K. Kupatadze

Elon University (UNITED STATES)
As teachers in the US academia, particularly teachers of second and foreign languages, we are used to speaking of diversity in positive terms. We tell students to embrace it and we promote it on our campuses through our courses, extracurricular activities, etc. We consider diversity to be an essential component of student educational experience and academic success. But, do students always understand why? Do students fully understand the meaning of diversity and its value? Should we reformulate the way we ask students to understand diversity? Should we have clearer goals when teaching about it? Through specific examples of activities that I have developed for advance level Spanish language, culture and literature courses, I will offer different ways to teach about diversity, as well as share students’ opinions about diversity, their understanding of what it means, as well as how they accept it in their lives.

This presentation will focus on specific pedagogy adopted in two advance level Spanish courses with the topic of diversity at the center of attention. My intention will be to show how students came to understanding as to how difficult it really is to accommodate, develop tolerance and cohabit with the Other and this, appreciate the practice and realize the importance of promoting it. We saw many instances in the history of diverse countries during which the existence of diversity had caused civil wars, political and social clashes, and difficulties of collaboration and coexistence. So, students in these courses had an opportunity to reflect not only on positive, but also on troublesome and difficult aspects of the experience of diversity. Through different texts - whether fictional, autobiographic, documentary, or cinematographic - that portrayed the experiences of people from diverse nations, people of diverse race, age, sex and sexual orientation, as well as people of diverse social class, students were constantly asked to think about the intolerance towards diversity that characterizes many societies and often-detrimental effects of such intolerance. In the end, we all came to an agreement that it is not diversity that has value in itself, but rather the acquired sense and understanding of difference and tolerance towards such difference.

The assessment of students’ understanding of diversity was based on students’ comments during class discussions, responses given on the final exam and/or final course evaluation, as well as the questionnaire completed pre and post courses.