Diversity In Thought: Classroom Discussion And Cultural Intelligence

E Editor’s note: This is a series of two articles. The first explores how encouraging students to share their perspective in class upholds a commitment to cultural intelligence and diversity. The second examines how educators can encourage underrepresented students to confidently participate in class discussions.

The question hangs in the air. The teacher patiently waits for students to respond as they glance one to another indicating silent deferral. The first to speak is willing to allow their thoughts to jump start the conversation. If the initial answer gains a second or third affirmation, then a lively discussion ensues. Then, a brave soul shares a contrasting thought deviating from the consensus. This class environment engages different perspectives, spurs sophisticated engagement, and respects the complexity of the topic.

Encouraging several angles of analysis in class discussions while remaining true to a biblical worldview takes intentionality. Educators can uphold their school’s commitment to cultural intelligence and diversity by skillfully engaging students who hold a distinct perspective. Educators who cultivate a setting that allows for these distinctions promote greater cultural intelligence among the students.

A classroom that cultivates cultural intelligence mirrors the biblical vision of the peoples of the world gathered around the throne in Revelation 7:9. Just as differences will be seen and heard in the kingdom, the same should be true in the classroom. Differences should be discernable in class discussions as educators invite students to participate with all of their cultural uniqueness. A student brings their cultural complexity to bear in how they engage groups, conflict, and tasks.

Cultural intelligence includes an increased awareness of the complex layers of culture and the various ways they interact (Rah, 2010). Educators who recognize this complexity use students’ thoughts to engage new lines of inquiry and open the dialogue to consider underrepresented perspectives. A culturally intelligent educator capitalizes on these distinctions to encourage students to grow as well.

Encouraging students to confidently participate in class discussions requires educators help students “find their voice.”

This occurs by students being reassured that their thoughts will be graciously and thoughtfully engaged if they choose to express them. Cultivating a classroom where students share confidently is important for the following reasons:

Develop Neighbor Love

Culturally intelligent students who participate in rich class discussions display neighbor love through thoughtful engagement. This occurs because students are taught to understand their interlocutors, understand their ideas, and engage them thoughtfully. This is consistent with Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39).

Develop Compassion

Culturally intelligent students are taught to empathize with a person holding an unbiblical position without having to adopt it. It is also important, however, to remain open to biblically grounded arguments that can challenge our assumptions.

Sharpen Ideas

Critical thinking skills are shaped by carefully engaging with others. Thoughtful engagement with different angles of analysis challenge students to interrogate their assumptions.

Develop Courage

Culturally intelligent students develop the courage to interrogate the curriculum in ways that consider others with different perspectives. Students who do this also gain confidence to share even if they hold an unpopular opinion that is grounded in Scripture engendering growth for all students.

In sum, students flourish with consistent practices in humility, gracious speech, and compassion for others. Students and educators alike foster a culturally inclusive learning environment by inviting each student to bring their particularity to bear in the classroom attesting to the relationship between rich class discussions and increasing cultural intelligence.

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