Diversity and complexity in the classroom: Considerations of race, ethnicity and gender

TitleDiversity and complexity in the classroom: Considerations of race, ethnicity and gender
Publication TypeWeb Article
Publication or Completion (TAR Project)1993
AuthorsDavis BG
Access Year2006
Access DateJune 1
KeywordsAdvising, assessment, Class discussion, Classroom climate, Communication, Course content and curriculum, Diversity Institute Literature Review, Minorities, University climate, Women
SummaryInstructors who wish to be aware of race, ethnicity and gender issues in the classroom will find this article, from Tools for Teaching, a good place to start. The author presents a series of points for consideration during all phases of instruction, from advising to classroom conversation, course content, and exams.
Extended SummaryAlthough legally, universities can no longer exclude people on the basis of their race or gender, female students and students of color often report feeling unwelcome, ignored in class, or otherwise treated with disrespect. In many of these situations, the professor does not notice what is going on -- or is not sure what to do about it. This article is a guide for the well-intentioned instructor who wants to learn more about teaching an increasingly diverse college population. Stereotypes are common in our society and persist in the assumptions that we may make about students. Do we call on female students less often in math and science classes? Do we ask less challenging questions to non-native English speakers? Do we assume that certain students are "there because of affirmative action"? Do we assume that a student represents and can speak for his or her entire ethnic or cultural group? Do we assume that none of our students are first-generation college students or that all of them are heterosexual?Assumptions and misunderstandings can influence the way that we treat students academically as well as interpersonally. Language differences may lead to miscommunications or errors in grading. Low expectations can be as damaging to students as insensitive language, although more subtly. These reduced aspirations for students can manifest as "easy" grading, condescension, or surprise when a student performs well.There are many ways to make courses more inclusive. Besides encouraging dialogue on diversity, class participation, and a diversity of opinion, the curriculum can be made more representative of society in general. In this way, diversity can be integrated thoroughly into the course material. Connecting students with each other and with faculty strengthens their support systems. Also, assignments can take into account the varying cultural background and interests of students and can encourage them to explore others' perspectives.