This week on the blog, we offer you a book review and recommendation for answering the difficult question of how to approach student diversity in the classroom, in particular how to motivate traditionally underserved and marginalized students. (The book is available at the library. Find the book on amazon here). Join us tomorrow, Friday October, the 2nd at 3:30PM for our First Friday Roundtables on Teaching! Find more information here. Please, register

 

Ginsberg, Margey B. and Raymond J. Wlodkowski (2009) Diversity & Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 446 p.

 

Ginsberg and Wlodkowski in Diversity & Motivation, address ways to foster interest among students of diverse backgrounds. The first chapter is focused on analyzing the intersections and gaps among culturally mediated values and biases, teaching, and student learning and the role that culturally responsive teaching can play in mending the gaps. They explain, “teaching that is inclusive, relevant, challenging, and perhaps even transformative for a range of students has intrinsic motivation as an essential feature” (p.24) because culturally responsive teachers seek to help students make meaning from experience; i.e. learn. All remaining chapters present clear guidelines and strategies that can be adopted by faculty to improve motivation of all students. The authors focus on the idea of norms as motivators for behavior and their variability across different social and ethnic groups. Ginsberg and Wlodkowski establish a framework with four components:

 

  “Establish inclusion: Norms and practices that are woven together to create a learning environment in which learners and teacher feel respected and connected to one another

  Develop attitude: Norms and practices that create a favorable disposition toward the learning experience through personal relevance and volition

  Enhance meaning: Norms and practices that create challenging and engaging learning experiences that include learners’ perspectives and values

  Engender competence: Norms and practices that help learners understand how they are effectively learning something they value and is of authentic value to their community”

 

One of the issues of teaching a diverse group of student resides in the fact that not all students will have a similar understanding of their identities, in particular their racial identities. This changes the dynamics in classrooms, among various students and must be taken into consideration when attempting to foster interest. There are, however, no easy ways out of learning about racial inequalities. Hence, changes applied to teaching techniques may be challenging to both the instructor and students.

 

In the last chapter, the authors go through a syllabus for a research course analyzing how the activities and evaluations involved in the completion of this model course fit or do not fit the criteria presented in the book. Most of the techniques acknowledge diversity in the classroom by involving students in varying degrees in the process of teaching: how to discuss in class respectfully and what evaluations are suitable. There is more of a focus on “doing” than a “testing” going on in a diverse classroom.


On a final note, Diversity and Motivation shows clearly that there is more to be done to equitably involve all students in a college classroom. Initiatives to help prepare minority and low-income students to college life are good but insufficient by themselves (p. 373). Students are expected to adapt to a mostly white, middle-upper class, second-generation college experience but college should adapt to diverse student experiences just as much.