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Elissa Knopp
Lucia Elden
English 111
08 December 2016
Diversity Helping Students Grasp Concepts
About three weeks into my English class, still at the stage where people were not too
comfortable talking to one another, we had a group discussion about different articles. The most
amazing thing during this small discussion was how many different perspectives were brought
up. Students that had the same author or article did not have the same viewpoint or perspective
about that particular article. It was fascinating to hear all of the different perspectives that my
classmates had. In fact, I was so engrossed in listening to the diversity in the classroom that I
missed out on sharing my article. Students can interpret more information through different
interests and perspectives, students teaching each other, and most of all sharing the diversities in
the classrooms which could lead to deeper and richer conversations, stronger learning among the
students, and stronger peer to peer connections within the classrooms to help promote and create
a productive learning environment.
Diversity in classrooms can come from many viewpoints or perspectives from the
students. Not everyone has the same perspective on the same idea. The classroom could be
talking about the same topic, but there could be many different viewpoints or perspectives that
the students have on the topic. Naomi Klein, a Canadian non-fiction author and social activist,
author of the article Fences of Enclosure Windows of Possibilities, argues that diversity in a
classroom can all depend on the perspective of the students. Students often have a group talk in

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class and there's typically a few students who have distinct perspectives about the discussion.
Kleins idea about fences and windows come together to represent the current state of affairs in
globalization, where people are locked out with fences from what they need, and where those
same people create windows with the ability to let them walk into the future. On the other hand,
Jack Mezirow, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, author of

Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice, argues that the students who help other students
learn about the material act as a facilitator, which means they encourage others to create norms
that accept order, justice, and civility in the classrooms and to respect and be responsible for
helping each other (92). In other words, students act as a teacher for the rest of the class to
give background knowledge on why they have that certain perspective on the topic. These
student teachers not only help others through perspectives but their interests can help the students
get a better connection with the material. Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education at
University of Illinois in Chicago, author of Hidden Intellectualism, he argues that, it is self
defeating to decline to introduce any text or subject that figures to engage students who will
otherwise tune out academic work entirely (250). The student diversity and interest in the
educational setting, creates an atmosphere that is conducive to student learning and needs where
their interests are considered.
There are many contrasting kinds of interests that students have that can lead to how
diverse the classroom is. For example, students that have interests help others learn through the
experience they have, the passion they have for the interest, and the way they explain the
material from their knowledge. Cathy Davidson, who is a distinguished scholar, and author of
Customized and Participating Learning, she states, The first step toward envisioning a model

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of learning for the twenty-first century is appreciating and cultivating the various and sometimes
eccentrics skills and learning interests of individual students (53). Davidson explains that we
first have to imagine a future possibility of learning in order to appreciate the many strange
learning skills of students. Students who have academic views about their interests are able to
absorb more information because it is something they are willing to learn about. Davidson insists
that, the single most important skill for future educators is finding ways that individual learners
with individual skills and interests can share with others who possess different skills and
interests (52). The students who do not have the same interests, can teach the others about what
they are interested in, like biology or history, making a more diverse classroom. For example,
when I was taking history in high school, I would always ask my dad to help me understand
certain history events because he was outstandingly smart in history and he had many interests in
history. I was able to gain more knowledge from my dad and carry over this knowledge to my
classroom discussions. Not only can the interests have an effect on the diversity in the
classrooms, but student to student connections could help the ones that do not understand the
material. Graff and Davidson agree that peer to peer connection and interactions help the
students thrive in an educational environment as they are able to take in more interests from
other students and appreciate their knowledge.
Students can be the best teachers as they know how to make sense of the topic so that the
other students will understand it and gain knowledge from a contrastive perspective. It is this
student perspective, that helps develop a different model of learning that is more relevant to the
student but also is talked about in a student language. Klein suggests the idea of fences and
windows, fences being like barriers and windows being like an open idea or opportunity (152).

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Students can face fences or barriers during class discussions as they do not have as much
background knowledge as their classmates. However, Mezirow would say that a students frame
of reference can be a barrier because of the way a problem or discussion is viewed through their
lenses. Mezirow states:
a frame of reference encompasses cognitive, conative, and emotional components, and is
composed of two dimensions: habits of mind and a point of view. Habits of mind are
broad, abstract, orienting, habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting influenced by
assumptions that constitute a set of codes... Points of view are subject to continuing
change as we reflect on either the content or process by which we solve problems and
identify the need to modify assumptions. (87)
By this, Mezirow means that depending on where the student comes from, determines the
students habit of mind and point of view. All students have a variant frame of reference because
of what they believe in or how they were raised. For instance, I will have a different frame of
reference than my classmates because of the way I was raised, which will introduce diverse
perspectives among the classroom. The frame of reference barrier could be knocked down by the
other classmates because they can feed the background knowledge based on where they are from
to the other students, transforming them to learn through the frame of reference perspective.
Mezirows frame of reference can also be a window as students can learn how to broaden their
spectrum by looking through many bigger lenses allowing the students to indulge new
perspectives. This would create a window for those students that are learning about the
information during class discussions and help the students have an equal opportunity for
participation because they now can retain that information. Every student has their own way of

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accepting the information and being able to hold onto the information. Both Klein and Mezirow
agree that there are temporary barriers to student learning. These barriers that students face could
be beneficial as open communication and dialog encouraging peer to peer relationships thus
creating a more diverse learning environment.
Students create a more diverse learning environment by sharing perspectives, ideas, and
voicing their opinions. In Mezirows article he explains that in order to have an effective
outcome, the educator needs to create a situation that everyone who has full information can also
participate. Mezirow strongly suggests educators, ..become critically reflective of assumptions,
be empathic and open to other perspectives, be willing to listen and to search for common
ground or a synthesis of different points of view (91). In other words, Mezirow is explaining
that by being open minded and willing to listen to other perspectives and viewpoints, it can
actually provide an opportunity to change our points of view. If students are willing to listen to
the vast perspectives of other students viewpoints, it can allow them to consider thinking about
the situation from many different angles.
I believe diversity in the classroom provides many benefits to students and their
education. During my English class discussion, I may not have had the chance to share my
articles but listening to other students who had the same articles taught me more about them as
they had diverse viewpoints and perspectives. Students interpret more information by different
perspectives, interests, and through other students, peer to peer learning. One of the most
beneficial way for a student to be able to learn something is by another student putting the idea
into a students perspective. I think students get comfortable with the way they learn or think,
yet diversity can help these students get out of that comfort zone. Students who are interested in

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the topic or discussion make the whole idea more interesting as it is being introduced through
students eyes. If one student does not understand something, there are students that can teach
others to see it in a different perspective allowing them to understand the material.

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Work Cited
Cathy Davidson. "Customized and Participatory Learning." Rpt. in Exploring Connections. 2nd
ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2016, pp. 49-54. Exploring Connection.
Graff, Gerald. Hidden Intellectualism. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic
Writing, W.W. Norton & Company, 2014, pp. 244-251.
Mezirow, Jack. Transformative Learning. Exploring Connections: Learning in the 21st
Century, edited by MMCC English Department, Pearson Learning Solutions, 2016, pp.
86-93
Klein, Naomi. Fences of Enclosure, Windows of Possibilities. Exploring Relationships:
Globalization and Learning in the 21st Century. Pearson Learning Solutions. 2013, pp.
454-458.