ in their ability to deal with abstractions, to solve problems, and to learn. They also differ in any number of specific intelligences, so accurate estimations of intelligence should probably rely on broader performances than traditional IQ tests allow. Therefore teachers should not base their expectations of students on IQ test scores. Binet, Spearman, Sternberg, Guilford, and Gardner have contributed to theories and measures of intelligence. Both heredity and environment determine intelligence. Research shows that home environments, schooling, and life experiences can profoundly influence IQ.

Students differ in their prior learning and in their cognitive learning styles. Field-dependent people tend to see patterns as a whole and do better with people and social relationships. Field-independent people are more likely to see parts that make up a large pattern and do better with subjects such as science. Individual preferences in learning environments and conditions also affect student achievement.

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