Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cultural, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Influences

When discussing the effects of ethnicity, it is important to consider the unbalanced number of ethnic minorities who fall into low socioeconomic status (SES) (Santrock, 2008). Middle and upper income class students do better in school than do their low SES counterparts (Santrock, 2008). The SES of children has a more significant influence than does cultural effects. Furthermore, children in poorer neighborhoods often attend class in older, unkempt buildings (Santrock, 2008).

Ethnic minority students are forced to contend with discrimination and stereotyping by other students and by teachers and even with tremendous motivation, many children find it difficult to meet average expectations (Santrock, 2008). Low SES presents a range of difficulties including bias and teachers' lower expectations for students in this category (Auwater & Aruguete, 2008). Although this seemed like a weak study, there may be some truth to the claim, although polling teachers from one Midwestern town certainly limits the study's value. Students living in poverty face challenges at home that can interfere with learning at school. When children live in a familial culture that fails to see the value in education, when they are malnourished, or live in less than ideal neighborhoods, they tend to fare worse than their middle class counterparts (Santrock, 2008).

Strategies to Mitigate Negative Influences
Mitigation of the negative consequences of minority status or poverty is not always as easy as implementing a theory or a particular curriculum, although taking into consideration the student's unique context, there are several approaches to inspiring achievement (Santrock, 2008). Offering extrinsic awards, in the classroom and at home might engage the student in a greater effort to work a little harder. When children are given opportunities and responsibilities, they may take pride in their accomplishments. Instilling a sense of self-efficacy can help children believe they can accomplish extraordinary tasks, which may be a first step in the task's actual accomplishment.

I appreciated Santrock's (2008) idea of making changes in the classroom that contributed to children's tendency to segregate themselves at school. For example, mixing children in groups so that they have to work with classmates from a variety of ethnicities can encourage personal contact with diversity.

It may help students to set reasonable goals, plan ahead, and learn how to organize and manage their time effectively and teaching them how to focus on a task, rather than on how capable they are, which seems to help students enjoy the process of completing the task rather than simply completing it (Santrock, 2008). Mastery oriented students seem to be more capable of regulating themselves throughout the learning process.

Perhaps most importantly is to keep students' self-esteem high and help them to feel successful and accomplished in the classroom. Furthermore, it is critical that teachers refrain from perpetuating a belief that students living in poverty or minority students are less capable of learning than their middle class classmates (Cardelle-Elawar, 1996; Santrock, 2008). Since self-esteem and achievement are intertwined, these students may be best helped by employing a self-regulating teaching model designed to help teachers better prepare minority students' self-esteem.

Auwater, A. E., & Aruguete, M. S. (2008). Effects of student gender and socioeconomic status on teacher perceptions. Journal of Educational Research, 101(4), 243–246.

Cardelle-Elawar, M. (1996). A self-regulating teaching approach to improve minority students' self-esteem in a multicultural classroom environment. Bilingual Review, 21(1), 18-23.

Santrock, J. W. (2011). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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