Teaching and Learning in Intergenerational and Intercultural Classrooms: Report on a Classroom-based Research Project
Minjuan Wang, San Diego State University, United States ; Terre Folger, Westminster College, United States
Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, in Nashville, Tennessee, USA ISBN 978-1-880094-44-0 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Chesapeake, VA
College classrooms are becoming more complex in nature. Changes in the professoritate, the student population, and rapidly developing technology contribute to this complexity. Finkelstein, Seal and Schuster (1999) suggest that radical changes are occurring in the academic profession as more women, foreign-born, and minority scholars become college professors. In regard to technology, students have diverse backgrounds, levels of expertise, and learning needs. Kellner (1998) writes that faculty face the "challenge of providing people from diverse races, classes, and backgrounds with the tools to enable them to succeed and participate in an ever more complex world," (p. 211). This study describes and relates the experiences of Dr. Wu, a junior, female foreign-born faculty member at west coast U.S. university. Dr. Wu and her students faced the challenges described above in her first teaching assignment, "Technologies for Teaching," a graduate-level course offered for in-service teachers and students enrolled in teaching credential coursework. In this presentation, we will address issues of intergenerational and intercultural communication and suggest effective strategies to facilitate communication and learning in classrooms with instructor and student diversity. The paper discussion format will offer the opportunity for sharing this information with those interested and involved in college classroom research, as well as providing feedback to our research. In this interpretive case study, we analyzed survey, field observations data, and used statistical tests to compare students' learning outcomes in two sections of this course. Based on the interpretation of the data, we consider the impact of cultural and generational diversity on communication. We also reflect on the influence of intercultural and intergenerational communication on learning outcomes. In conclusion, we found that student and faculty diversity have enriched but also complicated the technology classroom. Because the course objective is students' incorporation of technological tools in teaching and learning, the students' diverse experiences provided more opportunities for the class to explore technology integration. On the other hand, the students' large variance in entering computer skills, learning styles, and English fluency created challenges for effective instruction. This study has implications for teaching and learning in technology classrooms of diversity. First, the instructor needs to balance whole-class instruction with individualized learning. This can be achieved by reducing direct instruction and by allowing individuals to self-pace their learning. The instructor should also pair students of different backgrounds during in-class activities. Second, the instructor needs to build supportive learning environments. This can be achieved by the instructor's modeling in accepting and respecting for individual differences. Third, the instructor needs to strategically facilitate group collaboration. In this study, giving students sufficient latitude to form groups through choice and explore methods of collaboration provided a naturally formed "comfort zone." Student-student communications should be monitored and mediated by faculty. Instead of eliciting compromise as a solution to conflict, students should be encouraged to resolve the conflicts through negotiation and rational debate (Derry, Gance, Gance, & Schlager, 2000; Mercer, 1995). Fourth, Hall (1992) notes that individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds have subtle variations in the ways they communicate. Often, members of other cultures are unaware of these variations. Lack of recognition can lead to misunderstandings. Using examples, both culture- and noncultural-specific, to illustrate a point or an abstract idea is a common instructional strategy that has twofold application in a culturally and generationally diverse classroom.
Wang, M. & Folger, T. (2002). Teaching and Learning in Intergenerational and Intercultural Classrooms: Report on a Classroom-based Research Project. In D. Willis, J. Price & N. Davis (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2002--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 419-423). Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).