One of the reasons for introducing more flexibility into teaching and learning is so that all students, regardless of their diversity, have an equal chance to learn. Consider how to provide inclusive access to course materials, learning activities, class interactions, and assessments. Learning styles and preferences are just one aspect to consider. Cultural sensitivity is an understanding of the way in which cultural factors and practices shape and influence the way people behave and learn. There are several factors at play: ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, location, professional role, belief systems and gender. People develop particular perspectives and values depending on the group or community in which they reside.
In some situations diversity also relates to disability - physical, psychological, and learning. All these factors can impact on access and equity when it comes to learning. Remember the strategies you introduce can become inflexible if issues of access and equity are not addressed. For example, using a lot of online resources when learners do not have ready access to computers and the Internet. Very importantly this topic requires an awareness of Universal Design and inclusive learning and teaching as well as cultural diversity.
Use this list as a guide to set your learning goals for this topic.
- Understand the learning needs of your students and how they are linked to diversity.
- Explore the concept of universal design and how it can be used to ensure inclusiveness in learning environments.
- Discuss the meaning of cultural diversity in your teaching context, and how this influences access to learning.
- Reflect on how you can provide equitable access for your students to the learning environment.
A design approach called Universal design is where "environments, objects, and systems that can be used by as many people as possible" (NC State University, 1997). This means that flexible choices must be provided with multiple alternatives for access and use. This is to ensure that people of any age, ability, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity or culture etc. can be accommodated. To do this, spaces, products, and information systems etc. that humans use, manage or create must be designed appropriately.
For this topic it is useful to have an understanding of how the culture of learners influences how they approach their study and respond to the learning environment. Guiding students to understand their learning styles and how they prefer to learn (learner preferences) can assist them to engage more effectively in the learning environment you create. However, to design a learning environment that is optimal for all your students, it is essential that you have an understanding of the factors associated with diversity. How can you design a learning environment that is inclusive, fair and equitable for all concerned? To do this any barriers to learning need to be recognised so that equitable access to the learning environment is more likely.
In most vocational disciplines, the cultural identity of the teachers can have a strong influence on what is conveyed to students about the industry, and it also impacts on how the subjects are taught. For example, trades teachers have a very different culture to nursing educators. Articles about these two areas are available in the Resources section for this page.
Cultural diversity is a vast area, so you may need to focus your explorations, basing them on factors specific to your teaching context.
Select the resources that are applicable to your explorations, and teaching context.
Learning styles inventories
- Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles and printable questionnaire.
- The Index of Learning Styles. A 44-item questionnaire developed for engineering students (by Richard M. Felder and Barbara A. Soloman of North Carolina State University).
- This is an on-line instrument used to assess preferences on four dimensions: active/reflective, 2. sensing/intuitive, 3. visual/verbal, and 4. sequential/global) - formulated by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman.
- Vark A guide to learning styles.
- Kaminski, J. (2005). Editorial: Nursing Informatics and Nursing Culture. Is there a fit? Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 9, (3) [Online].
- Maurice-Takerei, L. & Jesson, J. (2010). Nailing Down an Identity - The Voices of Six Carpentry Educators. New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work,7(2), 156 - 170.
- A report of a research study where six polytechnic carpentry tutors were interviewed about their identity and perceptions of their work as trades educators. The findings "challenge assumptions about what constitutes ‘good teaching’ in a trade related environment" (p. 156).
- Rhode, J.(2009). Interaction Equivalency in Self-Paced Online Learning Environments: An Exploration of Learner Preferences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(1).Print and audio versions.
- Zondiros, Dimitris (2008). Online, distance education and globalisation: Its impact on educational access, inequality and exclusion. The European Journal of Open and Distance Learning (EURODL).