What are some general needs of diverse students and why is it important to understand those needs?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For practical as well as principled reasons related to the dynamics of contemporary identity formation, you don’t have to be the same to be equal. This is democracy’s new promise, after civil rights, after the rise of identity politics, after multiculturalism, after globalization. (Michael Peters, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Diverse student have needs on two levels, as explained by Humboldt University. These levels are visible diversity and invisible diversity. Humboldt identifies visible diversity as comprising race, age, physical attributes, and sex. They identify invisible diversity as comprised of things such as, family background, learning style, educational experience, language(s) spoken, economic status, gender, geographical point of origin, religious and political beliefs, among others.

Diverse student needs emerge from these visible and invisible levels of diversity. One need among many that diverse students have, therefore, is to be seen as and treated as an individual, not as a representative member of a group or subgroup. Another need is adaptability of teaching styles to communication and learning styles (the need for adaptation of teaching to learning is a need well known by now while adaptation to communication style is a need that is more newly recognized).

Another need is mutual understanding of forms of address as some cultures have specific modes of address that are tied to age and status that are important for individuals from that culture to adhere to (needs like this seem to contradict the injunction to view diverse students as individuals rather than as representatives of groups or subgroups, but rather it underscores the need for understanding diversity needs). Another among many is the need for inclusion: diverse students need to experience an inclusive community of fellow students rather than experience an Us-Them or an Us-Other community that excludes the thems and others from prestige relationships.