Montclair State University is committed to developing courses that mirror the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that we promote as a community. It is our responsibility and duty as constituents of the University (and society at large) to create learning spaces where all voices are heard and considered equally.
All students, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, gender identification, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or other non-academic criteria should receive equal opportunity and education in our classrooms.
Steps to creating an equitable and inclusive learning space include short-term strategies you can implement immediately, as well as longer-term goals to develop over time. Review the strategies below and consider how you will implement them in your teaching.
Strategies for Immediate Implementation
Make a commitment to culturally relevant pedagogy in your course, viewing students’ cultures as assets.
The first step to making meaningful strides towards diversity and inclusion in your course is making a commitment to evaluating your course and its content under a culturally aware lens and acknowledging the need to create a curriculum that fosters inclusion. This includes critical self-reflection on current practices and ideologies.
Select written works, videos, and other course materials with diversity and inclusivity in mind.
As you select materials for your course, strive for representation in the authors of the works you choose in order to offer diverse perspectives on the subject matter. Include content created by diverse and underrepresented authors.
Select images and example names for your course with diversity and inclusivity in mind.
Be sure that the images you choose reflect your commitment to diversity by showcasing varied countries of origin, ethnicities, genders, and races. Be aware of how particular ethnic or origin associations are portrayed in the images you select and avoid ones that connote negative stereotypes associated with particular genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc.
Normalize an inclusive mindset in your classroom from the start of the semester, from your syllabus to icebreaker activities.
Dedicate a section of your syllabus to sharing your commitment to creating a Bias-Free Zone in your classroom (whether virtual or face-to-face). Consider this example, adopted and shared with permission by Dr. Brad van Eeden-Moorefield, Professor of Family Science and Human Development at Montclair State University:
“This class will be a bias-free zone, meaning that everyone will be valued, respected, and treated with dignity. Our discipline’s code of ethics will guide this in every way. We will value and promote the diversity of views, individuals, and families. However, we will not tolerate or condone views that are oppressive. That said, such views will be discussed and respectfully debated using empirical evidence. This is especially important given the number of individuals and families that experience discrimination and other forms of oppression daily. I encourage you to make sure those views are added to our discussions. Accordingly, no one should assume that because a colleague expresses such views they personally hold them. Stated another way, people should play “devil’s advocate” to ensure myriad perspectives are part of our class but we will never assume any perspective matches someone’s personal beliefs.”
During icebreakers or introductory activities at the beginning of the semester, include pronouns as an optional component of what students share about themselves (i.e. name, pronouns, major, hobbies, etc.). Highlight the ability for students to populate their personal pronouns in their Canvas profile if they wish to share.
Review your course using the Peralta Online Equity Rubric
The Peralta Online Equity Rubric is a research-based course evaluation tool focused on making online course experiences more equitable.
Strategies to Consider Long-Term
Continue reading, listening, learning, and growing.
While the outward steps and strategies outlined above are an excellent start, a longer-term inward reflection is equally vital towards sustaining these changes in your classroom. Consider incorporating literature on diversity, equity, and inclusion into your reading list. Below are a few recommendations to get started, some specific to our commitment as educators and others towards our broader commitment as members of society:
- Aronson, B., & Laughter, J. (2016). The Theory and Practice of Culturally Relevant Education: A Synthesis of Research Across Content Areas. Review of Educational Research, 86(1), 163–206.
- Columbia University, Center for Teaching and Learning. (2017). Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia.
- Grier-Reed, T., & Williams-Wengerd, A. (2018). Integrating Universal Design, Culturally Sustaining Practices, and Constructivism to Advance Inclusive Pedagogy in the Undergraduate Classroom. Education Sciences, 8(4), 167. MDPI AG.
- Kendi, I.X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. Random House Publishing Group.
- Tyrone C. Howard (2003) Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection, Theory Into Practice, 42:3, 195-202.
Survey your students to solicit their feedback.
Consider anonymous means of collecting feedback from your students on what you’re doing well and how you can continuously improve towards creating a learning space that fosters inclusivity and diversity. Embrace this feedback and acknowledge that the perspective each student offers is valuable.
- Drexel University, School of Education. The Importance of Diversity & Cultural Awareness in the Classroom.
- (2020). Peralta Online Equity Rubric, version 3.0 [Creative Commons license:
BY-SA]. Retrieved from https://web.peralta.edu/de/peralta-online-equity-initiative/equity/
- Montclair State University. Commitment to Diversity.
- Montclair State University. Disability Caucus.
- Rice University (2020), Improving Representation and Diversity in OER Materials