Assignment No1: Explain how you would go about the task of promoting inclusion, equality and diversity faced by a new group of learners enrolled for the first class of your specialist subject, as well as summarising ways to establish ground rules with them. Firstly we need to understand the difference between equality & diversity which is well covered by Gravells reference: Equality refers to the learners’ rights to attend and participate regardless of their differences, while diversity refers to valuing the learners’ differences (Gravells, 2008). Learners not only come from different cultures and backgrounds but they also differ in their abilities, needs, and the way they learn. Their differences must be recognised and considered by teachers who should treat them fairly and value each individual regardless of any differences. This way, learners will feel welcomed and included into the learning environment, engaged, empowered and supported by teachers (Gravells, 2008).
Both equality and diversity can raise issues concerning learners’ gender, race, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, intellectual, linguistic or other characteristics. Despite differences, learners must have equal access to learning without any discrimination, prejudice or other barrier. It is the teacher’s responsibility to eliminate or reduce any learning barriers by recognising and providing full access and support to learners with a disability or individual need (Miller and Sammons, 1999), for example, by providing large print, on tape or using symbols and ensuring appropriate class layout.
In my current role as an ESOL tutor I am involved in teaching English to a class of Nepalese immigrants which have a wide range of abilities depending on how long they have been in the UK and the level of education they received in their homeland. There are also some cultural age / gender issues that mainly affects the senior members of the community as the men & women need to be taught in separate groups / classes, although this does not affect the younger Nepalese who accept a mixed teaching situation in our schools as the norm.
Another problem with the beginners / older generation is that a lot are widowed women and live together in 3’s & 4’s, they don’t understand or watch television / media and therefore don’t have access to additional learning in the home in such that there may be multi generations.
Students from the multi generation household from grandparent / parents / grandchildren where Nepalese will be the first tongue but have a greater exposure to English via the younger generations being at work or school and more acceptance / use of media via internet / television via in house translation.
With a new group of learners it is important to assess their abilities from a simple student form with name / address etc and then test their ability to write / speak / recite the alphabet. With this assessment we are able to separate the class into smaller ability groups and with the help of interpreters give additional support on a 1 to 1 or small group basis especially with some that may have had no formal education in Nepal and barely able to write their name in Nepalese and the ones that do we have to teach them to read / write from left to right to overcome their natural right to left learning.
Here we encounter additional cultural issues with some of the students wanting to sit next to a friend / relative they come to class with and through the interpreter we have to explain that people of similar abilities will learn quicker together where as their friend or relative may be at a further stage in the learning process to them. The important aspect is their ability to help one another and they seem to team up with people of the same abilities very easily and you find them working well in their new groups very quickly. The main thing is that all that attend the sessions is that they are all included irrespective of ability into a safe, social & welcoming learning environment that they feel they can be a part of.
With this ESOL learning group the ground rules are difficult to establish without extensive interpreter help, although they are an extremely compliant and polite race and rarely have any issues with behaviour although it can become boisterous at times. Noise levels can rise as we use an open hall and with up to 4 or 5 ability groups and multiple tutors it is necessary to sometimes quieten the hall and reset the teaching noise level. From a general point there essentially 3 ways to establish ground rules:
My preferred option would always to negotiate the ground rules with learners which would be done at the start of the course using an introduction from the teacher & learners or as an ice breaker activity where through discussion the learners set the rules. The benefit of this option is that they feel through suggestion, rejection, agreement they have made they rules, they own them, respect them, are responsible for upholding them individually and collectively and to a certain extant enforcing them. It could be beneficial to keep the agreed ground rules visible / displayed in the form of flip chart to reinforce behaviour expectation especially around any Health & safety aspects and a reminder of their ownership and responsibility.
Some ground rules cannot be negotiated, a typical example would be around Health & Safety if part of the teaching involves an environment where protective clothing / equipment is required ie a laboratory where a lab coat & glasses are required or a workshop where safety footwear / glasses and hair protection are essential. In this instance if not negotiated through the group, then the teacher should suggest if there were to be” any rules around health & safety” in the lab / workshop and use the opportunity to define the required rules for the particular environment.