Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Inclusive Teaching > Diversifying the Curriculum
Research suggests that students benefit from seeing their identities represented in course content. As Christine Hockings (2010) describes, “What knowledge is included in the curriculum, who selects it and why are important questions when it comes to designing inclusive curricula…‘what counts as legitimate knowledge is the result of complex power struggles among identifiable class, race, gender and religious groups’” (23). Geneva Gay, in “Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice” (2018), emphasizes the importance of culturally and ethnically diverse course content, arguing that to empower diverse students, curriculum content “must be accessible to students and connected to their lives and experiences outside of school.”
The choices you make in curating course content can also help to signal role models and authority figures in the discipline. Jenine K. Harris et al. (2020) explore the gender gap in academic publishing and suggest that the issue starts earlier, as part of a “syllabi gender gap.” Students are also more engaged when they can see how the course relates to their own experiences (Olsen, 2021; Stephens et al., 2018).
Chimamanda Adichie (2009) warns us of the danger of singular representations, and urges “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
Susan Ambrose et al. (2010) explain that the most inclusive classrooms have “explicitly centralizing climates.” In explicitly centralizing climates, “marginalized perspectives are not only validated when students spontaneously bring them up, but they are intentionally and overtly integrated in the content. The climate here is characterized by obvious and planned attempts to include a variety of perspectives.”
Reflect on the canon in your discipline and your course content:
Your responses to those questions may help you to identify how you can use your own curriculum and course materials to fill in gaps and represent a more diverse set of perspectives and people.
The following resources can be used to help diversify your curriculum:
Adichie, C. (2009).
The danger of a single story. TED talk.
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. Lovett, M.C. and M. K. Norman. (2010).
How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons
Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for Teaching. Second Edition. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Diament, S.M., Howat, A.J., and Lacombe M.J. (2018). Gender Representation in the American Politics Canon: An Analysis of Core Graduate Syllabi. PS, Political Science & Politics. Cambridge University Press.
Hardt H., Kim, H.J., Smith, A.E., P. Meister. (2019). The Gender Readings Gap in Political Science Graduate Training. The Journal of Politics. The University of Chicago Press Chicago, IL.
Hockings, C. (2010). Inclusive Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: A Synthesis of Research. York: Higher Education Academy.
Olsen, K. (2021). Promoting Inclusive Classroom Dynamics in Higher Education. Stylus Publishing.
Stephens, N.M., Brannon, T.N., Markus, H.R., & J.E. Nelson. (2015).
Feeling at home in college: Fortifying school-relevant selves to reduce social class disparities in higher education. Social issues and policy review. 9(1), 1-24.