The benefits of diversity in the classroom have been most noticeable for me during my time teaching plant material classes. Any teacher would probably agree that utilizing students’ past experiences as examples is, arguably, one of the most effective teaching tools out there. Doing so encourages active, student-engaged learning while also demonstrating the wide array of applicability of the subject matter. In my plant identification lab, this could come in the form of exploiting one student’s familiarity with a plant indigenous to his/her state or country by allowing that student to familiarize another student with the plant based on, for example, a childhood memory associated with that plant (this actually happens in some classes). Allowing one student to “teach” another student in such a way enables a classroom to embrace diversity and use it to its fullest potential.
Such diversity can also allow me, as an instructor, to learn from my students. Similar to the aforementioned situations, there may be a time in which a student can offer me new insight into a plant based on of their personal experiences. Additionally, this may give me an opportunity to utilize the various cultures represented in my classroom as a way to add value to the material being taught. For example, a certain species of a plant may seem less applicable or useful to a student until they realize the plant originated in his/her home country. Moments like this creates a connection between the student and the material that may not happen otherwise, and it provides a richer, more personal learning experience.
Therefore, even though diversity and inclusion can, at times, be challenging, they are both incredibly important in the classroom, no matter the field. Without diversity in the classroom, students lose the opportunity learn from each other in a way that instructors alone may not be able to provide. Additionally, we, as instructors, could miss out on lessons we may never otherwise learn.
When has diversity within the classroom lead to unique learning experiences in your field?