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Category: Classroom Climate

Teaching All Our Students
Teaching the Multicultural Online Classroom
Over the past several years, I've summarized content from several articles written by Kimberly Tanner, a biologist who teaches at San Francisco State University. Her material is first-rate, and the article summarized here is no exception. The issue here is how we often treat students as “interchangeable entities” and are not always as aware as we should be that they have individual histories and personal characteristics. They aren't all the same, and we have a responsibility to help all of them learn—“not just those who are already engaged, already participating, and perhaps already know[ing] the biology [name your content] being taught.” (p. 322) The goal is to structure the class so that “all students have opportunities to verbally participate, all students can see their personal connections to biology, all students have time to think, all students can pose ideas and construct their knowledge of biology, and all students are explicitly welcomed into the intellectual discussion of biology.” (p. 322) Those are lofty objectives, but that's what a commitment to teach all students entails. Tanner proposes that those objectives can be reached with a set of teaching strategies that are mostly simple and direct. She identifies 21 of them in the article, which she says do not make a comprehensive list. There's not enough space to share all 21, but these samples are illustrative, and the article can be consulted for more detail on these and on those not listed here. Giving students opportunities to talk and think about the content Teachers know the content well. We've spent hours thinking about it, so all the concepts—what they mean, how they connect, and why they're important—are crystal clear to us. It's easy to forget that students are encountering this material from different perspectives and without an extensive background. Encouraging, demanding, and actively managing the participation of all students Building an inclusive and fair classroom community for all students Self-monitoring behavior to cultivate divergent thinking Besides monitoring student behavior, teachers should pay attention to their own responses. Is the teacher open to new ideas, new ways of thinking about questions, and different ways of framing answers? Teaching all of the students in your classroom Reference: Tanner, K. B. (2013). Structure matters: Twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12 (Fall), 322-331.