A culturally inclusive class is one in which students acknowledge the value of diversity to enhance the overall learning experience. A culturally inclusive learning environment helps all students, regardless of gender, age and ethnicity, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and political opinions cultivate interpersonal relationships and develop adequate intercultural competence. Study Crumb offers helpful strategies to create an atmosphere in the classroom marked by cultural diversity, respect for each other, and an understanding of diversity.
Strategies, Tips, and Great Practice Examples
Engage in Positive Interactions with Students
- Create the introduction process and a “meet-and-greet” process that enables students and teachers to learn about other students’ cultures and the range of experiences available inside the class (e.g., games to break the ice during the first week of the semester). For instance, you could consider the idea of a “name activity” that encourages students to discuss their name’s meaning, how they got the name, and what it signifies. This could help increase student interaction and spark discussion about society’s diversity.
- It is essential to acknowledge similarities and discover the differences among students.
- Promote information and computer technologies as an accessible way to interact with students, especially electronic bulletin boards, course mailing lists, and other online media.
- At the beginning of every semester, you should provide students with information on your teaching method and instructional style, maybe on slide decks for the lecture or your website. Include information about your culture and any intercultural learning, teaching, or research experiences you’ve shared.
- Let your students know that you want to understand the cultural differences and to be aware of your own values, assumptions, and beliefs that are influenced by the diversity of cultures. This will convey to your students that culture is respected and valued inside the class.
- Give opportunities to your students to get to know you informally. Between lectures and tutorials is an excellent time to do this.
- Try to find something different about every student. Even though this can be difficult in extensive tutorials and classes, exercise like the “name activity” mentioned earlier will help you in this area. Use positive nonverbal behaviors (e.g., welcoming eyes, facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and physical distance) to make sure you can be a good friend to students.
Use the appropriate mode of address
- During one-on-one interactions, you should inquire about the name or form of address students would prefer.
- In discussions with students, address students’ names as frequently as possible.
- Proper spelling of a name is crucial since it displays the awareness of culture and respect. Be aware that if you’re uncertain, consult students.
- Make sure to use inclusive language, which avoids ethnic accents (e.g., “family name” instead of “last name,” and “given” name rather than “Christian name”)
Eliminate Classroom Incivilities
- Set out clear ground rules for the appropriate conduct in classrooms to safeguard from discrimination and prejudice.
o Communicate either verbally or non-verbally your high expectations of showing respect for all students.
o Instruct students to agree to a “code of conduct” and set of discipline measures to deal with inappropriate behavior in the classroom (refer to GIHE documents “Managing Intercultural Conflict Productively”).
- React promptly to any conduct (verbal as well as non-verbal) which could be deemed to be discriminatory, prejudiced, or biased in the sense of discrimination, bias, or prejudice. Do not accept racism, sexism, or other remarks that are offensive to a culture that students make. Discuss Australia’s laws concerning discrimination and the university’s Student Charter.
- Beware of ignoring the individual needs of students. For instance, make sure you won’t be prone to favor one class over the other when responding to questions.
- Beware of stereotypes and preconceived ideas when teaching the course material.
- When discussing information regarding people of different cultures, languages, or minorities, refer to published research and literature findings rather than offering your own personal opinions. Encourage students to use various data sources and evidence to formulate their arguments and critiques.
Facilitate an inclusive and open classroom Discussion
- Ask students questions using open-ended phrases, for example, “Would anyone like to share a different opinion or perspective?”
- Be careful not to single out specific students or place anybody “on the spot”, especially in personal or culturally sensitive discussions. For instance, a student may feel pressured when it is believed that they can speak for all those of their origin. Make sure that students take turns in discussions about controversial issues. For instance, make sure that students have the opportunity to express their personal opinions.
- Ask students what they like to learn and, when possible, consider how you can modify your learning and teaching activities in line with their preferences. For instance, allowing students to write a “self-reflective essay” to explain their learning preferences, making a learning-style assessment, or offering an online forum to discuss how they like to learn freely are great ways to discover the learning styles of your students.