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Resource: Involving socially and culturally diverse students*

Findings from research

Implications and questions

In discussions, teachers encounter difficulty engaging students who are socially or culturally different from themselves. When discussion is not working, it may be because of subtle cultural differences in people’s ways of interacting.

To achieve their academic objectives, teachers need to be willing to adapt their classroom organization and management to make a better fit with students' home communities.

For finding ways to engage minority students in successful classroom discussions, wondering what's wrong with the students is less useful than wondering how they normally interact in their home communities.

The first thing and perhaps main thing is to judge less. Get curious, and start watching and listening.

Teachers can modify their classroom participation structures to create “hybrids” that embrace students’ home discourses.

Teachers can make changes in classroom organization, instructional practices and classroom management strategies to provide culturally compatible instruction (e.g., teachers can use the features of students' home discourses to create a different form of turn-taking such as choral response, co-narration and overlapping speech).

Teachers can help students learn the differences between their home ways of speaking and dominant ways of speaking, and to switch between them as needed. Teachers can help students by "freezing" events and cooperatively discussing, contrasting and analyzing what types of talk are used for what purposes in home and school situations. Teachers can make the translation
from what and how students know to the types of knowledge that are most
highly valued in school.

*Drawn from White, J. J. (1990).  Involving different social and cultural groups in discussion.  In Wilen, W. W.  (Ed.).  Teaching and learning through discussion. (pp. 147-174). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas..