Teaching and Learing at Indiana University Bloomington
Teaching and Learing at Indiana University Bloomington
Teaching and Learning at IUB
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Handbook Table of Contents > Creating a Positive Environment > Diversity

Indiana University Teaching Handbook


Other Resources on Diversity

Adams, M. (1992). Cultural inclusion in the American college classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 49, 5–17. 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, 71–85. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chism, N. (1994). Taking student diversity into account. In W. J. McKeachie (Ed.), Teaching Tips (9th ed., pp. 223–237). Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company.

Davis, B. G. (1993). Responding to a diverse student body. In Tools for Teaching (pp. 29–60). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schmitz, B. (1992). Cultural pluralism and core curricula. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 52 (61–69).

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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.

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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 settings—at all levels—is 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.

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:

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:


The following links will take you to additional readings & resources associated with this general section.

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.

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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 Sarkisian’s Teaching American Students (1990), several international teachers offer the following insights to beginning teachers:

Sarkisian’s 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 Nyquist’s Preparing the Professorate of Tomorrow to Teach, are both available for your use at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Franklin Hall 004.

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Campus Support on Issues of Diversity

The following offices can provide general information on student diversity:

Commission on Multicultural Understanding
705 E. 7th Street
(812) 855-4463

Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs
Bryan Hall 115
(812) 856-5700

Residential Programs and Services
Community Education Program
801 N. Jordan
(812) 855-1764

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