Every teacher and parent knows that every child is unique: some are loud, others are quiet, some are tall, some are short, some leap and sprint and others are more careful and persistent. Children also come in different colors, from different cultures, with different sexualities and gender identities, different first languages, different cognitive and learning styles, different interests, different balances of multiple intelligences, and with different learning strengths and learning challenges.

Valuable educational research from many different perspectives has focused on differences between children and applying the study of these differences to classroom practice. The value of such research has been to bring differences between children to the attention of the education community. I use the term diversity to broadly refer to allidentified and as yet unidentified ways that children differ that might impact learning, including cultural, linguistic and gender differences as well as personality differences, cognitive and learning styles, different balances of multiple intelligences, and different learning strengths and learning difficulties.

For me, it seems like a mistake to use any of these dimensions of difference to sort kids into smaller and smaller boxes. While it is certainly ridiculous to treat a room full of children as the same because they are all in the 6th grade, it is not much better to assume that that a group of 6th grade kinesthetic learners will respond well to a teaching technique designed for learners of their type. Rather than using any dimension of difference to group or categorize people, I think these dimensions are most useful when we use them to expand the field of possibilities when we try and makes sense of our observations of others. The key is to remember that every child (and adult) is unique and that paying careful to another’s distinctive way of being and responding in a way that fits them will always be more effective than reacting to them with a one-size-fits all technique.

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