- Are the classroom norms clearly stated, so that students accustomed to different norms in their homes or communities are able to understand and negotiate them? (You can model these and give examples.)
- What implicit values of your discipline might disturb or bewilder some students? (You can encourage students to present alternative perspectives, to debate ideas, or to create panels representing different viewpoints.)
- Do your examples or illustrations acknowledge the experiences of people from different backgrounds in non-stereotypical ways?
- Are the students welcome to share from their own lives and interests? Are they treated as individuals?
- Have you examined your own conscious or unconscious biases about people of other cultures? That is, how would you answer the following questions: Am I comfortable around students from a culture or background different than my own? Do I have different expectations of students of color than I do of white students? Of male or female students? (For a longer list of related questions, see the online article Tips for Teachers: Encouraging Students in a Racially Diverse Classroom)
According to research, traditional teaching methods are often ineffective for learners outside of the majority culture (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 147). For example, studies have shown that many students, including women and students of color, may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative and “connected” modes of learning- ones that acknowledge personal experience, examine the relationships between persons and ideas, and encourage students to work together to produce knowledge (Belenky et al). Wlodkowski and Ginsberg point out, for that matter, that “[m]ost human beings-European Americans, people of color, women, international students-favor learning experiences that are collaborative and participatory” (69). Establishing a classroom tone that is friendly, caring and supportive, and that lets students explore the relationship between course material and personal and social experiences enhances, rather than undermines, students’ learning. Analyzing the type of learning environment you are creating for your students is one way to begin. As you prepare for class, consider the following questions (adapted from Wladkowski & Ginsberg 16-17):