Participants in learning environments have been members of society; affected by a variety of factors in society and have been exposed to different sorts of assumptions and judgments. They bring their rich experiences into the environment, unless their background and experiences are acknowledged; the environment may not be welcoming and their learning experience may not be productive.
Diversity and inclusion matters. Katherine Phillips in her article highlights a particular benefit of diversity, informational diversity; the fact that participants have a chance to get exposed to different perspectives and beliefs. Phillips argues that people in an environment, in which they see/consider alternatives, work harder. Georgetown’s Center for New Design in Learning and Scholarship reports that the efforts in creating inclusive environment have positive academic and health effects for students who have been traditionally marginalized in the educational setting.
How can instructor create such an environment? Before making any agenda or action plan, instructor as a member of learning community needs to be aware of unconscious bias. Shakar Vedantam argues that our hidden brain unconsciously and without our awareness contribute in making unsupported judgement about individuals. To overcome this, a facilitator of a learning environment needs to be aware of her hidden brain when it works in “autopilot mode”, as Vedantam calls it. In addition, she needs to be aware that students get exposed to different biases from early ages influenced by family, educational system, media and so on. Her role, then, is beyond creating different sorts of learning opportunities and having different methods of assessment, indeed.
Thinking about different aspects of diversity, the issue of race and racism is perhaps the most difficult aspect that needs to be addressed. On the Heinmann podcast, “Dismantling Racism in Education”, panel members have paid close attention to systemic root of the issue and discuss exclusion of Black and Brown as an intentional problem in the schooling system. We cannot ignore it. Cornelius Minor, one of the panel members invites us to put humanity at center and see individuals’ backgrounds as shared struggle that solidify friendship.
This is not going to be an easy conversation…