Racial Equality Strategies in Learning and Teaching
Sometimes there are individuals who may need a different way of being taught … maybe more informal … some people may need more of an introduction. Sometimes they are just, like, “do this”, but this is a big university and they do have quite a lot of minority and international students and the teachers need to vary their teaching … even for Scottish students here. Sometimes the teacher might be focusing on one type of strategy but all the other students are left in the dark and that would be very unfair.
Not all students will be responsive to any particular style of learning. For some students, cultural backgrounds play a role in learning. Students may struggle if they are not used to a particular learning style as it will take more time for them to adjust. Care needs to be taken not to needlessly reward or value particular learning styles.
3.1What steps are being taken to ensure that the value of different learning styles is reflected in course design and delivery to enable maximum participation and academic achievement for all students?
- Utilise different learning formats: some students may prefer to work in groups, rather than as individuals, as this is the cultural norm they are used to.
- Remind students that though they are welcome to take notes, they should also use the learning time to contribute as appropriate. Students who are used to a didactic style of teaching may need encouragement to participate in class, irrespective of their cultural/national background.
- When offering academic texts for critique, remind students that in writing up the critique, there is a need to demonstrate critical interrogation, which can mean disagreeing with the author.
- Lecturers may consider using different types of sources for learning e.g. books/journals, videos, practical activities and e-learning.
- Lecturers can consult students and find out their preferences. It should be made clear to students that different learning styles are acknowledged.
- In new groups, to assist students to settle in, it might be better to move gradually into interactive pedagogical practice rather than to begin with such a model. Moving straight into an interactive model is likely to disadvantage students who are more reticent such as those whose first language is not English.
|Tutor-led exercises||Group work||individual work|
|Lectures||Group discussions||Open-ended questions to investigate|
|Discussions with lecturer||Group projects||Student presentations|
|Tasks giving clear instructions||Field trips||Design projects|
|Demonstration||Problem-based learning (group enquiry, group design, problem-based tutorials, using critical incidence case studies)||Examinations|
For further information, see “Why Use Groups in College Classes?”
For further information on the benefits or otherwise of multicultural small group work, read Kelly, P. (2008) “Multicultural group-work: the group allocation process”, paper presented to Higher Education Academy Annual Conference, York 2008.
3.2If an aspect of coursework requires students to work in groups, is care taken in assigning or organising groups?
Sometimes they set up groups in tutorial groups and if they made a conscious effort to try to mix people … that’s the way I ended up speaking to you guys … when you work with international students in group work you find out so much more about them … it’s great … it’s just breaking the ice … if you’re in a group you speak to each other.
Group composition can have a significant impact on group functioning. A variety of methods can be employed, for example, deliberately assigning students to groups, randomly assigning students or allowing students to form their own groups.
- Allowing students to form their own groups should be avoided unless the class group is a well-knit and inclusive group. Allowing groups to form by choice can give rise to discrimination based on colour, faith, culture or geography (home/international) and result in some individuals being left out or needing to find a group to join. This impacts on feelings of inclusion and esteem.
- Avoid clustering of ethnic minority students into one group. A mixture of ethnic minority and majority students in a group is preferable (where numbers permit).
- Rotate group roles e.g. within projects and labs.
- Encourage collaboration — e.g. formation of peer study groups — rather than competition among students.
The lecturer asks the class to group themselves for project work. When groups were being picked, a student of black minority ethnic background origin was left standing because no one had selected them. The student felt very uncomfortable in this situation.
- The lecturer should take time to inform students that every individual brings strengths and weaknesses to a group in order to reduce and eliminate prejudicial assumptions some students may hold.
- Be sensitive to the possibilities that a student from a visible minority may feel isolated in a predominately white class.
For example, in one Clinical Medicine course which employs a problem-based instructional approach, students work co-operatively in groups of eight, and are challenged to seek solutions to real issues. Tutors try to ensure that each group is diverse in terms of gender, age and ethnicity and also in terms of home and international students. There are many moral and ethical dilemmas in medical genetics. By discussing these from different cultural perspectives, the students learn to understand each other’s culture and views and consider these for future practice.
Tutors should also take steps to ensure that if group work is to take place outside class sessions, the groups should meet in neutral places (not, for example, in pubs) and be accessible to all within the group. Some guidance could be provided to students engaged in group work to take on board accessibility issues.
3.3Are lectures/presentations delivered in appropriately clear and simple English?
We had that experience because different cultures can cause a different understanding … when the lecturer said about British history — a joke — we couldn’t understand the meaning so naturally we couldn’t laugh. The British laughed, the international students didn’t laugh.
- The use of local colloquialisms, jargon and unnecessary Western and/or Christian-centric terminologies should be minimised. Students who are from different cultural backgrounds, and who are not familiar with the cultural context in which references are being made, are likely to feel isolated and alienated from the rest of the class, as well as from the lecturer.
- Strong accents can often be a cause for students missing elements of a lecture. Care should be taken over pace of speech and clarity when speaking.
- Using handouts that are not clearly presented can be problematic for all students, and particularly for those students whose first language is not English.
- Questions asked of students or by other students should be repeated to ensure that all students have clearly heard the question.