What I've done until now is, if you built a typology of differences, I've tried to define those differences. These are all things that we need to look for in the classroom. They're all things we need to attend to. They're all things that we need to address. But in fact, the reality of learner differences is much more complex than this. So firstly, if you take a group of kids and you want to look at their ethnic identities, the languages they speak at home, the full range of abilities and disabilities. How many versions are there now of autism and Asperger's syndrome? In fact, they call this just a spectrum now because there are so many subtle differences across that spectrum. If you think about gender and the whole range of possible gender identities which are not just simple, male, female, gay, straight, it's much more complex than that, and much more varied. And what you end up doing, the more you look at differences, the lists of differences become unmanageable, they become overwhelming. How can I deal with, now that kids with learning disabilities or visual disabilities around sight or hearing, how can I do literacy now that these kids have been mainstreamed? Now, the answer is I have to. I have to know something about all these things. I have to be able to deal with it. But how can I know everything? The answer is, you can't know everything, there's just so much complexity. And that's the point, by the way, at which we might bring in the specialist aide, get specialist advice. So we're not totally on our own in an ideal school system, in an ideal setup. So that's the first thing. The list of differences. When you take the differences seriously, the lists are endless and they become overwhelming, they appear unmanageable. The second point about them is, the internal variations within each category are usually greater than the average differences between categories. What do I mean by that? On any one dimension, boys are doing this world, girls are doing that world, this group's doing this world, that's doing that world. So, on any one of those dimensions, there's a huge amount of internal variations. So we create these categories, which look homogenous, I'm dealing with this group, this demographically defined group. But in fact, there are such great internal variations that in fact, the average variations between groups is trivial compared to the extended internal variation within a group. But the other point, too, is that these things are all relational. Race is not just a skin color, it's a relationship. Black is not just black, black is a relationship to white and white is a relationship to black. Gender, boys and girls and male and different forms of sexuality. Minority cultures and majority cultures, speakers of the dominant official language and speakers of minority languages. These are not just groups that sit by themselves. Every one of those things is relationship. And it's a relationship of inequality, which brings with it all kinds of problems, but all kinds of issues get thrown up, which are not the issues just of that group. There are actually groups of issues about the relationships between groups. So one of the problems about just slotting kids into groups, and thinking you're in that group is we don't necessarily attend to those relationships and we don't address those relationships. Because every one of these differences is part of a whole where you've only got this other because there is something which is not an other over here, and those things are connected. The other, another thing that makes this very complex is something called intersectionality. So I might be a girl, I might be gay, I might be of this particular ethnic background, I might be, okay, we'll take every single dimension. This age, all those dimensions, we'll take every one of those dimensions because we can identify you by every dimension. And you know what? In every individual, when we put those dimensions together, it's the mix. It's the relationship of one thing and the other which produces something which is unusual and unique. And in fact, by the time you've taken all of those dimensions, every individual is a unique combination of things that have made them what they are. Where each of those elements influences the other. They're not separate. This is a phenomenon which in theories of difference, theories of social difference is called intersectionality. The intersection of these different phenomena create something which is neither one nor the other, but a mix, and something new. And the final thing is, one of the great dangers of categorization, black and white, rich and poor, blah, blah, blah, you go through the whole list, is that none of these categories are stable. They're dynamic, they're moving. The poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer. The racial inequality is changing in its dynamics. Maybe it's getting worse in some respects, getting better in other respects. So in other words, none of these things is something where we can just build an understanding of a category and hope that'll do, because that category is shifting. History is with us all the time and it's moving. So, I've done a funny thing now, what I've done is I've introduced these essential categories. And tried to classify them in a way which is sort of a bit clearer that normal. One of the real problems, by the way, is this shopping list of class, gender, ethnicity, which is tacked on at the end as if we have to mention it. We often don't think in a sufficiently analytical way about the scope of these categories, we don't define them well, we don't classify them well so I tried to do that. And now what I've done is I've actually tried to say, it's all so complex that none of these categories really quite work. Well, what do we do? The answer is, all the categories are essential because they represent things about our bodies, they represent things about history, they represent things about human experience, human society, they're all real. But it's so, so complex when you put them all together. If it's so, so complex, what kinds of categories might we use which work quite well? What might we be wanting to look for when we look at our learners and try to build learning that suits their needs? Well, here are some other categories. Persona, who are they as people? What motivates them? What is their identity? Who do they feel they are? A little formula about learning, which is a simple formula, in a way, but a difficult one to achieve, is that you never really learn unless you belong in the learning. You gotta feel comfortable with it, you gotta feel as if it's relevant to you. You've gotta be interested because it somehow fits with who you are as a person in some kind of a way. And that's the trick of teaching, to try and create learning environments for every learner which align with their persona. But the second thing that i want to talk about is agency. Which is, we want to position learners as agents who take their personas and who, on the basis of their interest or identity or experience of they are in the world, can be active learners of the next thing. Active makers of things. Active representatives of themselves. And the minute you allow agency, it's hid. The minute you allow space for agency, the differences become even clearer. So one of the arguments, by the way, is rather than a teacher dominated, text-book dominated, BASAL rated dominated curriculum. If you allow students to write about their own experience, to bring in texts from their own lives, and to create, actively to make things. To talk is an active thing as opposed to listen. To write is an active thing as opposed to read something that you've been given. So if we allow this greater degree of agency, where students are actively meaning makers, those differences will become clearer, and it will also build on the student's persona and identity, and build up their sense of belonging in the learning. Now the next concept I want to use to describe this differences is affinity. What happens is, look, you're quite from me, but you're my friend, and we have a certain affinity because there is something that we share together. We have a common interest, we have a common experience. So often it's not about being in the same group, but it's about affinities that are constructed between people. So affinity is a nice category which allows you to move beyond those simple categorizations, and to build relationships which are able to deal with the richness and complexity of the real experience of diversity in school and in life. And finally, how does one then describe who one is in the world? Well not a bad way is narrative, to be quite frank. Which is, I am the history of what I have experienced, I am who my parents were, I am the educational experiences I've had. I am the places I've been, I am my friends. You can explain who I am by the story of my life. So to build narratives which are experiential narratives about things I've done and things that have made me who I am, that's a way to build a picture of learner differences. So, what I'm proposing is that, okay, we've gotta use these big demographic categories, age, and race, and class, and all those things. They're all important categories. We've gotta live with those because that does say something about history and experience and there's something very real about them. But when we're dealing with individual learners, these categories of persona, agency, affinity, narrative might be better ways to build a more carefully nuanced, subtle view of the learners that we're dealing with in the classroom.