Creating the leaders of tomorrow
Diversity and inclusion – which means including those from different cultural, geographic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, with differing physical abilities, ages, sex, gender expression and orientation – are undeniably positive things. Studies also show they improve outcomes in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of people. For example, one 2006 study showed that including women in top management led to substantial bottom-line improvement, and companies that innovated did even better when women were part of the leadership.
We know that including more diverse people and perspectives in classrooms also delivers benefits to students. When they have the opportunity to collaborate and learn alongside a wider range of people it creates rich, horizon-broadening experiences – a key to success in our increasingly globalised world.
Diversity and inclusion through online learning
Online learning allows students to connect from anywhere, and that brings a diversity unseen in traditional classrooms. Students can virtually mingle with people of different cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, not to mention physical ability, geographic location, sex, age, gender and orientation. This broad world view offers every student a raft of benefits, both in the short-term and for the rest of their lives.
Here are just some of those benefits.
Better learning outcomes
With diverse voices in the mix, individual students can see a problem from multiple perspectives, opening their minds to new possibilities. An in-depth review of dozens of studies on diversity conducted by The Century Foundation, a New York-based think-tank, found that different perspectives can create positive learning outcomes. Those outcomes, where students make connections with new ideas, can have benefits that reflect well beyond graduation.
Researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves, and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings, leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving. Students can [also] learn better how to navigate adulthood in an increasingly diverse society—a skill that employers value—if they attend diverse schools.
These positives are particularly apparent when combined with a discussion-based learning approach, as used in CGA classrooms. This means students are asked to give and listen to opinions, which are then challenged and debated.
Cognitive skills and critical thinking = innovation
Socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups. The presence of diversity in an online ‘classroom’ allows students to consider perspectives and opinions beyond those already formed. People with different backgrounds exchange new information, but more significantly, just interacting with diverse people helps group members think more clearly, consider alternative viewpoints and work harder at reaching agreement. The journey to that agreement promotes decision-making, creativity, problem-solving and innovation.
Diversity fosters maturity
Studying online with people of different backgrounds prepares students for the modern world of diversity. The younger they can gain this experience, the more easily students will adapt and mature, so they enter the workforce not just with qualifications but also with the ability to appreciate and work with people of all kinds. They’ll be well ahead of students who have only associated with a homogeneous group in a traditional school setting. Major employers are increasingly looking for job applicants who can face diversity in the workplace with grace and maturity.
Ninety-six percent of major [US] employers say it is important that employees be comfortable working with colleagues, customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds.Wells, Fox, and Cordova-Cobo
Preparing students for global citizenship
Learning in an online, diverse environment fosters political awareness, civic pride and engagement in the community. Students who have widened their scope and worked closely with people from backgrounds vastly different from their own are more aware of inequalities and the laws that perpetuate them. They take citizenship more seriously and are more likely to get involved in government processes so they can work to create outcomes that include a wider range of people.
Creativity through diversity
Working with people of all kinds can open a student’s mind to alternative ways of seeing and thinking about a problem. Studies have shown a marked difference in the creativity and performance of groups of students. The groups with the widest diversity performed the best by far, because this kind of exchange has a profound, beneficial effect on cognition and problem-solving. The more ideas students are exposed to, the more creative they are, and a multitude of ideas comes from a widely diverse group.
Preparing for international education
The best way for a student to succeed at international study is to attend a diverse, online school environment. Exposure to students of other races and cultures, various religions and socio-economic levels, all genders and sexualities and a range of abilities can well prepare a young person for the transition to international education.
Diversity and inclusion develop fresh young minds
As the world shrinks and we can talk to and work with people of all kinds online, it’s more important than ever that we provide an education that includes the widest diversity possible. That way, fresh young minds can grow and develop not just beyond a traditional school’s walls, but also beyond the narrow thinking of a single community and into the wide world.
Diversity and inclusion in classrooms develop better thinking and more creativity in both disadvantaged and advantaged students. They emerged as better, more mature citizens, ready to widen their knowledge and tackle the world’s problems.