Meilani Conley is an Instructor in Computer and Information Sciences at Southwest Baptist University.
Teachers may find it both daunting and difficult to naturally integrate diversity into their curriculum, but I aim to demystify the process in this post. Designing your curriculum with diversity in mind can help enhance learning and foster discussions that identify, recognize and celebrate the impact people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences have on the course content.
Designing Curriculum with Diversity in Mind
The first challenge is addressing the elephant in the room—how do you integrate diversity into curriculum when the content may be different for every course? The answer: micro-integrations. Below are four general strategies you can use to help cater your curriculum and use micro-integrations to introduce students to diverse backgrounds and cultures. The strategies are a combination of two approaches, (1) developing a curriculum that encourages diversity, equity and inclusion and (2) helping students understand and recognize the importance of diversity.
Design with intention
- Naturally, it is easier to design your curriculum with diversity in mind first rather than trying to integrate later.
- Make sure to integrate diversity into all aspects of the course including readings, class discussions and assignments.
Create a non-threatening learning environment
- Establish the guidelines and expectations for all course discussions and communications.
- Share examples that reinforce that all of us are learning and no one—including the instructor—knows everything.
- Encourage students to ask and answer questions.
Practice cultural humility
- Take an interpersonal perspective other than your own that respects and recognizes your lack of superiority concerning someone else’s cultural background and experience.
- Research diversity integration resources and gain knowledge about how to integrate diversity into the design of your curriculum.
- Share your experiences and personal pitfalls related to diversity to increase transparency and open dialog with your students.
- Use course materials that represent multiple viewpoints and perspectives.
Establish the significance of diversity with micro-integrations
- Student experiences – Having students share their culture and experiences can enhance diversity integration. Carefully build or structure curriculum around previous or current examples that emerge organically from class discussions and interactions. Only use or refer to examples that students approve or offer openly to the class.
- Diversity impact – Identify an event, invention or someone—past or present—from a different culture, background or perspective that has had an impact or made a significant contribution to the course content. Providing students opportunities to learn about, recognize and celebrate the significance diversity has on the course content or their field of study can be a powerful way to integrate diversity.
- Teaching by example – Examples and case studies provide a great opportunity to integrate diversity because their purpose is to reinforce the course content and help guide students. Integrating diversity can be subtle, such as introducing examples with names from various cultural or ethnic backgrounds or challenging students to research examples given different cultural, racial or other diverse backgrounds. For example, you could have students compare and contrast a business case study with international business practices to identify the similarities and differences in business operations and processes.
- Switching it up – Continuously change how you pair students to discuss and complete course assignments so they can work with, and get to know, someone new.
- Guest speakers and community involvement – Invite guest speakers from community organizations who are from diverse populations or backgrounds to increase diversity awareness and engagement. Sometimes hearing and seeing the importance of diversity from someone else’s perspective can resonate better with students.
Integrating diversity into your curriculum can be difficult, but micro-integrations and mindful planning can help reduce the challenges. Every integration, no matter how small, makes a difference and contributes to a learning environment that celebrates diversity.
To learn more about creating a diverse and equitable learning environment, listen to our panel of expert educators in a recorded webinar: Online Inclusivity: Inspiring Learning for ALL Students.