Preparing to Teach

8 Diversity and Inclusion

Jeremy Waisome, Ph.D.

What is an inclusive environment?

A space where all students can:
  • Freely express who they are, their opinions, and their point of view
  • Fully participate in learning, teamwork, and all classroom activities
  • Feel safe from abuse, harassment, or unfair criticism
  • Feel valued and supported by their instructor and classmates

How can you create a friendly and welcoming learning environment that challenges and motivates students to learn and grow? Inclusive language paired with in-class actions that demonstrate your support and acceptance of diverse backgrounds and skills.

Examine your assumptions

  • We all have biases!
  • Become aware of your assumptions and work towards replacing them
  • Not everyone attending your course has similar backgrounds
  • Avoid assuming student performance is evidence of “natural” ability

Avoid stereotypes

  • Stereotypes are: an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic
  • You must learn to separate individuals from stereotypes

Model Inclusivity

  • Use inclusive language
  • Consider using preferred names/pronouns
  • Try not to use terms like “guys”
  • Model inclusive behavior
  • Ask for multiple responses to a question posed in class
  • Show that mistakes and missteps are valued as opportunities for learning

Diversify course content/activities

  • Use diverse examples
  • Change the names, identities, or ability of the persons used in your examples/case studies
  • Highlight contributions of  scientists/engineers from underrepresented groups in your field
  • Be mindful when selecting groups

Writing a syllabus diversity statement

A diversity statement should express your core values of inclusion.

A good place to begin is by examining your assumptions. It is common for people to make assumptions, often subconsciously, that may lead to the marginalization of students in our classrooms. This is called implicit bias. Expectations that students share similar cultural backgrounds, economic privilege, come from traditional families, have parents who attended college, or are heterosexual or cisgender, can make students feel marginalized. It is important to develop an awareness of these biases and to replace them with inclusive language and behavior.

Example Diversity Syllabus Statements were borrowed from the American Society for Engineering Educations Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion found here.

Example 1:

I consider this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect, and I welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, national origins, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, ability – and other visible and nonvisible differences. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment for every other member of the class.  

Example 2:

I am committed to creating an inclusive environment in which all students are respected and valued. I will not tolerate disrespectful language or behavior on the basis of age, ability, color/ethnicity/race, gender identity/expression, marital/parental status, military/veteran’s status, national origin, political affiliation, religious/spiritual beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or other visible or non-visible differences.

Other Statements to Foster Inclusivity:

  • Safe Zone Statement – for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in STEM – Learn More Here
  • Preferred Name/Pronoun Statement

Additional Resources:


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UF Instructor Guide by Jeremy Waisome, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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