On Diversity and Inclusion

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…

 

 

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5 thoughts on “On Diversity and Inclusion

  1. You mentioned that “efforts in creating inclusive environment have positive academic and health effects for students who have been traditionally marginalized in the educational setting.” I decided to find out more about health effects. Syracuse University’s Counseling Center provides information about the negative health effects that can impact marginalized students. According to its website, “Marginalization can have a negative impact on students’ psychological, emotional and physical health” (SU, n.d.). “Some possible psychological and emotional responses to marginalization include:
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Paranoia
    • Fear
    • Depression
    • Self-blame
    • Sadness
    • Frustration
    • Hopelessness
    • Resentment
    • Powerlessness
    • Self-Doubt
    • Isolation
    • Stress
    • Confusion
    • Feeling invisible or not heard” (SU, n.d.).

    Syracuse University (SU) Counseling Center. (n.d.) Impact of Marginalization. Retrieved from http://counselingcenter.syr.edu/social-justice/impact-of-marginalization.html

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    1. I agree Ernesto, those are negative impacts of lack of inclusive and welcoming environment for students. I think incorporating strategies to create inclusive environment may help us to not only overcome these effects but also empower students mentally and emotionally.

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  2. Thank you for the post! And thank you Ernesto for adding the list of negative impacts of marginalization! I really appreciate the points in this post about the value of students’ backgrounds and the importance, as instructors, of understanding our own biases. And this is definitely a conversation that we need to have and it is a difficult conversation. Do you have thoughts on overcoming that “autopilot mode” and creating those inclusive environments for students? I am excited to continue in this conversation! Thanks for the post!

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  3. Thanks for this blog and additional conversation. I felt most of the emotional states – that Ernesto mentions- when I marginalized in the classroom during these four years at graduate school. And put this my mission as a future faculty to not let anyone feel like I felt in my classes and hopefully create an inclusive environment for my students.

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