The Center for Faculty Development is committed to supporting diversity at Metropolitan State University, particularly as it intersects with the wide range of teaching and learning contexts that occur across the university.

Vanderbilt University presents the following tips taken from Barbara Gross Davis' chapter entitled "Diversity and Complexity in the Classroom: Considerations of Race, Ethnicity and Gender" in her excellent book, Tools for Teaching. We recommend that you read her full text to learn more about the issues and ideas listed below in this broad overview. The Center for Faculty Development has a copy of Tools for Teaching on its shelves.

Davis writes: "There are no universal solutions or specific rules for responding to ethnic, gender, and cultural diversity in the classroom.... Perhaps the overriding principle is to be thoughtful and sensitive...." She recommends that you, the teacher:

  • Recognize any biases or stereotypes you may have absorbed.
  • Treat each student as an individual, and respect each student for who he or she is.
  • Rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups.
  • Do your best to be sensitive to terminology that refers to specific ethnic and cultural groups as it changes.
  • Get a sense of how students feel about the cultural climate in your classroom. Tell them that you want to hear from them if any aspect of the course is making them uncomfortable.
  • Introduce discussions of diversity at department meetings.
  • Become more informed about the history and culture of groups other than your own.
  • Convey the same level of respect and confidence in the abilities of all your students.
  • Don't try to "protect" any group of students. Don't refrain from criticizing the performance of individual students in your class on account of their ethnicity or gender. And be evenhanded in how you acknowledge students' good work.
  • Whenever possible, select texts and readings whose language is gender-neutral and free of stereotypes, or cite the shortcomings of material that does not meet these criteria.
  • Aim for an inclusive curriculum that reflects the perspectives and experiences of a pluralistic society.
  • Do not assume that all students will recognize cultural, literary or historical references familiar to you.
  • Bring in guest lecturers to foster diversity in your class.
  • Give assignments and exams that recognize students' diverse backgrounds and special interests.

When instructors attempt to create safe, inclusive classrooms, they should consider multiple factors, including the syllabus, course content, class preparation, their own classroom behavior, and their knowledge of students' backgrounds and skills. The resources in this section offer concrete strategies to address these factors and improve the learning climate for all students.

  • Creating Inclusive College Classrooms: An article from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan which addresses five aspects of teaching that influence the inclusivity of a classroom: 1) the course content, 2) the teacher's assumptions and awareness of multicultural issues in classroom situations, 3) the planning of course sessions, 4) the teacher's knowledge of students' backgrounds, and 5) the teacher's choices, comments and behaviors while teaching.
  • Teaching for Inclusion: Diversity in the College Classroom: Written and designed by the staff of the Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC, Chapel Hill, this book offers a range of strategies, including quotes from students representing a range of minority groups.
  • Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom, from the Derek Bok Center at Harvard University, describes how to turn difficult discussions into learning opportunities.

Carnegie Mellon presents information on how to "Create an Inclusive Learning Environment"


The Faculty Teaching Excellence Program (FTEP) at the University of Colorado has compiled a series of faculty essays on diversity in On Diversity in Teaching and Learning: A Compendium. This publication is available for download (as a PDF file) from the FTEP website (scroll down towards the bottom of the page for the download links). The essays in this volume include, among others:

  • Fostering Diversity in the Classroom: Teaching by Discussion: Ron Billingsley (English) offers 14 practical suggestions for teaching discussion courses (with 15-20 students) and creating an atmosphere in the classroom that embraces diversity.
  • Fostering Diversity in a Medium-Sized Classroom: Brenda Allen (Communications) outlines seven ways to create an interactive environment in larger classes (with 80-100 students) and thus promote diversity in the classroom.
  • Developing and Teaching an Inclusive Curriculum: Deborah Flick (Women Studies) uses the scholarship of Peggy McIntosh and Patricia Hill Collins to support a useful syllabus checklist and teaching tips that include techniques to provoke discussion about privilege and stereotypes among students.
  • The Influence of Attitudes, Feelings and Behavior Toward Diversity on Teaching and Learning: Lerita Coleman (Psychology) encourages instructors to examine their own identity development and self-concept to determine how they feel diversity and bias affect their teaching. She also shares 14 specific teaching tips.


Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity

White Privilege

General Resources

Peggy McIntosh

You can find McIntosh's most famous essay (about the "invisible knapsack" she carries because of her white and heterosexual privilege) in a number of places online:

  • "White Privilege and Male Privilege" (pdf) available through the ERIC database
  • A short video of McIntosh talking about how she came to write her essay
  • A short animation inspired by McIntosh's article

Gender Issues

  • Tips for Teachers: Sensitivity to Women in the Contemporary Classroom: From The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, this article provides helpful strategies for instructors concerned about gender issues in the classroom. Several specific recommendations given to insure an inclusive environment.
  • Academic Support for Women in Science and Engineering: Susan Montgomery (Chemical Engineering) and Martha Cohen Barrett (Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education) present critical factors that have been found to influence the learning experiences of undergraduate women studying science and engineering. They also offer suggestions for improving the academic environment that are applicable to all students. This link is provided by The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
  • Book Review: Women Faculty of Color in the White Classroom, edited by Lucila Vargas.
  • Book Review: Women in the Classroom: Cases for Reflection. Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University: 1996.

Sexual Orientation

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN): This site provides useful information and resources for educators.

Disabilities

Teaching Students with Disabilities: From a brochure entitled "College Students with Learning Disabilities," developed by Vanderbilt's Opportunity Development Center, and from the ODC staff.

Resources and Annotated Bibliographies