Teaching to support the diversity of the 21st Century college classroom

by Gabriel Stephen
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Gabriel Stephen

Gabriel Stephen

Think for a moment about your cultural identity, think about the icons and seminal events that molded your generation: the iPhone frenzy, the September 11 terrorist attacks, Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta.

Now consider the traditions or rituals that you grew up with that still resonate with you today: Thanksgiving dinner, the National Anthem before sports contests, the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest on Independence Day.

What do you think about those examples? How did your perspectives compare? The truth of the matter is that even within certain nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures there are fundamental differences in experience – this is diversity.

For educators, the differences amongst and between cultures must not be overlooked at any stage in the pedagogical process. As you prepare for your course, keep in mind that there are multiple categories of diversity, both apparent and latent, that will present themselves in the classroom.

The following are some considerations for you to incorporate into your teaching philosophy as an educator of culturally diverse students in the 21st century:

Apparent Diversity:

Dimensions of Culture (Hofstede, 2010)

  • Power Distance (PDI) – This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
    – The high side of this dimension, called individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families.
    – Its opposite, collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)
    o The masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success. Society at large is more competitive.
    o Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)
    o The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members
    of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity.

Ethnicity In America (Dimock, Kiley & Suls, 2013)

  • Perception Molds Reality
  • Minority groups are getting left behind in higher education

Latent Diversity

Non-traditional & First-generation Students

• Generational Cohort Theory (Inglehart, 1977)
“The theory is based on two assumptions: a socialization hypothesis and a scarcity hypothesis. The socialization hypothesis proposes that adults’ basic values reflect the socioeconomic conditions of childhood and adolescence. Although societal conditions can change, the relative importance that a generation attributes to various personal values remains relatively stable” (Dou, Wang, & Zhou, 2006, p. 102).

• Imposter Syndrome (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2006)
“This is the stress caused by self-doubt as the ethnic student is aware of his or her minority status” (p. 161).

• Acculturation Anxiety (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2006) – This the stress caused by community influencers on individuals who are perceived to be shifting identities – formerly from their cultural roots to mainstream society (or Western culture).


Cross, T. L. (1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care: a monograph on effective services for minority children who are severely emotionally disturbed.

Dimock, M., Kiley, J., & Suls, R. (2013). King’s dreams remains an elusive goal; many Americans see racial disparities. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/08/22/kings-dream-remains-an-elusive-goal- many-americans-see-racial-disparities/

Dou, W., Wang, G., & Zhou, N. (2006). Generational and regional differences in media consumption patterns of Chinese generation X consumers. Journal of Advertising, 35(2), 101-110.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations-software of the mind: intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival. New York, NY: McGraw- Hill.

Lee, A., Poch, R., Shaw, M., & Williams, R. D. (2012). Engaging diversity in undergraduate classrooms–a pedagogy for developing intercultural competence. ASHE Higher Education Report, 38(2), 1-132.

Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2006). McKeachie’s teaching tips:
Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Gabriel Stephen is a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

1 thought on “Teaching to support the diversity of the 21st Century college classroom

  1. Pingback: Importance of diversity in college classes | Strategies for Successful Teaching

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