“Diverse” Classrooms?

As noted here a number of times, “diverse” has become little more than a synonym for black, or minority, in academic discourse. Thus it can be disconcerting, or at least disorienting, when an academic publication occasionally slips into the old-fashioned use of “diverse” to mean diverse.

Consider, if you can get access to it, “A Dozen Teaching Tips for Diverse Classrooms” in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For the majority of community-college professors, teaching is the most important part of their jobs. And it’s not easy. Community-college students are a diverse bunch but often face a particular set of challenges. Many entering students are not prepared for college-level work. And while some students plan to transfer to competitive four-year colleges, others struggle to complete remedial courses. Some students commute long distances, and many have jobs or families. In one class, a teacher may face an 18-year-old who is fresh out of high school, a single mother who works part time, and a first-generation college student who doesn’t speak English well.

Community-college students require teachers who are engaging, creative, responsive, and energetic — and who understand their students’ needs. Professors have to be up on the latest teaching methods, know which of them work for their students, and be flexible enough to change when something isn’t working. Here are a dozen tips — many from seasoned professors — for those just starting out, or for veterans who want fresh ideas.

Here are the dozen tips. I’ve not quoted the short discussions that were provided on each one.

1. Remember that your students are freshmen and sophomores.

2. While setting realistic expectations is important, you must also share them with your students.

3. Take advantage of the technology-training courses your college offers, but don’t feel pressured to use technology for its own sake.

4. Look at the whole experience — including the syllabus, the textbook, and the classroomfrom your students’ perspective.

5. Consider keeping a teaching journal.

6. Be mindful of the pressures on students, some of whom have families, jobs, or long commutes.

7. Know what services are available at your college to help struggling students.

8. Make sure students understand why the subject matter of the course is worth learning, and how it relates to the real world

9. Encourage your students to give you feedback on your teaching.

10. If you are concerned about plagiarism, consider increasing the load of in-class work, such as problem sets and essays.

11. Develop at least one assignment that requires each student to meet with you, one on one, in your office.

12. Identify at least one quality you appreciate in each student, and keep it in mind every time you come in to class.

Good advice, all of them, and not one has any special relevance to “diverse classrooms” as “diverse” has come to be used by nearly all academics these days.

What a pleasant surprise.

Say What?