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Introduction

Starting points of the diversity scan

 

  1. Why is it important to design diversity sensitive curricula?
  2. What aspects of the curriculum are covered in this scan?
  3. On what definition of diversity is this scan based?
  4. How is diversity sensitive teaching and learning related to internationalization?
  5. To which field of studies is this scan applicable?
  6. How does the process of scanning and designing look like in short?
  7. How much time does it take?
  8. Who has to be involved?

 

1. Why is it important to design diversity sensitive curricula?

Diversity sensitive teaching is necessary for all students to develop talents that are important to adequately and ethically function as professionals and citizens in a diverse society. A diversity sensitive curriculum implies that:

  1. Students learn about diversity
  2. Students learn in diversity
  3. Teaching and learning take place in an inclusive learning environment

 

To learn about diversity means that students acquire diversity related competences so they become professionals who are able to adequately and ethically deal with diversity issues that are relevant for their field of studies. Also, it is about mastering generic skills, knowledge and attitudes related to diversity. These are competences that all students, regardless of their field of study, need to acquire, for example the ability to think globally and consider issues from a variety of perspectives, the skills to adequately communicate and work across cultures and the awareness and willingness to reflect on your own social and cultural identity.

To learn in diversity means that students learn from interacting and cooperating in a diverse group of people (concerning gender, cultural background, social status, religion, age, disabilities, et cetera). Diversity within a group of students can be utilized as a potential source of learning, for example by discussing different interpretations of course content or by exchanging different personal experiences related to the topic. It is important to realize that learning in diversity does not automatically occurs when a student group has a diverse composition. It takes effort from teachers to intentionally and effectively make use of the diverse group composition to become fruitful learning moments for diversity.

For all students to feel confident and unthreatened to learn and develop themselves fully, an inclusive learning environment is crucial. This means that students feel at home and are at ease to come up with new and alternative perspectives and experiences, regardless of their background and social cultural identity. The learning environment as a whole has to be characterized by the provision of optimal support to the development of the full potential of all students. The quality of teacher-student interactions and student-student interaction, as well as the type of teaching and learning activities that are arranged, are very important attention points to establish inclusive learning environments.

 

2. What aspects of the curriculum are covered in this scan?

The guideline covers aspects of the curriculum in its broadest sense: the rationale to design diversity sensitive curricula, the exit qualifications and the learning aims of study programs, assessment, curriculum content, teaching and learning arrangements, inclusive pedagogy and teachers qualities. However, this broad view on the curriculum does not necessarily imply that a scan- and improvement process always has to include all these aspects of the curriculum. It is possible to choose to go through the full scan or to focus in the process on one or two aspects that are most urgent in a specific study program or faculty. To decide what are the most urgent aspects, see the tool Quick scan program level.

 

3. On what definition of diversity is this scan based?

An intersectional approach to diversity lies at the basis of this guideline and tools and resources that are part of it. Intersectionality means that somebody’s social identity is not perceived in terms of just one aspect of it (such as gender, social class, religion, ethnicity, sexuality) but that these aspects together shape somebody’s perceived and experienced social identity. All these different aspects coexist, mutually reinforce each other and decide the unique social location that an individual occupies. The broader social environment, characterized by privileging some social identities while opposing others, also influences the way a person experiences his or her specific social location in society. It is not possible to provide diversity sensitive teaching and learning without addressing this complex relation between social identities and the organisational and societal context.

Despite the intersectional approach, you will notice that we sometimes do speak about different groups of students based on one aspect of social identity, for example ‘international students’ or ‘bicultural students’. This is done because it is important to be aware of possible mechanisms of social injustice that can occur in the way teaching and learning are organized and that have impact on specific group of students. However, the fact that we sometimes speak about different groups does not mean that the social identity of individuals in this group is reduced to just this one aspect.

 

4. How is diversity sensitive teaching and learning related to internationalization?

This guideline does include issues of internationalization that are related to the curriculum, because diversity sensitive teaching and learning is also relevant for an international student population. Specific issues where internationalization traditionally is involved with, such as cooperation between universities worldwide to increase the exchange of international students, teachers and researchers, are outside the focus of this guideline. If you are interested in improving internationalization in your study program in a broad sense, see the checklist Program Internationalization by Reeb-Gruber (2009).

For many years, scholars in the fields of diversity respectively internationalization and education worked parallel, but mostly separately from each other. The last decennia they have developed themselves more and more towards each other and nowadays they are involved with similar themes. Fields of study such as multicultural education, intercultural education and culturally responsive teaching are since long investigating diversity issues in education. They originally focused on the consequences of a growing diversity of the pupil and student population due to all kinds of (permanent) migration on how education has to look like in a pluralistic society. Besides looking at the content of the curriculum, these fields of studies also take issues of social justice, emancipation of minority groups, citizenship education and inclusive pedagogy into account.

The focus of the field of internationalization and education was originally mainly on an increase of international exchange of student and staff. An important underlying assumption was that international exchange is relevant for all students to learn about diversity, for international students as well as for the ‘receiving students: they all become part of an international and intercultural environment. Related to teaching and learning, the field of internationalization put a lot of effort in providing study programs in English. However, just the presence of international students and offering courses in English are not sufficient for diversity sensitive education and the aims it strives for. In recent years, scholars in the field of internationalization and education also pay attention to the importance of including international theories and perspectives in the curriculum content and to efforts that are required to establish an international community, where students obviously learn from the international environment where they are part of. Scholars are nowadays involved in similar themes as in the fields of multicultural, intercultural education, such as offering an inclusive learning environment, to include exit qualifications and learning aims related to diversity and social justice.

 

5. To which fields of studies is this scan applicable?

This guide for diversity sensitive instructional design is developed for bachelor and master programs in higher education, regardless the specific field of study. It has not yet been tried out in all fields of studies but is already applied (on parts or in total) to study programs in the area of Social and Human studies, Medicine, Theology and Religious Studies, Teacher Education, Business Studies and Economics. If you are interested in more information on this topic, then read further for several case studies of diversity scans and designing processes of different study programs.

 

6. How does the process of scanning and designing look like in short?

The process consists of five steps:

Designing and delivering diversity sensitive education is an ongoing process: the findings from the evaluation step give insight into what has been realized and into recommendations for the future. As such, step 5 results into a reconsideration of the rationale to continue to work on diversity sensitive education, which brings us back to step 1.
For scanning and designing diversity sensitive education, it is possible to choose to go through the full diversity scan or to focus in the process on one or two aspects that are most urgent in a specific study program or faculty. To decide what are the most urgent aspects, have a look at the tool Quick scan program level to prioritize aspects for a diversity scan.

 

7. How much time does it take?

The guideline gives a global time indication for every phase of the process. However, the time that is actually needed in practice differs. This depends on the priority that is given to the process, the extent in which staff and students support the process and are involved in it, on organizational requirements and on other processes that relate to the curriculum that occur simultaneously. It is recommended, if possible, to integrate the theme of diversity sensitive education into regular processes of evaluation and redesign of the curriculum.

 

8. Who has to be involved?

The following persons have to be involved in some or all phases of the process:

  • The person who is responsible for the process of designing a diversity sensitive curriculum
  • The head of the unit of the study program that is involved in the scan and redesign (a whole program, one year, a minor, etc.). This has to be somebody who is in the position to take decisions about changes in the curriculum.
  • Teaching staff and course coordinators
  • Students
  • An expert on diversity and education (to adequately guide and support the content of the process).

 

In many cases, the majority of these different positions are already united in the Educational Committee of a study program, which makes this an adequate group to take the lead in the process. It depends on the intended scope of the scan and design activities who exactly has to be involved in which phase. For example, is it about two or more courses that are thematically connected, about a full year, or about a study program as a whole? This decides which members of the teaching staff, students, experts et cetera have to be involved.

 

Let’s go to the first step!