Planning for Diversity:
Teaching All Children
Weeks 6 and 7 Summary
Diversity and its Origins
Diversity and Stability
The need for continuity and stability in cultural practices is well explained by
The process of cumulative cultural evolution requires not only creative invention
but also, and just as importantly, faithful social transmission that can work as a
ratchet to prevent slippage backward -- so that the newly invented artifact or
practice preserves its new and improved form at least somewhat faithfully until a
further modification or improvement comes along. (p. 5)
Clearly, a proper balance is needed between Diversity and Stability.
THINKING ABOUT DIVERSITY IN SOCIETY
Diversity cannot be an attribute of an individual. It can only refer to
the differences between individuals within a group.
So used, it can apply to:
a classroom; a school; a city; a country.
Diversity does NOT imply inequality.
There is no absolute point of reference in terms of which some
members of a group
can be judged superior and others inferior.
Seen in this light, all groups are -- to varying degrees --
And all groups, by the same token, are to varying degrees
Diversity: Individual Trajectories
Who we become depends on the company we keep and what we do together
Consider the different cultural groups you have been part of:
Do you have one or more older siblings or close cousins?
In your family, do you speak any language in addition to English?
Did you grow up in a large city, small town or rural community?
In what sort of work are your parents and other family members engaged?
Have you attended an ‘alternative’ school of any kind?
What extra-curricular activities or out-of-school organizations have you engaged
Have you spent a month or more living outside the United States?
What subject do you intend to major in?
How has your participation in these different communities affected who you
have become? How are you similar to or different from other people of your
age? How might your trajectory have been different?
Children develop at different rates; some come to school more attuned to
and prepared for schooling, as currently conceived and practiced, than
Many educated and economically successful parents demand the “best”
academic preparation for their children and willingly provide additional
financial support for their children’s schools.
Federal Government ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act calls for minimal skills and
knowledge to be acquired by all students at any given grade level.
School Districts differ in the proportions of children with the greatest
needs: poverty; limited/poor community facilities; English Language
School Districts differ in their funding from taxes - suburban v. inner city v.
Many well qualified teachers prefer not to teach in inner city or rural
What does “equal opportunity” entail?
• Does it mean equal resources for every student?
• Or the same expectations and the same curriculum for every student?
• Or the resources and support to enable every student to achieve her/his
APPROACHES TO DIVERSITY IN EDUCATION
A problem – to be overcome, typically by organizational means.
The avowed aim is assimilation into a homogeneous society. In
practice, it typically results in differential expectations and
differential treatment: e.g. pull-out classes, tracking, acceptance of
An inescapable reality – to be accommodated, as far as possible,
within existing practice. Token recognition by reference to cultural
stereotypes and celebration of holidays and foods.
Both resource and outcome – to be welcomed and encouraged
as means of achieving deeper understanding, both in the present
and in solving problems as yet unforeseen.
We should choose the last of these.
How should we respond to Diversity?
How can we engage ALL students in learning?
Select themes or issues of personal and social relevance that provoke
questions that call for investigation
Choice and ownership lead to commitment
Open ended questions stimulate inquiry, active exploration, and
Collaboration with others generates more ideas
Dialogue about results deepens understanding
Individual representation (writing, diagramming, etc.) encourages
Students learn best in a receptive, nonjudgmental, community environment
encourages inquiry and independence
includes a wide variety of materials
provides opportunities for practical activities
is generally complex
connects school experience with the greater world
encourages collaboration rather than competition
values extended expression of individual understandings and beliefs
welcomes the constructive exploration of disagreement
Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence
Communities of Inquirers/Learners
The emphasis on establishing communities of … practice builds on the fact that
robust knowledge and understandings are socially constructed through talk, activity
and interaction around meaningful problems and tools (Vygotsky, 1978). The teacher
guides and supports students as they explore problems and define questions that are
of interest to them. A community of practice also provides direct cognitive and social
support for the efforts of the group’s individual members. Students share the
responsibility for thinking and doing: they distribute their intellectual activity so that the
burden of managing the whole process does not fall on any one individual. In addition,
a community of practice can be a powerful context for constructing [scientific]
meanings. In challenging one another’s thoughts and beliefs, students must be
explicit about their meanings; they must negotiate conflicts in belief or evidence; and
they must share and synthesize their knowledge to achieve understanding. (How
People Learn, pp.183-4)
Negotiation of Themes and Inquiries
Presentation to Real Audiences
Learning for Understanding
occurs through: using knowledge to carry out some
is shown in: new and challenging activity in order
to achieve some desired outcome
in a particular situation.
Generative Topics: Themes that connect to students’ lives, stimulate
inquiry, provoke discussion.
Goals for Understanding: “Big ideas”, important concepts, necessary skills,
connections and implications.
Performances of Understanding : Activities that use knowledge for meaningful
purposes, practical and intellectual.
Ongoing Assessment: Provide criteria, give feedback and support,
Summative Assessment: A ‘performance of understanding’ that requires
students to draw on what they have understood
to meet some new challenge.
(based on Project Zero Framework)
Designing a Curriculum Unit
(A Way of Orienting Curriculum Content to Students’ Lives and Interests
e.g. Community, Exploration, Water)
“Big Ideas”/”Enduring Understandings”
(see Curriculum Standards)
(that Allow for Inquiry, Dialogue)
Check with Principles
Performance of Understanding <---> Assessment