LE ARNI NG OUTCOMES
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:
Define cultural diversity;
Describe the role of culture in shaping similarities and differences among individuals;
Recognise race and ethnicity as an element of micro cultural diversity;
Explain the educational implications of differences in students’ learning style;
Distinguish types of cognitive style;
Relate gender differences and socio-economic status to individual differences issues; and
Describe teacher’s strategies in embracing diversity.
As teachers, we must be aware of about students’ individual differences such as differences in culture, ethnicity, intelligent, languages, learning styles, etc. It is because it may enhance students’ understanding or limit their opportunity to learn from the school environment. These factors should be taken into consideration when we plan teaching and learning process in the classroom.
We begin by discussing the definition of cultural diversity and other factors that contribute to students’ diversity. Next, we examine the differences of learning styles and cognitive styles among students. This is followed by the explanation of gender differences that influence the students’ performance. In the final section of this chapter, we will discuss how teachers can cope with the individual differences effectively in the teaching and learning process.
Definition of Cultural Diversity
According to Garcia, Culture refers to:
“…Characteristics of an individual’s society, or of some subgroups within this society. It includes values, beliefs, notions about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and other socially constructed ideas that members of the culture are taught are “true”.”
(1994 in Tan 3003)
Henson & Eller (1999, p121) posit that the term diversity mean:
“…Those human characteristics that have both the potential to either enrich or limit a student’s capacity to learn from the school environment.” Henson & Eller (1999, p121)
Whereas Borich & Tombari (1997.p29) posit that:
“ Individual differences are the variations we observe among members of any group in a particular characteristic, such as temperament, energy level, friendship patterns and parent-child attachment.”
Borich & Tombari (1997, p29)
In Malaysia we have different races such as the
Malays, Chinese, Indians and others as illustrated in
Figure 7.1. Each of the races has their own culture.
Culture is a broad and encopassing concept. Even though
we equate culture with race or ethnic identity, the
truth is that within racial or ethnic groups there can
be cultural variations.
Figure 7.1: Various races in Malaysia.
“Group membership can include racial identification, but regardless of race, it can vary further in term of assumptions, values, language, religion, behaviour, and symbols.”
(O’conor, 1988 in Tan 2003).
In short, culture governs how we think and feel, how we behave and how we live, and it is born largely of socialization. We often recognize national culture such as Malays, Chinese, Indians and others. We share Malaysian citizenship. So, differences in culture pertaining to Malaysia also mean differences in ethnicity and race.
The Role of Culture in Shaping Similarities and Differences
Culture has impact on our student’s socialization. Some
elements of culture including religion, foods, holidays
and celebrations, dress, history and traditions, and art and music. Cultural diversity also can manifest in our views
of the life cycle, decorum and discipline, health and
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