Engaging Culturally Diverse Student Populations

Effective Instruction for Engaging Culturally Diverse Students in Higher Education by Lois Yamauchi, Kazufumi Taira, and Tracy Trevorrow was an informative article about engaging students in general and specifically how to engage culturally diverse populations and students of first generation college attendance (two populations that are rising exponentially in numbers of attendance at college and require engagement specific to their needs in order to better succeed.) The three Professors who wrote this article work at a University in Hawaii where the student population is and has been very diverse and so they have employed these strategies already. This was an article that explained the standards and then displayed real life examples, and highlighted which instructors method was the best practice for each standard, so a multitude of ideas where shared.

In this article, academic engagement is first described as “multidimensional” and “consists of behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social investment” which “also includes student’s involvement in extra curricular activities.”

The CREDE standards were developed to promote engagement. CREDE is the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence. The five main standards are:

Joint Productive Activity, where students and teachers work together to develop shared understanding and create tangible results. Language and Literacy Development promotes certain language goals and skill throughout the lessons, such as vocabulary. Contextualization is when students are able to connect their own previous experiences from home, community, and culture to the new information. In Complex Thinking, students are able to develop problem-solving skills using a higher level of thinking. Instructional Conversation consists of developing conceptual understandings in small group discussions.

Engagement is then given a refined definition, keeping in mind the culturally diverse classroom, it is a “students sustained attention to tasks requiring mental effort; students enthusiasm, interest and enjoyment; and their emotional connections to teachers and peers.

The article outlines examples of the ways in which these professors applied each standard in their respective discipline and classroom. Each of the standards provided a very important piece for learning the information, however contextualization engaged the students the most, connecting their prior experiences to the material did “increase cognitive engagement” and everyone’s individual experiences are important to use as students learn new concepts. The small group activities were important for promoting social engagement with peers and with teacher as they traveled from station to station, or the students traveled to them when it was a fixed station in the classroom. Lecture was important for imparting information, and for giving information that the students could them decide how they could relate to. Some students from cultural backgrounds only having ever experienced lecture really needed the lecture portion of the classroom and a lot of assistance and encouragement for other forms of engagement. The students were happy with the results when they felt more in control of their learning environment, what they had learned, and they appreciated how they felt learning.  Research shows that the grades were much higher as well.  Substantial research also shows that fostering relationships for undergraduate students is important to their over all development and success, and rate of graduation completion, it also leads to better learning outcomes of the material that then take with them out into the field.

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