What is diversity, going beyond cultural differences?

Diversity in the classroom goes beyond what is visible like gender, age, ethnic background, dress-code, etc. It also includes various cultural differences, interdisciplinarity, diverse socio-economic backgrounds, sex-orientation (for ex. LGBT), physical disabilities, learning styles, specific talents, etc.


  • A. Developing awareness and respect for diversity
    1. The teacher needs first to assess diversity as a given situation and then show respect for it and act accordingly towards inclusion. This implies creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and psychological safety. This means that some classical teaching approaches that were successful in a more culturally and professionally homogenous class, may not succeed in a diverse group. For example, the language of instruction may need to change from local to international English, the course syllabus may need to be adapted to an international audience, various learning styles students may have need to be addressed, etc.
    2. Students entering the classroom may have different perceptions of what is going to happen during the course. Aspects like active vs passive participation, interaction, or interactivity may play a role.

    Solutions

    1. Look at diversity positively by maximizing the gains and minimizing the pains as suggested in the article from Galinsky et al. (2015) Maximizing the gains and minimizing the pains of diversity: a policy perspective.
    2. See this video from Höskins (2017) on Strategies and Recommendations for the International Classroom (The Educational Quality at Universities for inclusive international Programmes - EQUiiP)
    3. See this video from Utrecht Young Academy (2018) Utrecht zijn we samen about addressing diversity in an interactive way using a selected group of city dwellers (Utrecht) and showing that after all they are not so diverse as one might think at the beginning. This model can also serve in class or in other international settings involving a (large) group of diverse students to address the various aspects of diversity. 
    4. The website of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of North Carolina (n.d.) Diversity issues for the instructor: identifying your own attitudes offers items for reflection on diversity issues for the instructor in class, and on how important it is to identify your own attitudes towards the students. 
    5. The book chapter from Prud'homme van Reine and Blom (2017) Handling cultural diversity in higher education aims to provide suggestions for lecturers, educators and policy makers on how to create an inclusive space for all students to feel safe, welcome, encouraged and challenged. The questions and suggestions are not exhaustive but may provide tools to reflect on and further develop what happens in the teaching practice:  

    Resources

    1. Galinsky et a(2015). Maximizing the gains and minimizing the pains of diversity: a policy perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 742-748.
    2. Höskins, L. (2017). Strategies and Recommendations for the International Classroom.
    3. Utrecht Young Academy (2018). Utrecht zijn we samen.
    4. Center for Teaching and Learning. University of North Carolina (n.d.). Diversity issues for the instructor: identifying your own attitudes.
    5. Cynthia J. Finelli, C.J., Bergom, I. & Mesa, V. (2011). Student teams in the engineering classroom and beyond: setting up students for success. CRLT Occasional papers, 29. University of Michigan.
    6. Prud'homme van Reine, P. & Blom, H. (2017). Handling cultural diversity in higher education. In Coelen, R., In Hoek, K.-W., & In Blom, H. (Eds.). Valorisation of Internationalisation: About internationalisation of higher education. Leeuwarden: Stenden University of Applied Sciences.
  • B. Going from diversity to inclusion in the classroom

    Once diversity has been recognised and addressed in the classroom, it is necessary to work towards inclusion. Diversity is sitting in the diverse classroom; inclusion is participating actively. The setting of the International Classroom needs to move from a static state (diversity) to (inter)action and interactivity; a dynamic process (inclusion).  

    Solutions

    1. A teacher’s role is to create an inclusive, psychologically safe climate where all students are encouraged to participate and interact. First by learning about students’ backgrounds and second by adapting teaching approaches accordingly. For example, by taking learning styles into account, establishing ground rules for activities, and developing intercultural awareness.
    2. On the website of Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (2019) Inclusive Teaching Strategies are first defined, then illustrated using two categories, and finally recommendations for the instructor in the classroom are provided.
    3. In this article from Lohe, D. (2017), Features of an inclusive syllabus, six features of an inclusive syllabus are listed for the classroom instructor or course developer who want to create an inclusive learning environment.
    4. Read the article of Randel et al. (2018), Inclusive leadership: Realizing positive outcomes through belongingness and being valued for uniqueness, which conceptualises of inclusive leadership and a framework for understanding factors that contribute to and follow from inclusive leadership within work groups.
    5. Leask, Jones. and Wit, H. (2018) write about  inclusive intercultural learning for all in their article Towards inclusive intercultural learning for all. Increasing cultural diversity due to internationalisation of the university raises new issues and challenges for staff and students. Cultural differences impact the notion of ‘what makes a good teacher’, ‘what makes a good student’ and ‘what constitutes good learning’. We use our model of 9 cultural dimensions to develop a framework of intercultural issues that are likely to emerge in an educational environment and discuss opportunities for cultural synergy for each issue. Finally, we give recommendations for dealing effectively with cultural diversity, including the development of an organizational culture that provides the conditions for an inclusive approach to teaching and learning, and a support structure to help teachers and students to develop intercultural competence.
    6. Look at the website of Teaching tolerance (n.d.) for webinars on teaching tolerance.

    Resources

    1. Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (2019). Inclusive Teaching Strategies.
    2. Lohe, D. (2017). Features of an Inclusive Syllabus. The Notebook. A weekly blog presented by the Reinert Center at Saint Louis University.
    3. Randel, A.E., Galvin, B.M., Shore, L.M., Holcombe Ehrhart, K., Chung, B.G., Dean, M.A. & Kedharnath, U. (2018). Inclusive leadership: Realizing positive outcomes through belongingness and being valued for uniqueness. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2), pp 190-203.
    4. Leask, B., Jones, E. & Wit, H. de (2018). Towards inclusive intercultural learning for all.
      University World News, 532.
    5. Teaching tolerance. (n.d.). Webinars.