Diversity: Approaches to building conceptual understanding in the Social Studies classroom, pp. 9 of 14

The teacher facilitator should also be sensitive to inherited prejudices and stereotypes, as well as deep seated feelings of guilt, anger and frustration which are stirred up by discussions of diversity (Billingsley, 2000). In such situations, the teacher facilitator should remain calm and instead of assuming an authoritative position (which could warrant further aggression), aim to always acknowledge the student’s perspective. That act of acknowledging and respecting a student’s point of view helps in alleviating the tension in the classroom. Instead of rebutting students in such situations, the teacher could leave them with questions to set them thinking deeper about their perspectives and take the discussion further in a small group setting out of the class. Such a response undertaken by the teacher helps to manage the conflict and ensure that students do not feel deprived of an opportunity of voicing their opinions. This works well in portraying the classroom as an embodiment of the democratisation process.

Inquiry-Based Approach

Besides the discussion-based strategy, the inquiry-based approach which teachers are familiar with can also be used to make sense of abstract concepts. Instead of the mere teacher presentation of facts, the inquiry approach seeks to transfer ownership of learning to students themselves, prompting them to ask meaningful questions and find answers on their own (Boomer, 1992).  This process, according to Cook (1992), will compel learners to take on the role of an “educational decision maker”, “working harder and better…discovering their own ideas…asking constructive questions and fight hard to answer them for themselves.” The inquiry-based learning process typically involves a four stage cyclical process (MOE):

  1. Sparking Curiosity
  2. Gathering Data
  3. Exercising Reasoning
  4. Reflective Thinking

This is an example of how the inquiry-based approach in the form of Issue Investigation can be used to facilitate students’ learning of the concept of diversity.

Example of Issue Investigation Project

To illustrate how the inquiry-based approach can be used to facilitate students’ learning of the concept of diversity; we will be using the example of Issue Investigation. Set as a performance task, Issue Investigation provides a platform for students to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and values needed to active citizenship. Students are tasked to conduct detailed investigations on societal issues of interest to them (MOE, 2016). A summary of the activity is provided in the following table:

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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