Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

Racial Equality Strategies in Learning and Teaching

#3Learning styles

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.

student comment

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?

some examples:

Tutor-led exercises Group workindividual work
LecturesGroup discussionsOpen-ended questions to investigate
Discussions with lecturerGroup projectsStudent presentations
Tasks giving clear instructionsField tripsDesign projects
DemonstrationProblem-based learning (group enquiry, group design, problem-based tutorials, using critical incidence case studies)Examinations
Motivational storiesRole-play/simulationE-learning
Computer simulations
Individual reports
Textbook readings
Independent research

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.

student comment

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.

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.

student comment

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.

student comment