Society, by common definition, is the aggregate of people living together for a particular purpose. A society also follows customs and rules in order to thrive towards a common goal. As “society” is defined in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries in American English:
Society (noun): a particular community of people who share the same customs, laws, etc.
However, society comprises of different types of people varying in race, culture, religion, financial state, etc. No two individuals are completely alike in all the attributes. They can certainly adhere to a common goal. But to assume everyone holds the same attributes is like assuming all the people in a society are identical and same. This cannot be any farther from the truth. The needs of the majority of a society do not reflect the needs of the minority. Focusing only on the majority is like not acknowledging the existence of the minority. This is even more important in education, where the goal is to provide every student the opportunity to learn.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference:
There are several small things that need to be considered for inclusion and diversity. Let me share some of my personal experiences. I come from Bangladesh, a country in Asia. Unlike the culture in the USA, I grew up not knowing the idea of the “office hours”. After starting my education in the USA, I quickly realized the effectiveness and the importance of office hours. Students could reach out to the instructors and the teaching assistants (TAs) and seek academic help outside of the classroom. In my experience of being a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), I met some students from the minority group who found it difficult to show up during my office hours. From their perspective, it was intimidating and/or demeaning to reach out for help. This is a very troubling situation. Because office hours are held with the primary notion of helping students; not to scare them away. Last summer, I took the opportunity of becoming a graduate instructor. I replaced the formal term “office hours” with a more friendly term “meet and greet hours“. Viola! I found a higher number of students were approaching me outside of the classroom. Many of the times they just showed up for a friendly chat with me. In some other cases, they were there to voice their concerns; concerns which only applied to a small group of students in the class. As Anthony Abraham Jack, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, mentioned in his TEDx Talk that some students misunderstood the term “office hours”. These students thought that office hours were the instructors’ personal time to work on their own projects, uninterrupted and undisturbed by any students. This is not always due to the language barrier; this is rather due to understanding the purpose of a particular term that expresses the activity or resource ambiguously.
New Challenges in Virtual Teaching:
Due to the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of the educational institutions are moving towards emergency remote education. This means the educational system is heavily relying on technology such as Zoom for virtual classrooms. This creates a whole new challenge in diversity and inclusion. It is important to realize that diversity is not only about race, it is also about students with different abilities, disabilities, different financial condition, etc. Due to this sudden shift in the educational format, a lot of the underprivileged students find themselves in a dire situation. For example, underprivileged students have a hard time managing access to a digital device with camera and microphone, uninterrupted internet, electricity, etc. Some students might find it difficult to use the camera in virtual classrooms in the fear of exposing the financial condition of their household.
Education is an ever-changing process. Therefore, the method of teaching and learning needs to be updated to address the new challenges of its time. For inclusive pedagogy, it is imperative to be mindful of all the diverse groups of students in a class; not only the majority. The instructors need to make sure that students of all the attributes feel welcome and inspired to learn. As the great theoretical physicist and a great teacher of his time, Albert Einstein said:
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
A truly effective teaching is, thus, where every student is inspired by the creative joy of learning.
Thank you for reading!
Have a wonderful day!
~ Ri. 🙂
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries | Definition of “Society” | Link: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/society
- On Diversity: Access Ain’t Inclusion | Anthony Jack | TEDxCambridge | Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7w2Gv7ueOc
- Albert Einstein’s Quote | Link: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_122147