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Diversity and Identity in Education

Nick Bentley-Lead Practitioner 

Follow him on Twitter: @MrBentleyTweets

The young people we teach are as diverse as the society we live in; including in terms of ethnicity, gender and gender identity, religion, sexuality and disability, to suggest but a few characteristics. If all of our students are to make the most out of their schooling, I would argue that they must be able to see themselves reflected across the curriculum, and that they should be in a learning- and living- environment in which they can thrive. Given this, can we truly say that the educational experiences we provide for those young people always meet these diversities? And if not, how can we make these positive changes, for our young people and ourselves?

With these questions in mind, I have endeavoured to suggest some potential sources of support below. These are all people and networks to whom I am very much indebted and grateful.

    1. Our Students: Though it may seem obvious, actually starting with the young people who are the centre of all we do, can be really helpful in working out how to reflect their lives in the curriculum. How would they wish to be represented? What is working well? What future opportunities might there be? I have always found discussing these matters with my students to be the most important starting point.
    2. Our Colleagues: I have been incredibly lucky to benefit from having wonderful colleagues who are very supportive, and who I have worked alongside to (amongst other things) run LGBTQ+ inclusive CPD, establish an LGBTQ+ student group and attend the #Diverse Educators Event. I strongly believe that collaborating with supportive colleagues is essential in having the biggest impact on diversifying students’ experience!
    3. Our Allies: There are incredible grassroots movements which seek to inspire educators and the movements of #WomenEd #BAMEed and #DisabilityEd have provided many teachers with new ideas and connections, but also opportunities to share what they are doing. Given my own identity, I have personally been wonderfully impressed by the work of other educators connected by #LGBTEd and through amazing celebrations in LGBT History Month. Yet I am highly aware of my own social privilege, and it is wonderfully helpful to work with colleagues who recognise where they can help and support all of our students in an inclusive manner. In the spirit of solidarity, working with others on this really can make us stronger.
    4. Our Curriculum: As teachers, so many of our interactions with young people are in the classroom. Building a fully and genuinely inclusive curriculum is so important, to represent our all of our students in all of their diversity- it can also help engage them in their learning! There are so many ways in which we might be able to do this. Do we use diverse people in examples of data sets in Maths and Science? Do we give students the opportunities to respond to or create diverse stories in Drama and English? Do we celebrate the work of diverse individuals in Art, History and Music? Interrogating our own lessons and curriculum to ensure we represent and celebrate students’ diverse identities can be an integral way of celebrating diversity in schools.
    5. Ourselves: We can empower ourselves to make positive change in our schools; from the way we speak to students, to the lessons we teach and the extra curricular opportunities we run. As educators, and as the people our students see on a daily basis, we really do have a choice to making changes in our lessons and in our schools so that our diverse young people get the schooling they deserve; that they are celebrated and that they thrive!
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Group work, Literacy, Oracy

‘Let’s talk’- the role of Socratic talk in challenging students

Yamina Bibi- Lead Practitioner

Follow her on Twitter: @msybibi

A colleague of mine once told me that a ladder can be used as an analogy to explain differentiation. All of our students need to reach the top of the learning ladder but how many steps they require will differ according to individual needs. Some students might be able to skip a few steps to reach the top, while others may need a few extra steps to enable them to do so.

Stretching and challenging all the young people in our classrooms to reach the top of the ladder can be the key to their success. As Tom Sherrington states in his blog Teaching to the Top: Attitudes and Strategies for delivering real challenge:

‘The secret to doing this well is to think about it in three areas of teaching practice:

  • Attitudes:  The belief and mindsets teachers need to have themselves and inculcate in their students. This influences everything else.
  • Routines/Habits:  The things you do all the time, in every lesson.
  • Extra Challenges: Things you build into an overall scheme of work and use occasionally.’

As a teacher, this means that planning and embedding challenge doesn’t have to include many versions of the same worksheet (this is something I have been guilty of in the past).

In fact, that’s why I find Socratic Seminars an effective way of implementing the principles of ‘teaching to the top’; the differentiation is planned meticulously prior to the lesson without the need for three different coloured worksheets.

What is a Socratic seminar?

A Socratic seminar is a specific style of dialogic teaching (see Robin Alexander’s ‘Towards Dialogic Teaching’) I learned from my wonderful NQT mentor, Teresa Dunseith.

It encourages students to: think deeply about a topic; contribute effectively to discussions; listen attentively to other students’ ideas; justify and challenge rather than accept the first answer and ensures all students are involved. Although some may argue that this strategy is only effective in subjects such as English and Humanities, I strongly disagree.

I have observed a Socratic seminar taking place in a Science lesson, where students debated the use of stem cells. I have also observed students discussing and working out a Maths problem while other students observed and then discussed the methods used.

As a strategy, it’s adaptable and it’s the teacher’s decision how they use it in their classroom. For example, in some lessons the Socratic discussion is used as part of the ‘Do Now’ activity to hook learners, while in other lessons, it is part of the main activity to enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

So how does one plan and deliver a Socratic seminar?

Below are instructions and ideas on how you can plan and deliver a Socratic seminar in your classroom. I have also provided examples of resources I share with students in the lesson; if you would like copies of any of the resources, please do let me know using the comment box below or tweet me @msybibi. 

whole class socratic

mini socratic

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I hope that you will try the Socratic seminar and that it will enable your students to be stretched and challenged and reach the top of the learning ladder.