“IN THE THICK OF IT” – Diversity and Inclusion in the Higher Education Classroom
When Lizzy attempts to lead her undergraduate biology section, she has trouble managing the diverse needs of her students. Ryan seems bored and uninterested; Jasmine is afraid to speak up for fear of being wrong; Andres struggles to speak English, relying on his friend Mari to interpret for him; Olivia has moderate hearing loss and loses focus when she arrives late and can’t find a seat up front; AJ is a fast-paced bio wiz who dominates discussion; Brandon needs additional time to process information but has not shared details of his learning needs with with Lizzy, who assumes he doesn’t understand what’s going on. This scene illuminates issues related to unconscious bias, language barriers, learning styles and disabilities, assumptions, inappropriate comments, differences in personality and experience, and other barriers to creating a safe space for participation.
Primary Questions Explored Through Facilitation:
- How do diversity issues (race, gender, culture, language, disability, etc) affect the classroom environment?
- What assumptions do we make about others based on race, gender, sexuality, culture, etc., and how do those assumptions affect our behavior?
- What is unconscious bias?
- How does empathy impact our teaching skills?
- What can we do to promote inclusivity and encourage participation?