Tools for Teaching Diversity

December 17, 2012

The USC Rossier Faculty Council’s Equity and Inclusion Committee is charged with: supporting dialogue with faculty about issues of diversity and equity, and seeking faculty input about new and ongoing priorities; working with faculty search committees to help develop a diverse candidate pool; and assisting the dean’s office, faculty council, and concentration chairs in faculty mentoring.


Welcome to the resources for teaching and learning diversity! This page was developed by the diversity committee of the Rossier School of Education in order to help faculty across all courses and in all programs better teach the concepts of diversity. Diversity is one of the four pillars of our School’s mission and values and is supposed to be integrated across all the curriculum and student experiences. The resources below help faculty in this effort and provide not just readings for course, but also activities and resources to use in classes.

Diversity can be challenging, particularly concepts like privilege, identity and consciousness raising. We provide a focus on challenging topics that emerge and help identify ways to address these challenge areas.

The site is organized so the many facets of diversity can be explored in courses – gender, sexual orientation, race, social class, disabilities and the like. We hope that these varying resources help provide the platform to teach diversity in complex and multi-faceted ways.

We hope this can be a resource for not only the school but also our partners across the globe as they think about and teach concepts of diversity in various disciplines and school contexts.

Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Diversity

Gender Issues

Sexual Orientation


Religious Diversity

Articles related to Teaching Diversity

USC On-Campus Resources

Additional Web Resources

Articles on Teaching for Diversity

Laura L.B. Border and Nancy Van Note Chism,
Editors New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 1992, Volume 49

Adams, M. Cultural Inclusion in the American College Classroom.

The traditional college classroom has a distinct culture that often constrains the success of students from other cultural backgrounds. Traditional culture has remained unnoticed because the mismatch with student’s culture is never identified, and there is a general absence of conscious cultural identity among European American students. The call for multiculturalism depends on faculty’s acceptance and implementation, but it is difficult for faculty to see beyond their own acculturation. A college teacher’s explicit and ongoing attention to the cultural assumptions behind many aspects of classroom teaching will facilitate the learning process for students from all cultural traditions. This does not necessarily mean dismantling of traditional teaching; rather, teachers could incorporate flexible, alternative teaching modes in order to engage the broad range of diverse, cultural derived orientations to learning.

Anderson, J.; Adams, M. Acknowledging the Learning Styles of Diverse Student Populations: Implications for Instructional Design.

Issues regarding teaching effectiveness and excellence are increasingly tied to issues of diversity; therefore, one should be examining the interplay of social and cultural diversity with learning styles, curricular content, and instructional styles. Effective teaching cannot be limited to delivery of information. Studies that have examined different groups’ orientations to cultural values support the contention that non-traditional groups who share common conceptualizations about basic values, beliefs, and behaviors exhibit similar socialized differences and stylistic learning preferences. The authors use, as an example, Kolb’s model of experiential learning to show how teachers can develop a multicultural teaching repertoire that takes into account cultural style differences. While identification of styles with particular social and cultural groups helps alert teachers to important differences, a full range of instructional strategies should be employed.

Border, L.; Chism, N. The Future is Now: A Call for Action and List of Resources.

The authors list programs and contact persons for “train-the-trainer” strategies for multicultural teaching. They also list print and video resources on multicultural teaching in higher education.

Collett, J.; Serrano, B. Stirring It Up: The Inclusive Classroom.

Looking at the experience of institutions where women and minorities have been either the sole constituency or the vast majority provides many lessons in academic success. The greater success of students in these institutions is due to common factors: a supportive atmosphere, respect for cultural identity, high expectations, positive role models, and vigilance against bias. Multicultural education on mixed campuses, on the other hand, is currently failing to address needs of many students. The worst problem is the resistance and inability of predominantly white male faculty to recognize and respect gender and cultural differences among students. In this article, the authors provide a model of cultural continua, with one axis reflecting a continuum of cultural experiences embedded in home culture at one end and mainstream culture at the other end. The cross-axis is a continuum of English proficiency. Understanding in which quadrant a student falls can help teachers adjust their instructional approaches to meet that student’s needs. Faculty can also place themselves along the continua, to become aware of their own cultural embeddedness and move away from it to better communicate with students and other colleagues. The task of progressing to a truly multicultural curricula and classrooms requires institutional and personal transformation because diversity challenges the structure of the disciplines.

Maher, F.; Tetreault, M. Inside Feminist Classrooms: An Ethnographic Approach.

The authors describe two feminist classrooms where the instructors’ and students’ relationship to mastery, voice, authority, and positionality are explored. An understanding of these helped the teachers construct their alternative pedagogies. In the traditional classroom, teachers’ pedagogical choices are the guiding theories and worldview of a particular discipline. However, feminist theorists, as well as postmodernists, argue that truth is gendered, raced, and classed. It is also dependent on context, including the context of the classroom. By addressing issues of mastery, voice, authority, and positionality, each teacher in the two feminist classrooms repositioned the relationships among herself, the students, and the material, away from herself as authority and toward learning as a function of complex interactions among teacher and student voices. These choices had different effects on different students. The authors conclude that feminist approaches to pedagogy provide alternative ways of attending to the multiplicity of student backgrounds and the constantly expanding set of perspectives to contend with and honor.

Sadker, M.; Sadker, D. Ensuring Equitable Participation in College Classes.

Interactive teaching, for all its benefits, has the potential for interjecting subtle bias into the college classroom. Teachers are more likely to interact with white male students than with female or minority students. Boys get more attention because they grab it. Teachers, however, are often unaware of the inequities. Informal segregation, through seating and group work patterns, for example, also intensifies inequitable participation. This is usually done by students, but a teacher rarely intervenes to integrate seating and group work, especially in higher education. Segregated patterns influence the distribution of teacher attention. The authors describe an equity training program for faculty that focused on eliminating inequitable instruction. Some of the strategies they recommend include: (1) objective coding – a frequency count of teacher-student interactions that takes into account race and gender of students whom the teacher calls upon, to see what the distribution of teacher’s attention is; (2) increased wait time; (3) becoming an intentional teacher – engaging the silent students; (4) desegregation of student seating; and (5) use of teaching tactics such as shuffling name cards or moving around the room.

Schmitz, B.; Paul, P.; Greenberg, J. Creating Multicultural Classrooms: An Experience-Derived Faculty Development Program.

Campuses nationwide are struggling to find effective and appropriate responses to diversity in the classroom, with many clinging to the traditional and naïve assumptions that the classroom is a value-neutral space. Because of the differential rates of students’ success in traditional classrooms, however, the issue of classroom climate is raised. The authors state that a multicultural classroom creates the potential for a fully effective learning climate. They describe the development of a program at the University of Maryland at College Park, which focused on the improvement of undergraduate women’s education and of the classroom environment for all students. The authors discuss the assumptions, process, and key decision points that guided the development of their Classroom Climate Project. “Decision Points: included (1) articulating a program rationale, (2) choosing a theoretical framework for development programs, (3) deciding on the content of the development program, (4) deciding on a pedagogical approach and testing the model, (5) developing formats and scheduling, and (6) evaluating the success of the programs. Key components include a needs assessment, program support, resource development, faculty/TA development, and evaluation.

Vom Saal, D.; Jefferson, D.; Morrison, M. Improving the Climate: Eight Universities Meet the Challenges of Diversity.

This chapter presents a survey of eight universities’ programs for helping faculty and teaching assistants meet the instructional needs brought about by changing campus populations. Each institution has made conscious choices about target groups to be covered in sessions designed to increase sensitivity. Most programs emphasize racism and sexism; other issues include homophobia, xenophobia, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, anti-Semitism, and classism. The eight institutions are: University of Colorado-Boulder, Harvard, University of Hawaii, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Ohio State University, Stanford, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The authors stress administrative support for multicultural programs, as the administrator’s commitment inspires participation and interfertilization.

Articles on Promoting Diversity in College Classrooms

Maurianne Adams, Editor
New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 1992, Volume 52

Curtis, M.S.; Herrington, A.J., Diversity in Required Writing Courses.

Today’s challenge, for students and teachers of writing alike, is to construct a social identity on which we can all agree amid a growing confluence of identities, both individual and ethnic. The objective of teaching writing, the author’s state, is for writers to be able to move confidently and thoughtfully through private meaning-making to significant communication with others. In this chapter, the authors describe a multicultural Basic Writing course that they designed, which included significant books by writers from outside of the Anglo American canon. Basic Writing was designed to be more inclusive and student-centered; student writing was the principal activity and student writings the principal texts. The authors comment that in exploring the multicultural content of the works studied, they became conscious of their own interpretive processes, and it was these processes, rather than the interpretations, that they meant to pass on to students.

Hardiman, R.; Jackson, B., Racial Identity Development: Understanding Racial Dynamics in College Classrooms and on Campus.

In recent years, higher education has seen a shift in the evolution of approaches to social diversity on campus. Instead of expecting students from underrepresented social groups to conform to preexisting college norms, faculty and administrators now seem to be open to new perspectives and expectations that these students bring with them to the campus and classroom. Educators are trying to understand how each group views the world as a function of its experiences with social injustice and the influence of cultural orientation. In this syntheses of their work on racial identity development, the authors outline five stages that describe predominant modes of consciousness or worldviews that Black and Whites go through in developing their identities. The authors write that understanding the racial identity development of Black and White Americans assists educators in making informed responses to challenging racial dynamics on college campuses.

Hunt, J.A., Monoculturalism to multiculturalism: Lessons from Three Public Universities.

Comparison of the experiences of three public universities in the northeast and Midwest in changing from monocultural to multicultural campuses suggests intrinsic barriers to change and common elements in organizational and curricular development. Lessons were learned for organizational administration and governance, college environment, and faculty development.

Marchesani, L.; Adams, M., Dynamics of Diversity in the Teaching-Learning Process: A Faculty Development Model for Analysis and Action.

This chapter describes a four-part model of the dynamics of teaching and learning that have particular relevance to social and cultural diversity in college classrooms: (1) Students – knowing one’s students and understanding the ways that students from various social and cultural backgrounds experience the college classroom. (2) Instructor – knowing oneself as a person with a prior history of academic socialization interacting with a social and cultural background and learned beliefs. (3) Course content – creating a curriculum that incorporates diverse social and cultural perspectives. (4) Teaching methods – developing a broad repertoire of teaching methods to address learning styles of students from different social backgrounds. This model can be used by teachers as a framework, organizer, and diagnostic tool for classroom experience. It can also be used as a framework for faculty development workshops, as well as help manage the extensive new literature about multiculturalism in higher education.

Noronha, J., International and Multicultural Education: Unrelated Adversaries or Successful Partners?

This chapter examines fundamental differences between the fields of international and multicultural education. Even with the development of ethnic studies in the 1970s, international education continued to be the accepted and familiar approach to diversity. The author states that this is not surprising, given that international and multicultural education are seen as separate and unrelated to each other. She suggests, however, that there are significant commonalities for cross-fertilization and collaboration. Effective, high-quality teaching for a diverse population, she states, operates on the same principles as good teaching practice for all students. The author outlines several successful strategies in teaching and working with multicultural and international students.

Schmitz. B., Cultural Pluralism and Core Curricula.

Across the country, faculty members are redefining core knowledge and skills to include learning about U.S. pluralism and world cultures and experimenting with new pedagogical approaches that engage cultural multiplicity in effective ways. These changes have not gone uncontested, however. In this chapter, the author explores institutional and conceptual issues central to addressing cultural pluralism in the core curriculum and describes practices that have proved useful to faculty members developing or revising courses or planning new curricula. Some of the curricular solutions that the author describes include: multiple centers, which allow different groups and traditions to occupy the center of attention for specific times, to be studied on their own terms; and new pedagogies (such as feminist and black studies pedagogies) that seek to build on experiences familiar to specific student populations.

Weinstein, G.; Obear, K., Bias Issues in the Classroom: Encounters with the Teaching Self.

Handling intergroup bias issues in the classroom may stimulate instructor anxiety but also provides opportunities for self-understanding. This chapter describes some commonly shared fears that faculty have about intergroup bias issues. These include: confronting their own social and cultural identity conflicts; having to confront or being confronted by their own bias; responding to biased comments; having doubts and ambivalence about their own competency in handling bias issues; needing learner approval; and, handling intense emotions and losing control. An instructor’s ability and willingness to anticipate and monitor her or his intrapersonal dynamics about the teaching situation is a necessary component of classroom preparation. The authors offer some coping strategies and summarize personal attributes of the effective cross-cultural trainer that can be generalized to any teaching role.