REVIEW: Diversity & Motivation: Culturally
Raymond J. Wlodkowski and Margery B. Ginsberg. San Francisco:
Reviewed by Bill Murad, TRC Teaching + Technology Support Partner, Department
diversity in student populations has undoubtedly enriched the modern American
university experience. Wlodkowski and Ginsberg find it altogether more
disturbing, therefore, that traditional teaching methods persist even
though they fail to resonate in today's diverse classrooms. To rectify
the situation, they aim to provide teachers at US post-secondary institutions
with a motivational framework for "culturally responsive teaching."
The authors establish a methodology based on criteria rather than rules
and on intrinsic motivation to learn rather than extrinsic rewards or
punishment. They therefore promote a flexible and accepting teaching method
in keeping with the needs of today's diverse student body.
The heart of
the book consists of four chapters that highlight the guiding principles
of culturally responsive pedagogy: "Establishing Inclusion,"
"Developing Attitude," "Enhancing Meaning," and "Engendering
Competence." The authors expect that teachers will have to rework
many of their basic attitudes and concepts in order to incorporate the
norms, procedures, and structures associated with these principles. The
good news, however, is that most of the techniques suggested for accommodating
classroom diversity follow principles that are now widely advocated for
effective teaching. The guidelines include, for example,
- course contracts
and group dynamics to establish inclusion
and cooperative learning techniques to help develop tolerance of alternative
maps and critical thinking exercises to enhance meaning for diverse
and focused feedback to engender competence.
generally recognized as successful in a traditional classroom setting
can also be adapted to diverse classroom compositions, and this book clearly
The most original
contributions of the book, though, lie in its detailed prescriptions for
multiple approaches to course topics and in its treatment of potential
resistance both from traditional teachers and traditional learners. All
of the advice given by the authors requires learners to accept more responsibility
and teachers to share their authority in all classroom areas, including
course construction, assignments, and grading (a system they propose to
revamp thoroughly). The book offers a plethora of concrete classroom examples,
sample syllabi, sample learning contracts, and advice for difficult situations.
Wlodkowski and Ginsberg address issues such as how a teacher can quell
a racially-based class outburst, or how teachers with serious demands
on their time can accommodate a student's desire for individual attention.
The book also includes four appendices, called "resources,"
that contain sample narrative grading forms, a cooperative lesson worksheet,
and advice for including non-native speakers of English into lectures
and discussions. A vast majority of these examples and resources, however,
are drawn from the social sciences; teachers in other areas might find
it difficult to apply them to their disciplines. Also, more work might
have been done in analyzing how the recommended methods might interact
with cultural assumptions and prejudices of different regions and states
within the US. Instead, the "dominant" American culture is treated
as uniform and "European-American." These issues do not detract,
however, from the overall value of the book: Wlodkowski and Ginsberg successfully
establish a workable system for managing and getting the most out of diversity
in the classroom; and while reading I frequently jotted down ideas for
my own teaching.