AIR UNIVERSITY AND THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE – DIVERSITY
Chapter 3 of the paper deals with the effect of Diversity in education.
Diversity and teaching to diverse populations has become increasingly important with the precipitous increase of widely arrayed social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds within higher learning today. As difference increase, so education must change and adjust in order to met the learning demands and needs of a spectrally gifted community. Following on the discussion concerning community, diversity within the educational realm must be scrutinized and understood to some degree in order to build and grow the community and culture of AU and the Air Force as a whole. The following research looks at student-centered education for diverse populations as well as how educators at AU can more effectively affect the learning environment for better communication and community among students of varied backgrounds.
As the population of the United States has become increasingly diverse, so too has the classroom. This has precipitated the need for more focus on the student in order to understand the needs of a quickly changing culture and society. “Education that keeps the student at the center is the expectation of students and their families” (Sandoval-Lucero, 2014, p. 22). This expectation has led to a mandate by many institutions of higher learning to provide more breadth and depth in the areas of personalized attention, diversity experiences that build cultural competence, contextualized learning that increases relevance, and internship and immersive learning experiences that allow students to develop both skills and knowledge and support to transition to their next phase. As these needs continue to grow, it is incumbent upon post-secondary and graduate-level schools to provide more opportunities for growth, understanding, communication, and community in order for diverse populations to integrate fully into that particular learning village. “Diverse college students, while newer to the college student population, are still individuals. Each one comes to college with a unique set of experiences, expectations and needs. In order to become more student-centered and asset-minded, diverse college students need to be viewed as individuals with unique qualities that can enhance the college environment, as well as their own college experience” (Sandoval-Lucero, 2014, p. 22). Diversity, then, appears to be not only about the individual student, but the community as a whole. Through the enriching influence of diverse character and backgrounds, the entire educational community can grow and benefit. At AU, diversity is definitely a part of the richness of the educational experience. Besides the international students who call AU home for months at a time, there are many other ethnic, cultural, and religious groups who bring with them an understanding of the world that would not be present at AU otherwise. As a result, AU has an opportunity to leverage this diversity and use it to benefit the whole AU community as well as those of diverse backgrounds.
While understanding students of diverse backgrounds is necessary to the community of AU, teaching them and creating a critical, joyful, and socially just environment in the classroom is just as, if not more, important. Part of this as explained by Bemiss, Hass, Laman, Smith, and Stockdale has to do with understanding one’s self as his or her standing in society. “Using autoethnography, critical literacy, critical sociocultural theory, and Whiteness theory to undergird teaching and research, a teacher must begin by “unpacking” her own history, beliefs, and personal experiences relating to the power struggles that often take place within society” (Bemiss, Hass, Laman, Smith, & Stockdale, 2014, p. 62). Through examining how he or she interacts with society as a whole as well as understanding various social and cultural groups, a teacher can raise consciousness within him or herself and use this as a platform to raise social consciousness within the entire learning environment. “However, merely raising one’s consciousness about social issues is not enough…educators must take action by allowing students to be co-inquirers along the journey to better understand the intricate systems of privilege and power in society” (Bemiss, Hass, Laman, Smith, & Stockdale, 2014, p. 62). Again, the outlook of inclusion in community as a catalyst for affecting social and cultural understanding cannot be overstated. The necessary element to understanding and bringing the diverse community together is inclusion. This action of bringing together students of diverse beliefs and backgrounds feeds directly into the idea of social justice in the classroom. “A social justice approach is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in relation to teaching, learning, and students that form the foundation of one’s pedagogy. Such an approach also challenges stereotypes, provides students with material and emotional resources needed to learn
to their full potential, draws on students’ talents and strengths, and promotes critical thinking and agency for change in a democratic society” (Bemiss, Hass, Laman, Smith, & Stockdale, 2014, p. 63). This high-concept way of handling social and cultural differences can be applied to many different institutional spheres, but holds well in the realm of education as social justice is an area where the student’s locus of control can often be compromised if the other students and teacher are not sensitive to the many differences found there. This belief leads finally to the joy to be found in education by student and teacher alike. “Teaching is viewed as an act of love and an ethical endeavor, where teachers are advocates and challenge the status quo, and where teachers thrive as learners who honor students’ identities and believe in their futures” (Bemiss, Hass, Laman, Smith, & Stockdale, 2014, p. 63). The generation of joy within the learning community is not only a good thing to have, but vital to the full experience of learning and progress within the institution and in society as a whole. Through this altruistic endeavor, students and teachers work together for meaningful social progress through learning and holistic understanding.
Bemiss, E., Hass, C., Laman, T.T., Smith, D., & Stockdale, L. (2014). Language Arts, 92 (1), 62-63.
Sandoval-Lucero, E. (2014). Student-Centered Education for a Diverse 21st Century Student Population. Diverse, 1 (1), 22.