Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion In Classrooms

Diversity & Inclusivity in the ClassroomOne of the important ways that Cal Poly educators can help all students to be successful is to foster a class environment that is conducive to learning by conveying the instructor's core commitments to inclusion and support of diversity. There are a number of ways to do that, and this page provides a range of resources and ideas to implement them for a collection of approaches. This page will be expanded over time, including access to examples of Cal Poly faculty's methods and recommendations.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Syllabus Statements

Developing a statement for your syllabus is an effective way to clarify, concretize, and share your values regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in your discipline and in your classroom. A syllabus statement should communicate the commitments you will make related to equity and inclusion, the commitments you expect your students to make, how you will collect feedback on inclusion, and the ways you will respond to oppressive comments or actions in your classroom. 

Syllabus statements on inclusion can signal to students how the instructor commits to create the class culture and to conduct the course in inclusive ways. Instructors can highlight their commitments not only at the outset or a course (e.g., the Day 1 syllabus review) but at one or more instances throughout the academic term. Including a statement on how the instructor commits to interrupt racism and other forms of oppression will be useful to return to if such incidents occur in the classroom. Restating personal and professional support for inclusion and diversity would also be timely whenever incidents in class, on campus, or elsewhere might undermine students' sense of inclusion and belonging at Cal Poly. 

Questions for Reflection

Below are a set of reflection questions to consider in writing a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement.  Since every instructor is different, we recommend that you take time to think about the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your teaching prior to writing a statement for your syllabus that reflects your unique thoughts, experiences, and values.  Though a syllabus statement tends to be only about a paragraph long, it should reflect deep and thorough thinking by the instructor. The questions below can be used to jump start your thoughts around diversity, equity, and inclusion in preparation for writing your statement. These are intended as brainstorming questions. After you have worked through these questions, you can then formulate a short paragraph-length statement that summarizes your commitments and approach. (Questions 1-9 below adapted from “Diversity Statement on a Syllabus,” Eberly Center, Carnegie Melon University).

  1. How do you, concretely, recognize and value diversity in your classroom? (For instance, do you have systems in place to ensure everyone's voice will be heard? Do you use a variety of examples to illustrate concepts? Do you have guidelines for respectful discussions?)  

  2. How can diversity – as represented in your discipline, course content, and classroom – be an asset for learning?

  3. How will issues related to diversity arise in your course and classroom? And, how will you handle them (ideally) when they do? (For instance, does your discipline or course content explicitly or implicitly raise sensitive or controversial topics related to diversity and inclusion? How might students from different social and cultural backgrounds respond to disciplinary norms?) 

  4. How will you seek input from your students on classroom climate (i.e., to what extent they feel included and how)? 

  5. What relevant resources exist on campus that could be useful to your students? 

  1. How does your statement articulate to your students why being inclusive matters to you, specifically, and how that relates to your discipline, course, and desired classroom climate? 

  1. How does your statement reflect your consideration of your discipline’s history with marginalized groups, and how disciplinary conventions might work to facilitate or become obstacles to inclusion? 

  1. Does the rest of your syllabus and course design match your syllabus statement in tone and in terms of your goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion? 

  1. Is your statement inclusive of different types of diversity, including, but not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, and disability? 

Additional Questions to Consider 

  1. What commitments are you willing to make to your students to ensure an inclusive learning environment? 

  1. What commitments will you make to specifically ensuring that students from marginalized backgrounds are supported in your classroom?  

  1. How will you commit to interrupting racism and other forms of oppression in the classroom?  

  1. Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion important in your field?  

  1. What are your specific values around diversity, equity, and inclusion? How do you enact these values in your classroom?  

  1. How do you intentionally ensure equitable chances for academic success for all of your students? 

  1. What role does your respect for and engagement with diversity in the classroom play in your personal teaching philosophy? 

  1. What do you want your students to know about your expectations regarding creating and maintaining a classroom space where differences are respected and valued? 

  1. How do you ensure equitable participation of all students? Do you incorporate any specific guidelines for effective and equitable discussions?  

  1. Do you have specific ways that students can bring up inclusion-related issues to you?  

  1. How do you communicate your own cultural humility and commitment to personal growth as a model for your students? 

Additional Resources

Here are links to resources for crafting syllabus statements and examples of syllabus statements. These resources can be used for future syllabi and they can provide language for instructors who wish to verbally re-emphasize these values in their classrooms during a quarter in the wake of disruptive events that may prompt students to question their status.

Here are some ideas for engaging with students in the context of campus, local and national events:

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