As instructors, it is important to create a classroom environment that is sensitive to issues of diversity. Consider the following tips when designing and conducting your classes, which have been closely adapted from the Schreyer institute for teaching excellence at Penn State University.
General Teaching tips for diversity
- Use gender neutral language in lectures and exams. Also, be aware of gender used in class examples. For instance, when discussing hypothetical people in class examples avoiding designating all of them as males or females.
- Do not assume students are heterosexual or make assumptions about ethnicity based on their appearance.
- Address students consistently in the same way regardless of their gender/ethnicity. For example, if males are consistently addressed by their first and last names, make sure females are also addressed in this way.
- Monitor class discussion to make sure one group is not dominating the discussion at the expense of other groups.
- "color blind" classrooms are generally not a good idea, as they invalidate or fail to recognize the experiences and needs of learners.
- It is better to appreciate and emphasize the individuality of each student rather than making generalizations based on the majority composition of the class.
- Articulate and re-emphasize throughout the semester that you are committed to meeting the needs of all students, and you are open to conversations about how to help them learn.
- Include a diversity statement in the course syllabus (for an example, see http://www.unco.edu/cebs/diversity/syllabus_diversity.html).
- For courses that touch upon sensitive topics, consider adding a disclaimer similar to the one provided by CJ Pascoe below:
"Note: This class addresses very sensitive topics such as school shootings, rape, drug use, child molestation and religion. These topics may be triggering for some people. If you anticipate that these topics might be an issue for you, please consider enrolling in an alternative course."
- Have students help you establish ground rules for courteous and fair classroom discussions.
- Include in the syllabus procedures for making up exams/assignments that are missed for religious holidays not observed in the University calendar.
- Establish clear grading rubrics for how students should be evaluated.
- Attempt to pronounce student names correctly prior to the beginning of class. On the first day, ask students if their names are pronounced correctly. A guide to techniques for pronouncing students' names can be found here: http://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/current/teaching/names
- Provide students the opportunity to give anonymous feedback on the classroom climate.
- Develop a random system for asking students questions and/or encouraging participation.