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July 30, 2013

Essay on Culture and Individual Behavior

Scholars believed that the culture and the behavior of the individual in this culture are the major factor affecting his learning habits and abilities. Education needs continuity, which can be achieved only through some change of adaptability and self-renewal. Multicultural and multilingual classrooms are designed specifically to find, accept, and use new ideas and so they are more able to adapt change and show more flexibility. Different studies depicted that bilingual people possess more cognitive flexibility than monolingual.
However, due to the presence of students from different cultural backgrounds, there is a chance of cultural clashes between the people of different cultures. There is also a chance that majority group members may create obstacles for minority group member to take full participation. If such clashes cannot be handled and managed by the teachers then the classroom may suffer ineffectiveness, less productivity and absenteeism.
If there is communication gap between a culturally diverse team then there is a chance that a homogenous group may outperform this culturally diverse group. Multicultural classrooms require extensive trainings to overcome the communication barrier otherwise it will not perform up to their potential.
Controlling a multi-cultural, multi- lingual classroom is a daunting task. Racial or ethnic minority students face a number of social obstacles to school success. For example African Americans and Hispanics in United States schools often view the payoff of schoolwork as so remote that they do not preserve in their efforts.
Even though many students hold positive abstract views about the value of education as a social stepping stone, they tend to base their actual school behaviors on the frustration and failures of their parents. As a result, often students cut classes, get suspended, and eventually drop out. Even if minority students manage to overcome the discouraging signals in their environment, financial difficulties typically lengthen their odds of attending college. One study documents that black parents (who are more likely to be single mothers, poorly educated, and financially strapped), simply have fewer resources to support children who want to go to college.

Homogenous groups
Homogenous grouping is the placement of students of similar abilities into one group so they can concentrate on their weaknesses and get benefit from each other’s strengths on certain areas. Homogenous grouping is considered as the best way of teaching (Cromwell, 2004). Homogenous groups can be categorized into five groups:

1.      XYZ Classes: this divide the students into three levels; high, medium and low
2.      Cross Grade Grouping: in this type of grouping, students from different grades, whose achievement level is same on a particular subject, are grouped together
3.      Within Class Grouping: In this grouping, students of same class are placed on different groups, by the teacher, according to their learning and cognitive abilities. It is the most common type of homogenous grouping used by the teacher
4.      Accelerated Classes: in this type of grouping, students of higher cognitive and learning abilities are moved more rapidly through school
5.      Enriched Classes: it is the grouping where students receive higher level of instruction than the regular class (Barthelmess & Boyer, 1932).

 In order to understand the effects and benefits of homogenous grouping, a two year study was conducted in which 132 students, in the first year were grouped according to their composite score and in the second year they were grouped according to the teacher’s selection. The result of the study has shown that slow students in homogenous grouping get better results and their abilities and achievements have improved (Kulik, 1993).
Homogenous grouping has been blamed on the basis that any student who is placed in a particular homogenous group will remain there throughout their educational career (Balow, 1962). Nevertheless, result of a study revealed that when the average intelligence of members of all homogenous groups is tested, no significant difference was found (Smith, 2005).

Using Homogenous groups
In order to group students homogenously, achievement is not the only factor. Nagel (2001) has pointed out three distinctive factors, which have to be considered while grouping the students. These three factors are:
1.      Knowledge:  it is necessary for the better achievement of the group that some of its members have sufficient knowledge about the task, the resources and skills of the group to perform the task
2.      Power: people in the group have the choice as well as the ability to voice their opinion so that they can take part in decision making practices
3.      Affection: it is the extent to which members are attracted to the group and motivated to remain in it. High affection is normally considered as an attractive feature of the group (Nagel, 2001)

Heterogeneous Groups
Heterogeneous grouping is such type of grouping in which students of varying abilities, cultures and languages are grouped together in order to learn in a cooperative learning environment. It has been said that,

“Instead of helping students, sorting and tracking them according to ability institutionalize failure in mathematics. However, placing students in heterogeneous classes and groups and teaching the same old curriculum will not solve the problem. . . . The curriculum must be untracked just as the school structure must be untracked. A multidimensional curriculum will be accessible to more students and more interesting and more valuable to the most mathematically sophisticated” (California Department of Education, 1992; p. 62).

In the Spanish class of NSU, students of various degree of learning are grouped in a class. Some students are of Spanish origin and their native language is Spanish while some are studying Spanish as a second language. Other factors which affect the learning of the class is the varying degree of previous learning of the students, their culture, religion, sex etc. (Guglielmino & Burrichter, 1987). Although people are skeptic about the success of Heterogeneous grouping, Way and some other suggested that factors like age does not affect the achievement of the group. Way said, “Multi-age grouping skeptics have generally expressed concern that achievement would suffer if children of different ages were to be grouped in a multi-age classroom. The results from both this study and previous studies indicate that such concern may be unwarranted. Achievement in multi-age classrooms appears to be no different from achievement in single-age classrooms” (Way, 1981).
Spear (1992) who has done profound research on Hetreogenous grouping concluded that, “Common sense dictates that effective grouping practices should be centered around the notion of flexibility” (p. 263). He further stated that, “it is vitally important that we do not continue to separate, but that we bring together-into one community- individual strengths to ensure that our schools function at their highest level” (p. 272).

Instructional Strategy

Teachers are generally quite accurate in predicting which solutions will succeed in class and group, but are such prophecies self-fulfilling. Teachers award grade not only on the basis of mastery of coursework but such factors as diligence, submissiveness and ‘teacher pleasing’ behavior, and their own prejudice. Many of these factors flow from differences in social background. Also, the child who upon entering school has undeveloped reading or math skills may be unfairly categorized, formally or informally, as unable.
Moreover, much categorizing is based on tests that are themselves regarded by many as biased against children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Intelligence and achievement tests can help block social mobility for some students by dooming them to placement in low-ability groups, low teacher expectations, and poor academic performance. Teachers have higher expectation for children with the skills and behaviors instilled by a good home environment.
The instructional strategy for the homogenous group in a Spanish class is to create multi-ability level material for the group and also add class work and presentations for the group. The teacher should act like a facilitator instead of transmitter of knowledge.

Learning and Ability Styles
Obviously children who do not speak English, or speak it only as their secondary language, will encounter difficulties in United States schools. Even mathematics achievements can be adversely affected by speaking a language other than English in the home. However, language barriers can be more subtle. English-Speaking students from minority or low-income backgrounds can face language discontinuities in school. In other words, the way their parents question and talk to them does not correspond to that used by most teachers. This mismatch between language used in the home and that demanded in the classroom can cause serious difficulties for some children.
The gap in educational achievement between the White American students and the students of foreign heritage is always there. This gap became narrow during the period of 1970 to 1990, but after 1990 it started widening again. The statistics has revealed that in 1999:
·         Only 1 of the 50, 17 years old Hispanic students questioned, can read properly and able to understand the text read   
·         It has also been noticed that only one fourth or fewer students can read the difficult or complicated text
·         Only I in 30 Hispanic students is able to do the mathematical problems easily
·         In the age group of 18 to 24 years old students the school graduate rate of Hispanics were 63 percent
·         As compared to the white American students only one-third of the Hispanic students were completed their graduate degree 
·         According to the statistics provided by the Census Bureau of United States in 1998, the number of Mexican students, between the age group of 15 to 29, who has completed some college education is 33 out of 100 students
·         Similarly the number of Hispanic students achieved some bachelors degree is 10 out of 100 students (Haycock, 2001)

Self Reflection
In order to extract most of the students in a group, there is a need to engage all the students. The teacher must adopt a strategy which must have the following characteristics
·         Challenging
·         Open Ended
·         Multi-Ability based
·         Requiring Interdependent Work

Classroom Accommodation
Usually some students start dominating in class and in groups; the teacher’s role is ensure that the voice of every student must be heard and each one of them has a role in decision making of the group.
Teachers have to re-examine their role so that they will be more helpful for children from minorities, or from families at risk. It is believed that although both, parents and educators, have to play their parts but still the role of educators are more important. It is suggested that educators must “examine the organizational climate that exists within our schools and the (often covert) messages about involvement that we send to parents" (Knoff & Raffaele, 1999, pg.449).

Learning is the basic activity which enhances the knowledge of student and plays an important role in the cognitive development of the student. Students who face difficulty in a language class ultimately left behind in areas like vocabulary enrichment, mastery in language and enhancement of knowledge. Those who left behind will remain there until some extra intensive attention, teaching and training is given to them which enable them to stand along with their peers.
There is a need to divide the class into homogenous or heterogeneous groups to enhance their class achievement and to improve their learning ability. The report discussed the instructional strategy the teacher must use to improve the learning ability of the students.

Balow, H. I., (1962). Does homogeneous grouping give homogeneous groups? The Elementary
School Journal, vol63, n1, 28-32.

Barthelmess, H. M., & Boyer, P. A. (1932). An evaluation of ability grouping. Journal of
Educational Research, 26, 284-294.

California Department of Education (1992). Mathematics Framework for California Public
Schools. Sacramento, CA

Cromwell, S. (2004). Homogeneous or heterogeneous: Which way to go? Retrieved 8th October 2010 from  

Guglielmino, L.M. & Burrichter, A.W. (1987). Adult ESL instruction: A challenge and a
pleasure: An orientation guide for adult ESL teachers. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State Department of Education. (ED 288 074)

 Kulik, A. J., (1993). An analysis of the research on ability grouping. The National Research
Center on the Gifted and Talented Newsletter. 8-9

Nagel, G. K. (2001). Effective Grouping for Literacy instruction. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 

Smith, Deborah. (2005). Heterogeneous grouping: Is it best for all students? Retrieved 8th
October 2010 from

Spear, R. (1992). Appropriate grouping practices for middle level students. In J Irvin (Ed.),
Transforming Middle Level Education: Perspectives and Possibilities. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon

Way, J.W. (1981). Achievement and Self-Concept in Multi-age Classrooms. Educational
Research Quarterly, 6/2 (1981)


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