Indiana University Teaching Handbook
- Other Resources on Diversity
- Assisting Students with Disabilities
- Teaching with Student Diversity in Mind
- Accommodating Religious Observances
- Cultural Differences for International Instructors
- Campus Support on Issues of Diversity
Other Resources on Diversity
Adams, M. (1992). Cultural inclusion in the American college classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 49, 517. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1991). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education: Faculty inventory. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 47, 7185. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chism, N. (1994). Taking student diversity into account. In W. J. McKeachie (Ed.), Teaching Tips (9th ed., pp. 223237). Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company.
Davis, B. G. (1993). Responding to a diverse student body. In Tools for Teaching (pp. 2960). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schmitz, B. (1992). Cultural pluralism and core curricula. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 52 (6169).
Assisting Students with Disabilities
Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the university offers adjustments in both the physical and academic environments. Instructors are encouraged to develop awareness of any special needs their disabled students may encounter. The only evidence of a learning problem may appear in class, so any teacher suspecting a disability should refer students to the appropriate office for consultation. These referrals or any other requests for academic accommodation go to Disability Services for Students at 855-7578. This office also offers resources for learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
Teaching with Student Diversity in Mind
Adapted by permission from Perry and Birdine, 1996
The changing profile of the college student brings people with different aptitudes and experiences into the classroom. The dimensions of student diversity include age, learning style, skill level, cultural background, physical ability, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Not all of these dimensions are of equal importance in a given teaching and learning situation, but we should be aware of ways in which acknowledging student diversity (or failing to) affects our students experiences.
Teaching for diversity means providing a variety of learning activities so that students with different learning styles have a chance to succeed. And it means managing our courses and classrooms so that all students feel welcomed and supported in their efforts to learn. Teaching for diversity does not mean lowering standards or expectations for student performance, but it does mean that some students may need different, or additional, kinds of support to meet high expectations.
Giving All Students a Chance to Succeed
The culture of the college classroom traditionally has favored individual achievement, expository lectures, and learning by listening and reading. Students whose experiences predispose them to nonverbal or visual forms of communication and cooperative, rather than competitive, problem-solving may feel at odds with this culture. To succeed in such a classroom, these students need to master not only the explicit content of the course, but also the implicit, hidden curriculum. Also, the realization is growing that the traditional college culture has not served even traditional students all that well. The recent emphasis on active learning rests in part on the finding that much of what is learned in school settingsat all levelsis forgotten within a few months of the last exam. While some faculty are concerned that using active learning techniques will mean less time to cover content, others have concluded that they want students to master the most important principles, even if it means reducing the number of topics.
The following are techniques that many faculty have found useful in encouraging achievement among students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. Not all are appropriate for every discipline or teacher, but you may find several ideas to try in your next course. These ideas can potentially enhance your communication with students, which is the most effective strategy for addressing issues of diversity in teaching and learning.
- Supplement verbal information with visuals, such as text overheads, films, videos, pictures, and demonstrations.
- Make abstract ideas concrete with examples, illustrations, metaphors, anecdotes, stories, and personal experiences.
- Ask questions in class and wait long enough to get answers (at least 5 seconds)allow silence.
- Show students how to perform important course skillsmodel the process of analyzing a research report, rather than assume that students know how to do this.
- Use frequent, non-graded assessments of student learning and attitude (e.g., minute papers, class climate survey, collecting lecture notes).
- Have extra sessions on note-taking and effective study practices.
- Have exam review sessions outside of class time.
- Ask students who do poorly on the first exam to meet with you individually.
- Encourage students to use campus tutorial, study skills, and writing services.
- Help students learn by doing, not just by listening and reading.
- Use discussion (whole-class or small-group), as well as lecture; be sure all students have an opportunity to participate.
- Provide students opportunities to write or solve problems in class.
- Use simulations, role-playing, games, case studies.
- Provide frequent out-of-class writing assignments, problems, or projects; give prompt feedback.
- Consider alternative forms of student assessment such as portfolios, journals, and learning contracts.
- Provide for collaboration, as well as individual achievement.
- Use brief, well-structured small group tasks in class.
- Assign out-of-class group projects.
- Organize or encourage student study groups out of class.
- Organize discussion sections into smaller groups.
- Personalize the course for students.
- Learn and use students names.
- Come to class early and stay after to talk to students.
- Meet as many students outside of class as possible (e.g., office hours, informal gatherings, etc.).
- Try to find out about students learning styles, interests, and backgrounds at the start of the course.
- In large classes, find ways for students to get to know one another.
- Provide options on projects or papers that let students pursue individual interests.
- Provide extra material or exercises for students who lack essential background knowledge or skills.
- Recognize that not all students seek advice and guidance when needed; be prepared to reach out to those who might not otherwise seek help.
Facilitating Discussion of Sensitive Issues
In many disciplines, the discussion of race, culture, gender, and/or sexual orientation in relation to social issues is an appropriate part of the curriculum. However, faculty and students are often uncomfortable addressing such issues, fearing embarrassment or conflict. Techniques that may help overcome these barriers include:
- Start with less controversial topics before tackling more sensitive ones.
- Set ground rules for class discussion, based on an agreement to honor each others differences and experiences.
- Acknowledge that a certain amount of conflict may be necessary for the learning process.
- Use role-playing or debates to help students see how others might perceive an issue differently.
- Have students respond to controversial statements posed by the instructor.
- Ask students to complete anonymous in-class surveys on controversies; use data from the surveys as the basis for discussion.
- De-personalize a students biased or inflammatory remark before continuing (e.g., Thats something that a lot of people believe . . . . Why might someone think that way?).
- Identify the issue that is the source of controversy and make it an analytic question; ask for evidence.
Creating a Welcoming Classroom Climate
Students whose backgrounds differ from the majority may feel excluded from the teaching-learning discourse. Here are some ways that faculty can help all students feel welcomed in their classrooms:
- Discuss classroom etiquette and expectations on the first day of class.
- Avoid language that may be offensive to some groups (e.g., Oriental for Asian Americans).
- Invite all students to let you knowbefore or after class, by phone, by e-mail, etc.of anything that they feel adversely affects their interactions with the teacher or other students.
- Try to avoid examples and anecdotes that may inadvertently and consistently exclude some students. For example, in comments about students social lives, dont always assume a heterosexual orientation.
- Avoid stereotyping students (e.g., the male athlete as a dumb jock). Even positive stereotypes (e.g., the Asian American math whiz) may be problematic if they cause a student to feel that expectations are unrealistically high.
- Avoid tokenism. Dont assume, for example, that a student who uses a wheelchair can represent the views of all Americans with disabilities.
The following links will take you to additional readings & resources associated with this general section.
- Annotated Bibliography on the Multicultural Classroom: The IU Libraries maintain a Web site related to multicultural outreach programs, services, and resources at: http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=1273.
- COMU Resources: The Diversity Education Resource Guide, Understanding International Instructors, and Racial/GLBT/Gender Incidents Team reports.
- Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs: Includes Links and Resources on Diversity.
Accommodating Religious Observances
When planning courses, it is useful to remember the rich mixture of religious and ethnic groups that comprise our student population. Indiana University students follow many different religious practices; some of them will need to miss classes for observances on which the university remains open.
The IU Religious Observances policy is the result of lengthy faculty discussion about the just and appropriate way to deal with our increasingly diverse student population. The policy attempts to strike a reasonable balance between accommodating religious observances of students and meeting academic needs and standards. This policy requires instructors to make a reasonable accommodation when a student must miss an exam or other academic exercise because of a required religious observance. The policy outlines a procedure that students should follow in requesting an accommodation.A five-year calendar of religious observances is available at http://www.indiana.edu/~vpfaa/welcome/forms.shtml#religious.
Cultural Differences for International Instructors
Adapted with permission from Unruh, 1986
Teachers are respected as authority figures in most countries, but the way an authority figure actually behaves differs from country to country. American university teachers may have different expectations of how students should do their work than do university teachers from many other cultures. There is often a difference in emphasis on how much teachers tell their students and how much they encourage students to learn on their own. This affects the kind of homework, the type and extent of classroom discussion, and the style of papers and examinations that teachers and students expect. Reconciling these expectations with experiences at home is an example of the additional challenge faced by international instructors.
In Sarkisians Teaching American Students (1990), several international teachers offer the following insights to beginning teachers:
- Create a friendly atmosphere by introducing yourself: at the beginning
tell your students that your native language is not English (even if that
is obvious). Urge your students to ask you right away if they hear a word
that they do not understand.
a faculty member from Latin America
- Be prepared for the informality of American students, but do not
interpret it as a lack of respect for you. Do not take their manners (or
lack thereof!) as a personal insult. And do not confuse their casual manner
with a casual attitude towards their work and, more particularly, their
a faculty member from Europe
- Begin by telling your students (with a sense of humor) that you
understand how worried they are to have a foreign [instructor]. Laugh
together with them . . . . Be relaxed and try to break the ice. Get them
to see you as a human being and not a strange-looking, odd-sounding person
from far away.
a teaching fellow from Europe
Sarkisians Teaching American Students: A Guide for International Faculty and Teaching Fellows and another good source of information on dealing with these challenges, Section IV of Nyquists Preparing the Professorate of Tomorrow to Teach, are both available for your use at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Franklin Hall 004.
Campus Support on Issues of Diversity
The following offices can provide general information on student diversity:
Commission on Multicultural Understanding
705 E. 7th Street
Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs
Bryan Hall 115
Residential Programs and Services
Community Education Program
801 N. Jordan