Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Diversity personified

Student Diversity by Leyton
In the last class, we talked about the characteristics of four different students. Click to enlarge the image. Our context was that they were studying in a personal training and fitness programme and had to attend classes everyday Monday to Thursday - 08:30 to 15:30. They needed to learn about anatomy and physiology, access online resources and attend the gym for a full day on a Friday. At first glance, it looked like only one of them would be able to attend on-campus classes regularly. Can you spot which one?

We discussed the problems that these four students might have accessing the learning environment. These problems related to a number of factors in addition to socio-economic and ethnicity factors. For example:
  • learning ability - study skills, literacy and numeracy, digital information literacy;
  • motivation and attitude;
  • pre-requisite learning - qualifications, life experience;
  • whether they could be self-directed - take responsibility and be self-regulated (set goals, monitor progress and evaluate understanding).
Such factors contribute to diversity. Consider each student in turn, and think about the diversity in each of these areas. For example, Student D is not an English speaker and is a single mother. We decided that she currently lived with her parents. Student C had little motivation for his study because he really wanted to be a nurse. Use your imagination to conjure up a story for each student to describe their diversity - you may even wish to think up a case of your own.

Can you think of any other factors that might pose barriers to learning?

As well as posing problems, we also discussed solutions so that the students' diversity could be accommodated. Some of our solutions are shown on the image in red writing.  For example, Student B was able to get her practical training at a local gym, and access online resources on her smartphone. You may also think of some others. Our conclusion was that all four students could study this programme even if living far away without a computer or broadband, and if working in more than one job. Can you see why? With a bit of imagination it is possible to be flexible because there is always a solution if think creatively and are willing to offer alternatives.

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