Embrace diversity and classroom engagement to bring students together
Increasing inclusivity in the classroom has many benefits, including bringing a range of perspectives and opinions to the table, widening your reach as an educator and reinforcing students’ ambition to pursue higher education. It’s an important aspect of teaching that can sometimes be overlooked, but result in tangible benefits for students.
A recent article from Chronicle explains that the role of an educator is to help students “feel included and ready to thrive.” Some instructors may wonder if this is part of their job description, and the answer is yes, if you want a productive outcome.
“Besides teaching content and skills in your discipline, your role is to help students learn. And not just some students,” the article says. “The changing demographics of higher education mean that undergraduates come to you with a wide variety of experiences, cultures, abilities, skills and personalities. You have an opportunity to take that mix and produce a diverse set of thinkers and problem-solvers.”
This is my feeling, exactly. Today, the pool of students and talent is global, and our mission is to support that pool with the skill sets they require to improve their employability and move up in their careers.
Here’s how educators can make their teaching more inclusive:
Encourage curiosity and engagement
Learning isn’t just about past education, it’s about curiosity and engagement. Fostering an environment, whether virtual or physical, that promotes interactivity can be done by encouraging questions and conversation. Consider students a valuable resource; each one of them brings a unique perspective to the material which can help expand the understanding of other students.
“The more academically and socially connected students feel to their [education environment], the more likely they are to persist,” explains an article from Faculty Focus. Educators can support student engagement by creating opportunities for students to connect with one another. “The benefits are far reaching -- from increasing attendance to building a positive rapport and respect among all those in class.”
We’re all different, and it’s these differences that give us unique skill sets, perspectives and expertise. Differences must be embraced, not just because it’s the moral code, but because diversity creates better communities and companies.
In contrast, a homogeneous group can produce the same results because the group holds the same ideas and perspectives about the world. In today’s world where global communication is moving incredibly quickly, technology and media advance faster than most of us can keep up with. Having a diverse group of people with a robust range of experiences and ideas can support an organization’s success, bringing varied ideas to the table and preparing the organization for many possible business situations and outcomes.
“Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity in all forms -- race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, ideology, even personality traits like introversion -- as an asset,” Chronicle points out. “It means designing and teaching courses in ways that foster talent in all students, but especially those who come from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.”
But embracing diversity isn’t about teaching diversity, it’s about embracing the differences of your students and engaging each student in the course material and group discussions.
Positive reinforcement of belonging
A 2017 article from We Are Teachers provides timeless advice, discussing what classroom teachers of elementary school students can do to foster inclusivity. While the content is geared to educators of children, the message is very pertinent: make an effort to tailor projects to student strengths rather than requiring everyone to complete the same work. A one-size-fits-all approach is a quick way to alienate students who learn differently.
“Major projects are a great way to give students something to be proud of and to synthesize what they’ve learned,” the article explains. “But often teachers elect to assign identical projects to each student, rather than letting students take ownership and develop a project that plays to their strengths.”
Students can feel confident in their work when they connect with what they’re learning and how the material is being presented. This sense of confidence is not to be underrated; self-confidence provides mental assurance that we are where we’re supposed to be -- that we belong. This is incredibly important for students today who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Instilling confidence in students supports their learning, development and ultimately, their pursuit of continued studies.
At ODEM, we strive to create courses that serve our global community of students, educators and employers. Diversity supports the new norm of remote work, bringing greater international understanding to the company objectives, and bottom line. Learn more about ODEM’s courses, and tell us what you think on Telegram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.