Incorporate cultural diversity

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Effective teaching requires not only a mastery of the materials one is teaching, but also an awareness of the backgrounds of your students and with what knowledge the students will be coming into the course. When thinking about how to improve diversity in the classroom, it is important for professors to consider"ethnic groups’ cultural values, traditions, communication, learning styles, contributions, and relational patterns" (Gay, 2002). The cultural framework a student brings into a classroom affects how they interpret concepts, even including fundamental theories of economics. For example, discussions of indifference curves and customer preferences that focus purely on the technical aspects of the functions may leave students without an understanding of cultural underpinnings which make goods substitutes or complements. Research has shown that teachers who are trained to be more aware of cultural diversity have stronger interpersonal skills in the classroom and that incorporating cultural-diversity measures in teaching economic principles courses results in higher student outcomes.

Tips on cultural awareness and incorporating cultural diversity in the classroom

  • Discuss the impact of cultural diversity on economic measures. For example, in one study (Mitry, 2008) professors incorporated cultural indices from Eastern Europe into discussions of price elasticity and risk-seeking behavior.
  • Be aware of cultural views about speaking up in class and asking questions. Some cultures or ethnicity place a higher weight on independence, resulting in students being less comfortable asking questions if they are confused. Use the techniques on the Wait time page to encourage everyone to feel comfortable talking in class.
  • Require professors to go through training on cultural diversity.