Starting on a “student diversity report”

Ahh, the life of a student. No sooner is one assignment completed, is another one underway. In this case, one I’ve essentially ignored/forgotten about until a week out from being due.

This post documents some early thinking about how I’m going to start my “Student diversity report”. The assignment description essentially boils down to

You are to examine forms of diversity and select one to discuss in a report.

The audience for your report is a beginning teacher.

Your report is to identify the characteristics and ways to manage this diversity in a school setting.

So the task is to write a 2000 word report that can help a beginning teacher identify and effectively handle a particular type of diversity within a school setting.

The meta questions

I find myself struggling with “meta-questions” when faced with most of the assignments in this program. For example, if I were truly trying to help a beginning teacher learn about a particular form of diversity, wouldn’t I use some other approach than a 2000 word written report, including correct scholarly referencing? Seems an awfully “un-diverse” way of achieving the goal.

For this assignment, as for some of the others, I’m trying to quieten these questions and focus on the pragmatic task of submitting what is asked for. A task I am not always successfully achieving.

Type of diversity?

The first question is which form of diversity should I select? One approach was to select a form of diversity that I’m likely to experience as a new teacher. Hence the report can at the least serve one real life student teacher, me.

A while ago I used the Australian governments “My Schools 2” website to compare the three schools I had listed as my preference for Embedded Professional Learning (EPL – i.e. prac teaching). In the end I wasn’t allocated to either of those three choices. But I still retain an interest in teaching at one of the schools. One of the defining features of that school is that, according to MySchools, 21% of the student population are indigenous students. That’s compared to 1% and 4% for the other two schools.

So, at this stage, I am going to focus on indigenous students as the topic for this report.

I am especially interested because I have heard second-hand reports that at least one teacher of the school is “tired of being a babysitter”. My interpretation of that is that the students are simply not engaging with school, and teaching has become a task of ensuring they don’t do too much damage to themselves or others during class. When I heard this, I was wondering how/if a report like this could help.

Other questions

Which brings me to a range of other questions that arise from the task

  • What is “manage this diversity” understood to entail?
  • What is currently being done in schools/school systems?
  • What is the state of research in this area?
  • What would a beginning teacher need to know?

Manage diversity

The Queensland Department of Education has this web page on Managing Learning for Diversity which talks about “skills necessary to provide an inclusive program”. But it does seem to focus mainly on students with a disability.

Possible structure. I do, however, like the structure for one of the parts of that site – Assessment, Curriculum, Environment, Planning, Reporting, Resources – seems a potentially useful way (if only indicative) of structuring what a beginning teacher might need to know. i.e. what might I have to change to X, to better support Indigenous students? This is part of the “Teaching and Learning” part of the site, which is described as “the core business of schools and teachers”.

Working with teams. The same website includes the idea of Working with teams. i.e. that there are multiple professional roles involved in helping out with diversity. A key part of the report should probably be to identify what people can help.

Current work in schools and school systems

There are at least two types of information sources to look at to see what is currently being done:

  1. School websites for local strategies.
  2. State-based departments of education.

Indigenous education – Queensland

The Queensland Department of Education has a site on Indigenous education. Aside: This page notes that ATSI students make up “more than 8 per cent of the total student population in Queensland state schools”. Interesting to note that the school I mentioned above had 21% of the school population being Indigenous. Related quotes from this page

Improving the educational outcomes of Australia’s Indigenous people is a priority for education both nationally and within Queensland. Every day, in every classroom, we want every student learning and achieving.

This seems to be the page that points to all the relevant state projects and resources.

The Victorian Education Department site on Managing Diversity looks to be a bit more useful.

Now the What Works website looks particularly interesting. It appears to come from a subsidiary the Victorian Commercial Teachers Association (VCTA) – a teacher union?

This is a great resource and will inform the final report.

This site from the Qld Department also looks good, especially in terms of awareness raising.

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission has this page, includes a summary of various government moves.

Ahh, which takes me to the Qld government’s Close the gap plan, which seems to be the most recent, relevant government policy. From this page there are links to other related pages. The Close the Gap plan has three key targets

three key targets: to halve the gap in Year 3 reading and numeracy by 2012 and to close the gap in student attendance by 2013 and in Year 12 retention by 2013.

State of research?

Need to check the textbook and class resources on this question. Will also need to do a literature search, at least a small one to see what insights can be gained.

The QSA has this site

What does a beginning teacher need to know?

If the primary purpose of a teacher is to enable students to improve their learning, then it would appear that a report like this should offer concrete advice on how to modify teaching to better suit ATSI students. The structure mentioned above might help.

There’s also the question of “global” versus “local” advice. A starting teacher would be most interested in information specific to the school they would be teaching in. So such a report should tend to focus on the specifics of the local context as well as not repeat information that is already available. The tension between the dual purposes of this assignment (demonstrate my understanding of diversity and be something useful to a beginning teacher) shows here.

Questions and tasks

From searching all of the above, I think I have a neat

  • Double check that indigenous students is a valid example of diversity for this assignment. No worries.
  • Do a bit more searching and add to the collection of bookmarks on the topic
  • Skim the textbook again to gain a more “academic” perspective on the question of inclusion, managing for diversity and general strategies. Look to link current planned structure with what is found there.
  • Specifically search for online networks that can be joined/harnessed on this topic.
  • Figure out a structure for the report.
  • Start filling in that structure with appropriate material.

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