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October 9, 2018

3 Ways Cultural Diversity in the Classroom Helps Everyone

By Courtney Cairns Pastor

Cultural diversity in the classroom encourages new perspectives, builds respect and tolerance and prepares students for a global workplace. It may even make you smarter, some researchers say.

Many parents are now considering the cultural diversity of the student population as well as a school’s programs and resources when they tour prospective schools or attend admissions open houses. In the most recent edition of “Educational Leadership,” Peter Levine noted that “by talking and listening to people different from ourselves, we learn and enlarge our understanding.”

It’s a worthwhile consideration. A school that recognizes the importance of cultural diversity is helping prepare its students for the future, equipping them with valuable tools for personal interactions. Collaborating and communicating with those from different cultures are essential skills for the leaders of tomorrow. Here are three ways a diverse classroom benefits all students.

Respect:

A 2008 study of UCLA students found that racial and ethnic prejudice decreased when college students spent time in diverse environments. Meeting students from different backgrounds encourage open-mindedness among students of all ages. Teachers can create a climate of compassion and tolerance by helping students get to know one another and value each other’s differences.

One way Corbett Prep teachers build a classroom based on respect and inclusivity is through class charters. Students in every grade take time at the beginning of the school year to develop their charters together, describing how they want to feel in their classroom and what everyone can do to achieve those goals. Throughout the year, they return to the charter and review it to ensure everyone in the class feels respected and included.

Global awareness:

A multicultural education challenges students to consider other perspectives and prepares them to participate in the 21st-century global workforce.

In addition to its diverse student population, Corbett Prep is an International Baccalaureate school for students in PreK3-8th grade. The IB Programme is an inquiry-based education that challenges students to think about issues in local and global contexts and develops cultural awareness. These skills prepare students to engage with others in a globalized, rapidly changing world, according to the IB Organization.

Corbett Prep also welcomes international students who come to study on campus and stay with its families, allowing Corbett Prep students to learn firsthand about their lives, traditions, food and even make lasting friendships.

Cognitive skills:

Exposure to a diverse environment helps students of all races perform better academically, some research suggests.

A 2016 Teachers College report cited evidence that racial and ethnic diversity can prompt students to develop better leadership skills and self-confidence. The report also pointed to research that students in diverse high schools have higher SAT scores as a group. Students improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills when they learn to challenge assumptions and collaborate to find creative solutions.

Attending school in a diverse setting provides opportunities for students to better understand and appreciate different traditions, values, and customs. These experiences pay off when students enter the workforce in an increasingly global society. As students learn more about each other, they gain important knowledge about themselves.