Dealing With Diversity

About Diversity
In the Classroom
Comfort Zones!
 Gather your belongings, and find a new seat.
 Here are the rules for relocating:
1. You may not sit in the section where you “normally” sit.
2. You may not sit with anyone from your department.
3. No complaining.
Who Are We?
Every instructor brings his or her own range of diversity issues
to every classroom. It’s wise not only to be aware of the
diversity of our students, but to also acknowledge our own
differences and how they affect our teaching and our students.
Pretending that diversity doesn’t exist and doesn’t affect the
classroom environment obstructs the educational process.
 Kathy is white, female, middle-aged, middle class,
well-educated, employed, former military brat,
Southern born.
 Kellee is white, female, middle-class, well-educated, employed,
raised in a family of teachers and entrepreneurs.
 Who are you?
Who Are Our Students?
Diversity in college classrooms includes:
 Race
 Ethnicity
 Religion
 Socio-economic status
 Sexual orientation
 Age
 Physical, emotional and learning abilities
Unpacking Our Invisible
"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of
meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance
on my group” ~Peggy McIntosh
 What is white privilege?
 What are the effects of white privilege?
 How do we “fix” it?
“White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack
of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas,
clothes, tools and blank checks.” ~Peggy McIntosh
Examples of White Privilege
If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing
housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race
represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with
my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who
can cut my hair.
Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color
not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.
I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters,
without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the
poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
Implicit Association Tests
 IATs are computerized (usually), rapid tests that are meant
to uncover implicit attitudes about social objects that
people are unwilling or unable to recognize in themselves.
IAT tests can measure bias about many different issues,
including race but also including presidential candidates.
 Social psychology researchers Anthony Greenwald and
Mahzarin Banaji proposed the idea that implicit and
explicit memories affect our attitudes and behavior.
 Measures bias not prejudice.
Taking an Implicit Awareness Test
 Visit the following website:
ml (or Google “Implicit Awareness Test”)
 You can test your hidden bias on age, sexuality, race,
politics, weight, disability, etc.
 Keep in mind that these are only indicators of bias; these
tests do not assess actions or intents!
Describe what is
happening in this drawing.
Hidden Biases in All of Us
 Mahzarin Banaji points out “that human beings filter what
they see through the lenses of their own expectations.
People believe they are acting rationally, but numerous
psychological tests prove that subtle cues influence people
all the time without their knowledge” (Vendantam, 2005).
 “No one knows exactly why people develop implicit
biases. Living in a diverse neighborhood does not in itself
seem to reduce bias, but having close friendships with
people from other ethnic groups does appear to lower
bias, the IAT researchers have found” (Vendantam, 2005).
What To Do?
 Get to know students and let them get to know you.
 Create a safe environment in your classroom.
 Create classroom rules for behavior and class discussions.
 Acknowledge possible controversial topics and discuss
them openly.
 Create classroom lectures and assessments that contain
cultural references that all students will recognize.
Getting Acquainted
“Positive relationships lead to lower levels of alienation and
higher retention and graduation rates” (Loevinger, 1995).
 Require office visits at beginning of the semester and later
if possible.
 Give journal or discussion board topics that allow students
to reveal themselves.
 Offer opportunities for collaborative group work.
 Identify learning styles and background experiences.
Creating a Safe Environment
 Syllabus statements establishing expectations of
classroom interactions
 Class rules co-created with students.
 Not allowing biased or hostile comments.
 Dealing with them if they are made.
Acknowledging and Confronting
 Be aware of current events that may affect your students
and the classroom environment. (ex: VT shootings, 9/11,
 Anticipate possible sensitive topics. (Should Huck Finn be
sanitized of the N-word?)
 Discuss them prior to beginning the formal instruction.
 Revisit topics at the end of lessons, if applicable.
Inclusive Lectures & Assessments
 Assess your lecture notes and tests for any cultural references
that may be confusing, offending, or out of date. (Irish mist—
sounds like a tasty drink here, but in Germany, the word mist
means manure; red hearts—a sign of love here, a sign of death
in South Korea.)
 Be willing to explain references if students need explanations.
 Be aware of body language (pointing with your index finger and
prolonged eye contact can be offensive to some cultures).
 Reevaluate lecture notes and assessments on a regular basis.
Things to Avoid
 Avoid making assumptions about your students.
 Avoid creating assignments that force students to reveal
personal issues (instead, these kinds of assignments may
be offered as one choice among others).
 Avoid asking any student to be a “spokesperson” for his or
her cultural group.
 Avoid focusing on any single student or group of students.
Constant Monitoring & Updating
 Be flexible in your teaching methods.
 Vary students’ opportunities to participate.
 Consider videotaping your classroom presentations and
allowing a colleague to evaluate your performance.
 Get feedback from students throughout the semester.
Are there any questions or
comments about the ideas or
information covered in the
 Loevinger, Nancy. (1994). Teaching a diverse student body:
Practical strategies for enhancing our students’ learning.
Retrieved from the University of Virginia, Teaching
Resource Center:
 UNC Center for Teaching and Learning. (1997). Teaching
for inclusion: Diversity in the college classroom. Retrieved
 Vedantam, Shankar. (2005, January 23). See no bias.
Washington Post. Retrieved from
Links to More Information
Testing yourself for hidden bias:
Project Implicit:
Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”:
How to identify hidden bias in tests:
Washington Post article about Hidden Bias and Implicit Awareness
Optical Illusion related to hidden bias: