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Negotiating Learner Differences

Towards Productive Diversity in Learning

Learning Module

Abstract

Including the voices of leading researchers on learner diversity from the University of Illinois, this learning module explores the ways in which education and educators negotiate differences among learners. Our main practical question is, how do we create learning environments in which learning experiences can be customized and calibrated to meet the precise needs of particular learners? To support this line of investigation, the learning module examines socio-cultural theories of difference, and considers alternative responses to these differences in educational settings-ranging from broad social, policy and institutional responses to specific pedagogical responses within classes of students. Mary Kalantzis begins the module with a discussion of the notions of learner diversity and transformation. Bill Cope follows an exploration of key concepts for the identification of patterns of learner diversity. James Anderson provides an overview of race and cultural diversity in US education. Bill Trent discusses complex and vexing questions of segregation, desegregation, integration and resegregation in US Education. This is followed by an historical analysis of education in colonial America by Chris Span, then by Yoon Pak on Asian Americans. Taking an international perspective, Cameron McCarthy discusses post-colonialism. Finally, Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope explore the notion of productive diversity in learning.

Keywords

Learner Differences, Educational Responses to Diversity

1. Human Diversity and Learner Transformation - Mary Kalantzis

For the Participant

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Comment: Connect an issue raised on one of these videos with a contemporary issue in society or education. Describe an experience of diversity in your personal life or your work as an educator, and analyze the dynamics. You can also respond to other people's comments by starting comment, @Name.

Make an Update: Offer an example an exlusionary, or inclusive practice in education. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses exclusionary or inclusive educational practice, and discuss.

For the Instructor

2. Learner Differences in Theory and Practice - Bill Cope

For the Participant

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Here is the range of differences teachers may encounter in schools, and learners may encounter in each other:

  • material conditions (social class, locale and family);
  • corporeal attributes (age, race, sex and sexuality, and physical and mental abilities);
  • symbolic differences (language, ethnos, communities of commitment and gendre).

We elaborate on these in the following places:

Comment: How are human differences important to your work as a teacher, or your life as a learner?

Make an Update: Take one of these differences, define, describe the implications for learning, and give an example of how a pedagoical environment (a traditional institution, a learning technology, a new media resource) succeeds or fails to address this difference. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses a dimension of difference, and discuss.

For the Instructor

3A. Race and Cultural Diversity in US Education - James D. Anderson

For the Participant

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Comment: From your perspective as a resident of the United States, or as a resident of a different country, what are your impressions of the current state of play of race and ethnic relations in the United States? If you are not a resident in the United States, you may wish to mention the ways in which the situation is similar or different in your country.

Make an Update: How are demographics changing in your country or school? What are the consequences? For society and education? Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses changing demographics, and discuss.

For the Instructor

3B. Segregation, Integration, Desegregation and Resegregation - William T. Trent

For the Participant

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Comment: Why are concepts of "segregation," "desegregation," "integration," and "resegregation" so challenging?

Make an Update: What concepts are used in your country or educational context to describe and analyze the dynamics of educational and social inequality? What evidence emerges, through the lens of the concepts that you use? Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses segregation, and discuss.

For the Instructor

4. Should Education be a Right? Historical Perspectives - Christopher M. Span

For the Participant

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Comment: Discuss a "stand-out idea" in Dr Span's historical introduction.

Make an Update: Write your own educational rights statement, designed for an ideal world, or to address deficiencies in our present day, less-than-ideal world. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses the right to or necessity for education, and discuss.

For the Instructor

5. Diversity in American Public Education - Yoon Pak

For the Participant

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Comment: Discuss one striking idea in the fraught history of Asian Americans in US education.

Make an Update: Explore the complexities and contradictions in the experience of one demographic grouping in education in your social and historical context. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses the experience of a demographically-defined group, and discuss.

For the Instructor

6. Postcolonial Theory and Education - Cameron McCarthy

For the Participant

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Comment: What have been the global dynamics of diversity? How has this impacted learners and their learning?

Make an Update: Describe one instance of learning in a global context, illustrating the dynamics of diversity. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses globalism or colonialism in educatiob, and discuss.

For the Instructor

7. The Inclusive School - Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope

For the Participant

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Differentiated learning occurs where individuals and groups of students can work at a pace that suits their needs. This ensures that all learners are able to make progress measured against common goals. See these videos on differentiated instruction.

Instead of one-size fits all approaches to education, learner differences can be used as a productive resource. See:

  • Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope. 2016. "New Media and Productive Diversity in Learning." in Blickwechsel/Diversity: International Perspectives on Teacher Education, edited by S. Barsch. Münster, Germany: Waxmann.

 

KalantzisCopeProductiveDiversityinLearning.pdf

Comment: What does "productive diversity" mean? How can we create inclusive education?

Make an Update: Describe and analyze an inclusive education strategy. Or find and analyze a scholarly book or peer reviewed article or articles that addresses inclusive education strategies, and discuss.

For the Instructor