a Diverse Student Body
body is comprised of a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students
from a wide variety of ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. Significant
numbers of African American, Asian and Asian American, Hispanic, international,
and gay/ lesbian/bisexual students diversify our student community. Although
students within a particular minority group may have a common racial,
ethnic, or cultural identity, their experiences and backgrounds differ.
Thus these individuals exhibit a diversity of attitudes, perceptions,
and opinions about themselves and the world. There is, of course, no monolithic
perspective for any group of people.
part of a minority group may have a strong impact on students' classroom
interaction and performance. Thus, although race is not normally a consideration
with respect to imparting knowledge about specific disciplines, awareness
of race can affect students' comfort level in class, their active participation,
and their perception of their status within the class. Minority students
frequently speak of feeling isolated or spotlighted on the basis of their
race. When they feel this way in a class in which they are underrepresented,
their perceptions may affect their performance. The TRC's handbook, Teaching
a Diverse Student Body, offers many practical ideas about how you can
work toward creating a classroom climate conducive to learning. Here are
a few brief tips:
- Treat all
students as individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, or sexual
orientation. Despite good intentions motivated by awareness of a minority
perspective, making assumptions or generalizations about an individual's
experience or perspective can create problems and should be avoided.
- Make efforts
to ensure that your treatment of students in and out of class (including
body language and interactions) are perceived as equitable and fair.
For example, if you chat informally with students after class, provide
the same opportunity for informal contact with all your students. In
addition, encourage students to visit you during office hours to foster
good student/ teacher relationships.
- Create a
climate that encourages dialogue by allowing a wide range of opinions
to emerge in a nonintimidating environment. Encourage students to express
- Vary the
races and genders you use in examples, whether anecdotal or visual.
- During discussions,
do not spotlight individual students by expecting them to articulate
the "minority perspective" or by calling on them particularly
when topics involve issues of race or an ethnic, cultural point of view.
Establish a fair way to involve all students in discussions.
- In large
lecture classes, notice where minority students sit, establishing eye
contact with them and asking them to participate equally.
- Assign class
projects and design study groups to involve students equally in groups
without feeling that they are imposing. Minority students sometimes
find it difficult to be invited into groups and may be overlooked by
other students when working on class projects.
- If you are
a member of a minority group, be aware that students' perceptions or
expectations of you may be stereotyped or unreasonable. Model the behavior
that you wish them to emulate: expect them to respect your right to
be yourself, as you in turn respect their rights of individuality.
of Errors in Problem Solving
reading. The student:
without concentrating on meaning.
some facts or ideas.
reread a difficult section.
to work the problem before reading all the
thinking. The student:
value accuracy above speed or ease of
completing the work.
take enough care in performing some
words or performs operations inconsistently.
check or review unfamiliar or unclear
conclusions without sufficient thought.
problems poorly. The student:
divide a complex problem into parts;
use the simpler parts to understand the
use prior knowledge and experience to
make sense of unclear ideas.
use the dictionary when necessary.
construct a useful representation of ideas
on paper when necessary.
perseverance. The student:
confidence and gives up easily.
an answer after only superficially
considering the problem.
the problem mechanically, without much
through part of the problem and jumps to
a conclusion about the rest.
one way to solve the problem and gives up if
that one doesn't work.
from Whimbey and Lochhead, 1980)
Students to Solve Problems
can help by training the student to solve
problems more effectively. Orient your help session
around how the student thinks about the problem
rather than how you would go about solving it. You
must elicit the students thinking so that you can teach
better problem-solving procedures. To encourage
students to reflect about the process and let you in on
it, try the following techniques:
students read the problem aloud and
tell you how it can be solved before working on it.
students to think aloud while solving the problem,
constantly talking about what they are doing and why. Doing
so slows down their thinking and makes the process more apparent
to you. You can help them analyze their reasoning and find their
mistakes by asking specific questions about their approach to
or understanding of the problem. Use some of these questions
to help students clarify their thinking:
me what you know about the problem.
How could you break the problem into small
are some ways you could solve this
tell me how you got from step one to
dont understand your reasoning behind
that step; will you please explain?
are you thinking right now?
students are very confused, you may
need to model good problem-solving techniques,
showing how you read and understand a question
before working the problem. If necessary, show the
student your process for solving the problem: working
step-by-step, backing up when necessary, breaking a
complex problem into parts, trying a new method
when one doesnt work, etc. After modeling the
process, have the student work a similar problem to
demonstrate understanding of the process.
with permission from the University of Michigan TA
Guidebook, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, Ann
good student responses, teaching has no chance. With good student response,
its possibilities for satisfaction and accomplishment are almost