Diversity: Approaches to building conceptual understanding in the Social Studies classroom, pp. 4 of 14

Why Diversity?

Having a good grasp of the key concept of diversity  is an essential part of students' learning as this concept forms the building blocks for gaining a better understanding about the issue on ‘Living in a Diverse Society’. It also provides students with sound conceptual frameworks to develop their own way of structuring their understandings about the issue being presented. Moreoverin an increasingly globalised world today, the teaching of the concept of diversity becomes ever more relevant to ensure harmony in our multi-racial society. The lack of awareness and understanding of diversity could supplant societal cohesiveness and contribute tensions and conflicts between the diverse communities. Hence, it is of utmost importance to equip and empower our students to understand and respond to diversity appropriately.

Nevertheless, we are not claiming that the teaching of the concept of diversity has no precedence within our education system. Concepts of diversity have been explored and discussed even in the previous Social Studies curriculum. However, we believe that the concept of diversity can (and should) no longer be taught in the same way it has been done in the past. For instance, some teachers used to provide the definition of diversity without much discussion on the concept. A mere definition of diversity would not allow students to have a grasp of the concept or help to understand complex relationships. A key reason for this change is the very dynamics of the 21st century Social Studies classroom, which is undeniably becoming more diverse with student profiles spanning across various nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. We are no longer preparing our students for diversity but teaching ‘diversity’ to a diverse audience. The understanding of such a change will dramatically affect the way we teach these concepts. It will affect how we prepare the classroom environment for discussions on the topic, which now requires greater sensitivity and specific content knowledge. The classroom teacher may also tap on the varied experiences of classroom participants to provide a more authentic learning experience for the students. Pedagogical strategies may explore problem solving techniques that tap on the strengths of diverse profiles of students to accomplish particular tasks. The pedagogical opportunities to explore concepts of diversity are aplenty.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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