8 Oct 2018
Inclusive pedagogy is defined as an approach or a method of teaching in which both instructors and students work together to:
- Create spaces for Instructors and students to have conversations about social and cultural identities, racial discrimination, diversity, and inclusion
- Allow individuals to discuss their life, values and learning experiences without the fear of being judged and mischaracterized wrongly
- Create an environment that supports and facilitates an open dialogue and equal access to learning
- Create courses with contents that takes into account different perspectives, backgrounds, content materials, etc.
- Ensure that learning spaces or classrooms are safe zones where instructors and students can fully participate in discussing issues of race, diversity, and inclusion in a manner that promote thoughtfulness and mutual respect
- Develop inclusive teaching strategies to address implicit bias and to make the classroom more inclusive – by teaching and presenting a wide range of course materials that represent different perspectives, opinions, and social and racial backgrounds
- Have or handle difficult conversations about racism, diversity, and inclusion – including unconscious bias and conscious bias, privileges, institutional barriers, preferential norms and value systems, and their association with people and concepts
- Connect class conversations, debates, and discussions to class materials and learning objectives, including issues of social justice, fairness, and equality.
Inclusive pedagogy must not be limited to diversity by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc., but must incorporate differences in opinions, belief systems, values, norms, and perspectives. Diversity improves decision-making outcomes. For example, research has shown that diverse groups – that is a mixture of different social and racial groups, exchange a wider range of information and are more jolted in cognitive actions than homogeneous groups. Therefore, classrooms that are more diverse may improve the overall situational awareness, understanding of social and institutional challenges, and help in their decision-making through thoughtful consideration of the impacts and implications of their actions and decisions to others.
How Teaching is Done in a Vacuum
Inclusiveness is the acceptance and recognition of our differences. Students and instructors can better learn from the difference among us, especially dissent from people who are different from us. In academia, we must move beyond the conscious bias and address issues of lack of inclusion in our teaching or course narratives. In some field that greatly impact public policies – like urban planning and policy, the acute lack of diversity in the ranks of faculty in universities is a major concern and challenge in terms of the voices that are heard, the people who advocate policies, the impact of such policies on the minority population. For the most part, many universities are training urban planners and policymakers with little or no understanding of issues of social justice, and/or without the experience of diversity from a variety of perspectives. Course material tells stories from the lenses of white men in power.
While much has been written and said about diversity in education, not enough has been done to address the gaps in our educational and social institution to make a meaningful difference in building more inclusive and diverse communities of learning. In fact, we know the problems. However, recognizing and discussing the diversity or racial issues is just one step. To effectively address issues of diversity in education, we must start by dismantling erroneous assumptions about diversity, race and inclusively on how we educate citizen and influence culture. One way to do this is to make our course syllabus and materials more inclusive of different perspectives. Hiring diverse faculty, recruiting students from different backgrounds to make our classrooms reflective of our streets and communities.
Perhaps, more importantly, inclusive pedagogy involves the recognition of our subconscious behaviors and how that influences our decision-making in different ways. As Shankar Vendantan stated in his piece on the Hidden Brain, our unconscious biases play a role in our decision-making, may sometimes lead to unconscious racism, and does affect our moral judgments. Teaching students to recognize their own biases is important. Biases – whether unconscious or conscious can significantly influence someone’s attitude and judgment. Our judgment is a product from accepted cultural norms, our experiences, and upbringing.
However, we can still unpack negative or stereotypical assumptions about race, diversity, and judgments with the right kind of exposure to differences – that is, social or racial exposures. Differences in classrooms, course contents, the friends we make, the people we collaborate with, etc. may enable us to unpack wrongful assumptions and speak up when the occasion arises.
Why We Need Diversity and Inclusion in Our Classrooms and Universities
While we can all agree that discussions about diversity can be difficult, it is nonetheless important to have these discussions. As Katherine Phillips noted, there is value in diversity. It enhances creativity, allows for alternative viewpoints to be considered, and improves informational exchange by the mere expectation that consensus will take effort. Including seeking solutions from different perspectives and exposure to a diverse team. Phillips argues that by leveraging their unique dimensions, information, and experiences, groups that are racially diverse significantly outperformed groups with no racial diversity. From this aspect, student and faculty alike can always benefit from class diversity.
While some of the lectures, discussions and/or the professional bonds and friendships we form in the classrooms do not provide ready-made answers to issues of diversity, those exposures may allow us to be able to ask questions that may impact decisions or policies.
It is true that discussions about diversity can be difficult. As Katherine Phillips puts it, discussions about diversity can be complex and challenging. Dismantling racial stereotypes requires the examination of current systems – including rules, policies, procedures, and norms/customs that have governed specific subjects areas. Introducing diversity can have the opposite effects. If not well articulated and planned, discussions of diversity can lead to anxiety and conflicts in the classroom and may lead to less cohesion, discomfort, lack of trust and respect, interpersonal conflict, etc. As was noted in the Heineman Podcast – On Dismantling Racism in Education, One way to improve and ease the discussion about diversity is to encourage consideration of alternatives even before interactions start to take place. Another way is to create safe zones to encourage conversations about race and diversity, and to answer discomforting questions race and inclusion.
All in all, social or racial diversity is a hot-button issue that can perpetuate conflicts. But not doing anything about social injustice is a choice for doing nothing. Racial discrimination and issues of lack of diversity are often enabled and perpetuated when we fail to discredit systems that create differences in outcomes. When we benefit from rules or policies that limit how others access opportunities, by implication, we endorse educational structures that are governed by rules, policies, and procedures that are meant to produce specific outcomes without encouraging the consideration of alternatives.
“Diversity is real, inclusion is a choice.”