Understanding diverse experiences is critical for all students’ deep learning, so take time to select content to support, facilitate, and interrogate barriers to inclusion.
Knowledge experts from across disciplines have discovered critical gaps in their disciplines’ advancement and understanding based on conscious or unconscious exclusion of diverse experiences and perspectives. In both research and teaching, instructors should strive to actively counter disciplinary and other habits of bias through systematic evaluation of course content and pedagogy for diversity in viewpoints, population focus, as well as author identity.
- Audit course content for:
- Diversity and inclusion of authors and creators in readings and other course materials, noting gaps and areas of concentration (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, etc.) Remain open to changing the texts and materials you assign and the voice you highlight.
- Diversity and inclusiveness of topics, examples, and experiences beyond reading lists: for example, include diverse examples and perspectives in lecture examples, slide decks, and case studies.
- Tokenism in readings and examples: diverse materials should have relevance to your course and not serve as token representatives of particular groups or cultures.
- Acknowledge systemic inequities –and the power and privilege that attend them in our disciplines, workforce, and global society–when introducing content.
- Use intentional course design to make visible and address these inequities, and to interrogate historical consciousness and assumptions.
- Critically evaluate texts for assumptions, stereotyping, and missing perspectives and bring these elements to students’ attention.
- Highlight contributions made by diverse voices to the field to further facilitate inclusion. Avoid marginalizing non-dominant voices by highlighting and discussing homogeneity when it occurs.
- Invite guest speakers with diverse experiences and differing backgrounds.
- Avoid assuming familiarity with cultural references (for example, WASP or Lassie), understanding that few cultural references are widely shared, and that assuming shared references undermines the confidence of those who do not grasp the reference.
- Offer students choices of resources so that they can work with those that they find most relevant to them.
It’s important not only to include diverse content but also to make students aware of that diversity. Talk with students about some of the choices you made and your rationale.
- Discuss the implications of any gaps or scarcity of diverse perspectives in your field in class.
- Consider adding a diversity statement to your syllabus, explicitly conveying the message that you welcome diverse perspectives
- Make the diversity of your examples visible to students. Incorporate pictures of authors or creators of materials on your syllabus, course schedule, or lectures, or try a visualization tool like a StoryMap. For ways to help students see diversity in their course materials, see Prof. Jeffrey Gonzalez’s syllabus for ENG 300 for an example.
- Consider the tone of your syllabus as well. See Warming up Your Syllabus for strategies.
Implementing these strategies will help you to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all your students, regardless of their background or identity.
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