In this chapter, we began with the premise that effective teaching requires adapting to the diverse backgrounds and needs of students. We reviewed research on important dimensions of diversity among students. We focused on gender, culture, economic background, and ability. Research on gender has demonstrated that males and females develop along at least partly different paths in terms of their attitudes, roles, abilities, and achievements. These differences largely reflect environmental influences, such as parents. Teachers also play a role by treating male and female students in very different ways. Research on culture has indicated that students from different ethnic backgrounds achieve differently in school, with minority students generally faring more poorly than students from the dominant White culture. Unfortunately, schools and teachers contribute to the problems of ethnic minority students by failing to recognize the incompatibility between some features of these students’ cultural backgrounds and the culture of the classroom. Research on student economic background has clearly demonstrated the pervasive and pernicious effects of poverty on all facets of human development, including academic development. Here too, however, teachers play a role. This role can be positive as well as negative. Teachers can play a positive role by serving as a role model, source of support, and standard of excellence for at-risk students. Teachers can play a negative role by neglecting the academic needs of students and focusing only on feeling sorry them. We considered two types of exceptional students, those who are gifted and those who have cognitive disabilities. The key to educating both types of students is that the teacher must actively work to provide meaningful educational experiences.
We used research and theory on student diversity to generate eight strategies for the classroom. These strategies reflect respect for diversity and an active attempt to ensure that all students are treated in a way that maximizes their chances for academic success. We also described four hypothetical classrooms, from preschool through high school, in which these strategies could be seen in operation. Together these strategies supply the beginnings of an answer to the question: How can teachers accommodate to diversity in their students?