What does it mean to teach with equity, inclusiveness, and diversity in mind? Most importantly, what does it mean to create a sense of belonging to your students? These aren't simple questions to answer, but they're crucial for creating an inclusive classroom and diversifying your curriculum.
By now, most educators have seen the images of equity versus equality versus justice, and we argue over the merits of these images. What’s missing is a deeper conversation about what equity means in the classroom, and how our various curricular initiatives contribute to transformation. We tend to talk about equity in ways that strip it of its revolutionary call for social justice. So, as we move forward finding our way to equity, we need a new orientation that recognizes the bonds that connect us. That helps us focus on building our individual and collective capacity by learning together in classrooms and beyond them. May we soon come to realize that the path to equity is always about finding our way.
What does it mean to be an inclusive teacher? Inclusive teaching involves creating equitable and welcoming educational environments for the diverse learners in our classrooms. This includes (but is definitely not limited to) designing educational experiences informed by the pre-knowledge, skills, demographic backgrounds, and attitudes that learners bring to the classroom; creating an inviting course environment where students feel a sense of belonging; integrating diversity into course content; and being aware of and mitigating any harmful effects of biases. Teachers should dive into the benefits of an inclusive classroom and how it can help make your instruction more effective.
Think back for a moment to when you were a student. Did the scientists you studied in biology look like you? Did the word problems you sweated over in geometry reflect your culture or the neighborhood where you grew up? Did the books you read in history class include the perspectives of your ancestors? For too many people, the answer to all of these questions is “No.”
If students can see themselves and their communities in what they’re learning, then they learn differently—and better. This is the idea behind culturally responsive teaching (CRT). With CRT, students’ cultural knowledge is seen as an asset in the classroom, not something that should be checked at the door. Cultural responsiveness is not new, but in this year of reckoning with racial inequity, there is renewed interest among higher education instructors. Teachers should comprehend why cultural awareness is important, how multicultural curriculum strategies can be implemented into your courses, how culture affects learning, and more.
Impacting students with diverse teaching moments and integrating diverse narratives into your content is vital. If you don’t talk about the topics that are hard, if you avoid the much-needed classroom conversations, your students will feel and hear it. Teaching is an act of transcendence, reconciling the past with present opportunities for societal transformation anchored in a commitment to challenging injustices while ensuring the humanity and dignity of the oppressed. So, it is suggested to teach for liberation; teach for change.
(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Faculty Focus. The original article can be found at https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/equality-inclusion-and-diversity/teaching-for-change-through-equity-inclusion-and-diversity/)