The world in our classrooms learning from student diversity
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The World in our Classrooms – learning from student diversity. Mary Stuart Deputy Vice Chancellor Kingston University. Some Questions. What is student diversity? Is there a difference between a diverse HE system and student diversity? Is student diversity the same as widening participation?

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The world in our classrooms learning from student diversity

The World in our Classrooms – learning from student diversity

Mary Stuart

Deputy Vice Chancellor Kingston University


Some questions

Some Questions

  • What is student diversity?

  • Is there a difference between a diverse HE system and student diversity?

  • Is student diversity the same as widening participation?

  • Is student diversity the same as massification?


Hesa stats and student diversity

HESA stats and student diversity

The data clearly shows that student diversity is not a

widespread phenomenon but is evident in particular groups of

institutions. 3 groups of institutions:

  • Some institutions despite increased numbers have very similar students to those that they had before massification.

  • Other institutions have both increased numbers and have increased the diversity of their student group,

  • A third group of institutions have particular types of diverse students who cluster in their institutions.


Hesa statistics and student diversity

HESA statistics and Student Diversity

Ethnicity:

Of the top twenty institutions with the highest

proportion of students from minority ethnic

backgrounds only three were outside of

London: Aston, Bradford and Bedfordshire.


The global local and the local global

The global local and the local global

Hybridity, …, multidimensional temporalities, the

double inscriptions of colonial and metropolitan times,

the two-way cultural traffic the forms of translation and

transculturation which have characterised the ‘colonial

relation’ from its earliest stages…[is affecting the HE

sector differently].

(Hall S (1996) When was the post colonial? Thinking at the limit. In Chambers I and

Curtis L (eds) The Postcolonial Question London Routledge p251).


Other parts of the country

Other parts of the country…

  • Russell Group and 1994 group institutions outside of the capital have very few minority ethnic students, typically fewer than a sixth of their student body.

  • New Universities in other parts of the country for example in the South West, such as Bournemouth and UWE, have very few ethnic minority students as well, 6.4% and 9/7% respectively.


International students

International students

  • If you take out institutions such as the London Business School, LSE and SOAS, where nearly half of the students are international, most institutions’ international student groups are under 15% and some a good deal smaller.

  • Westminster 14%

  • Oxford Brooks 13%.

  • Kingston 8%


Widening participation and social class

Widening Participation and Social Class

Most HEIs have about 5% of their students from occupational status ‘routine

occupations’.

Exceptions are institutions such as Bolton and Wolverhampton who have

around 10% of their students from this group.

Where class differences are more obvious between institutions is at the

other end of the occupational ladder. Russell Group institutions tend to

take students from the very highest social groups:

University of Bristol’s intake in 2004 had 37% of students whose family

background was ‘higher managerial and professional occupations’

University of Cambridge has 41% from this group

University of East London has 4% of its students coming from this

background.


Lecturers and students comments

Lecturers’ and students’ comments

Of 24 only 2 lecturers felt they had not seen student diversity in

their institution (1 in a Russell Group institution and 1 in a 1994

group institution)

The other 6 from those institutions did feel they had seen an

increase in student diversity and all the other lecturers identified

diversity as a growing feature of their teaching experience over

the last 5 years


Disability

Disability

Most lecturers were extremely positive about students with physical disabilities in their classrooms:

‘My seminar sessions have included a number of disabled students recently, a deaf student and a wheelchair user. I have found these students to be highly motivated. This has had a positive impact on other students in the class, raising their level of commitment etc.’ (Russell Group institution)


Disabled students

Disabled students

My disability which may appear as a weakness on first judgement has in fact become one of my greatest strengths (CMU student).


Ethnicity

Ethnicity

Some were positive:

Ethnic and religious diversity has increased significantly and this has had a positive impact in terms of the varied personal and cultural experiences that the students bring to discussions. Needs careful handling sometimes (lecturer: CMU institution, in London)


Ethnicity1

Ethnicity

Others less so:

  • The ethnicity diversity has produced occasionally problems such as the understanding of group work and participation in a team effort. Also some of the cultures have a tendency to copy (plagiarise) more and tend to walk in class late which can become a serious problem when others follow too (CMU institution).

  • Most students tend to group themselves (seating in class and self-assigned groups in group work) by ethnic origin and/or religion. Religious events impact attendance (e.g. Eid, Hajj.) (CMU)

  • I have a lot more students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, Students seem to have less of an idea about what architecture is and what an architect does. Traditionally I suspect around a quarter of students would have had a parent who was an architect but students are increasingly less likely to have a family connection within the profession (CMU).


Ethnicity students comments

Ethnicity – students comments

  • I come from a Turkish family. … I applied for University and thankfully got accepted, of course this meant that I needed to study hard to prove to my parents. …. I am really excited to be here. This is the best thing that could have happened to me (CMU student).

  • I have been brought up in the East London area with people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Sharing experiences since childhood I feel as though I have many great qualities of life which I can share with others. I can bring these experiences to my studies and I am sure it will be helpful to me in my course because it is sociology (CMU student).


International students1

International Students

  • I don’t see any major difference in terms of working style or amount of work but the culture shock from Bombay to the University was huge. I have had lots of support for my study, but coping with the English way of life, their attitudes and the darkness well no-one thinks that might be an issue for me (Russell Group student).

  • I was a little black girl has been born in a small town called Varberg in south east Sweden... My parents came from Gambia. …

    . Having always been the different one in school, feeling left out sometimes or like you are in the wrong country. I just had a bit of a problem balancing my two different cultures, the African and the European. One of my biggest satisfactions is making my family proud of me, as I come from a great and proud family in Gambia. …The image perpetrated of Africa here in the media and the one I have, is quite different (CMU student).


The value of engaging with ethnically diverse groups whether international or local

The value of engaging with ethnically diverse groups, whether international or local

…to focus solely on the learning experiences of

international students….risks overlooking the needs of

local students from diverse backgrounds, as well as

bypassing the benefits and complexities of both

groups sharing educational experiences (Asmar,

2005:292).


The world in our classrooms learning from student diversity

Age

  • Positive attitudes to mature students:

    Mature students can change the nature of a cohort and are a big influence in focusing other students in their approaches to study, discipline and conduct in class. They often support younger and less life experienced students (Russell Group).

    The presence of mature students who are more serious and dedicated (without having any quantitative evidence) has been a positive and upgrading influence for the other young undergraduates (CMU institution).


Younger students

Younger students

Less positive about younger students:

  • ‘The less able seem to be more prevalent irrespective of if they are WP or traditional despite entry qualifications increasing. The entry level of maths and science is much less now than 5 years ago. I don’t think this is just because I’m getting old’ (CMU institution)

  • The reduction of ability has meant that traditional lecture sessions are “dummed (sic) down” so the weak can keep up … (1994 group).


Is it diversity or changes in expectations of young people

Is it diversity or changes in expectations of ‘young people’

  • Massive culture shock, we just weren’t prepared for it – you have to do everything yourself whereas at school you are spoon fed (Russell Group student).

    This student was from a ‘traditional’ HE background,

    had done A levels at a sixth form college…This

    perhaps means that we have to wonder if the issue is

    not student diversity but rather that the changes in

    schooling and in society are not reflected in the HE

    environment.


Student diversities

Student Diversities

  • Cultural diversity

  • Physical diversity

  • Learning diversity

  • Age diversity

  • Not mentioned by the lecturers:

    • Gender

    • Economic


What are we talking about

What are we talking about?

It is easy to conflate the idea of ‘ability’ in the sense of genetically determined IQ, with the lack of awareness and experience of the values, assumptions and practices of HE (Haggis, 2006: 526).


A changed world

A changed world?

  • Frand The Information Age mindset, (2000)

    The whole concept of time (and time compression)

    has changed dramatically. When one speaks of an

    internet year like a ‘dog year’ (i.e., one human year is

    equivalent to seven dog or Internet years) this is time

    compression at light speed. (22)

    …constant connectivity – being in touch with friends

    and family at any time and from any place – is of

    utmost importance’ (15)


A changed world1

A changed world?

  • The outlook of those we teach has changed, and thus the way in which we teach must change. The world in which we all live has changed, and thus the content we teach must change. The industrial age has become the information age, and thus the way we organise our institutions must change as must the meaning we attach to the terms ‘student’ ‘teacher’ and ‘alumni’ (Frand, 2000:24).


A changed world2

A changed world?

Even the most popular of personal pronouns, the mystical and menacing ‘we’ has lost much of its global public appeal. …which ‘we’ do we mean when we speak of ‘we’?

(Beck U 2006 The Cosmopolitan Vision, Polity Press Cambridge p 70).


Students not like us

Students Not like Us

  • A greater need to appreciate (and learn from) difference

  • A need to be much more explicit about what we expect of students and what the academy offers

  • Need to transform HE to be fit for purpose in the 21st Century


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