There are significant benefits to teaching diversity in the classroom. Usually, when people discuss diversity the conversation focuses on race. However, to accurately talk about diversity, especially in the classroom, you must consider race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, being able-bodied and various learning styles. Teaching diversity is important even though many schools throughout the country remain racially and socioeconomically segregated.
Many businesses and companies in the U.S. are operating on an international scale. Teaching diversity prepares students to be global citizens by exposing them to people from different cultures and social groups. With the growth of globalization it is important for students to be able to work with diverse groups of people. This diversity also includes teaching staff. Having teachers and staff members of diverse backgrounds affirms students cultural identities and enhances the learning environment.
A recent study in the journal “Child Development” found that students feel safer in and out of school when they have a diverse education. Learning about different cultures allows students to become comfortable with cultural difference across social groups and comfortable with themselves; leading to a deeper sense safety and self-confidence.
When students live and attend schools in racially isolated environments they can develop prejudices. Being educated about diversity can counter discriminatory stereotypes. Through understanding various cultures and social groups, students are able to make connections from their own lives to the lives of their peers. Teaching diversity increases cultural competence, which in turn allows students to be empathetic to the experiences of others.
Diversity has a direct impact on student performance. Students in diverse schools have higher average test scores. According to Queens University of Charlotte, students work better in diverse environments, allowing them to concentrate better and push themselves further. Thoughtfully planned diversity lessons promote depth of knowledge and give students and teachers exposure to new cultures, different historical figures, and alternative text. Because of this, students in socioeconomically and racially diverse schools have stronger academic achievement than students in schools with more students from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
Diverse classrooms encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Collaborative groups are an excellent tool for classroom instruction; in a diverse classroom students bring various perspectives that challenge their peers to think creatively and collaborate to find an appropriate solution for their group. When students are given the opportunity to work with a diverse group of peers, or with topics that discuss diversity, they can confront stereotypes and discover similarities with their classmates.
The benefits of classroom diversity are both academic and socioemotional; educators must prioritize creating diverse learning opportunities for students and teaching about diversity. Exposing students to diverse experiences and people will make a positive impact on their development and a profound impact on our society.
Here at Kickboard, we value culturally responsive teaching and leading. Since our founding, Kickboard has worked to give educators the tools they need to create safe and happy schools where students and staff thrive. Given that the vast majority of our schools are composed predominantly of students of color, the culture and climate work we do with schools inevitably intersects with issues of race and disproportionality in discipline. Promoting equity is a priority for Kickboard and we are intentional about situating the work we do at the intersection of positive behavioral supports, cultural relevance, restorative practices, and racial equity. Learn more about how we do that, here.