Incorporating Diversity

Incorporating diversity into your curriculum may involve including topics of diversity as a learning goal, and critiquing and redesigning your curriculum to accommodate the diverse learners in your course. The techniques below are just a few strategies that instructors have used to incorporate diversity into their courses.

Be Reflective

  • Consider your discipline’s ideologies and established conventions. How might students from different backgrounds think or view knowledge in different ways than you might expect?
  • Let the answers of these questions inform your curriculum choices:
    • What are your own cultural influences and personal ways of teaching and learning?
    • What are your students’ cultural influences and personal ways of teaching and learning?
    • Predict how course content might be alienating to some students.
    • Think about what types of students would do well in your course and why. Are some students advantaged while others are disadvantaged?

Communicate & Model Your Commitment to Diversity

  • Include inclusivity and disability statements in your syllabus.
  • Build a safe space by creating ground rules for classroom interactions and be consistent when dealing with difficult classroom situations. Consider asking students to contribute to ground rules and include them in the course syllabus.

Diversity as a Learning Outcome

  • Include diversity as a learning outcome and make it explicit in the syllabus.
  • Refrain from tagging diversity topics at the end of a unit. Rather, thread these topics throughout the course curriculum.
  • Connect course content to current events or local histories.

Course Materials, Activities, & Assignments

  • Plan your curriculum with universal design principles. For example, present course content both orally and visually.
  • View course materials from multiple perspectives. Ensure they depict people and histories accurately.
  • Include materials that represent various viewpoints.
  • Use a variety of learning activities such as group work, active learning strategies, and reflection.
  • For assessments, allow choice when possible. For example, allow students to choose the topic of a paper or presentation.
  • Ask for feedback on course materials. Consider having students suggest course readings.
  • Design class time for facilitating student discussions that encourage sharing perspectives.

Sample Diversity Statements

From Cornell University’s Faculty Handbook—Disabilities Statement:

Note to students with disabilities: If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, provide (Instructor, TA, Course Coordinator) with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Students are expected to give two weeks’ notice of the need for accommodations. If you need immediate accommodation, please arrange to meet with (Instructor, TA, Course Coordinator) within the first two class meetings.

From the University of Colorado’s Center for Women's and Gender Equity Inclusivity Statement:

The Center for Women's and Gender Equity supports an inclusive learning environment where diversity and individual differences are understood, respected, appreciated, and recognized as a source of strength. We expect that students, administrators, and staff within the CWGE will respect differences and demonstrate diligence in understanding how other peoples’ perspectives, behaviors, and worldviews may be different from one’s own.

Retrieved from:

Some Thoughts on Incorporating Diversity into the Curriculum

“Inclusive faculty transform learning through curriculum content changes (Yuitt, 2003), integrating into the curriculum multiple identity groups (not just black and white) in the form of cultural histories and contributions (Banks, 2007; Chesler et al., 2005; Knight, Dixon, Norton & Bentley, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 2006; Osei-Kofi et al., 2004) and using culturally accurate curriculum books, and teaching tools (banks, 2007; Gay, 2000; Yosso, 2002). They go beyond superficial multiculturalism (Rios, Trent, & Castaneda, 2003) that molds, distorts, and devalues the lived experiences of communities of color by incorporating multiculturalism throughout a course, not just in one lesson or at the end (Stone Norton, 2008; Tuitt, 2003). Furthermore, they review the curriculum for hidden forms of oppression such as stereotyping, inaccurate generalizations, and historical omissions and make appropriate changes (Cochran-Smith, 2003; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 2006). They also recognize students’ personal experiences as worthy knowledge (Elenes, 2006; Gonzalez, 2001; Matusoc & Smith, 2007; Yosso, 2006) and introduce local histories into the syllabi (Danigelis, 1998)” (Salazar, Norton & Tuitt, 2009, p. 215).

“Because we as educators exert a powerful influence over classroom norms, it is important to make explicit those values that are most often implicit and profoundly affect students in our classrooms” (Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009, p. 13).

“...a curriculum that exposes students to knowledge about race and ethnicity acquired through the curriculum and classroom environment and to interactions with peers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the informal college environment will foster a learning environment that supports active thinking and intellectual engagement” (Gurin, Dey & Hurtado, 2002, p. 336).


Brown, Susan C. (2010). Students as cultural beings. In Moira A. Fallon & Susan C. Brown (Eds.), Teaching inclusively in higher education (pp. 17-37). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.

Cohn, Ellen R., & Gareis, John W. (2007). Faculty members as architects: Structuring diversity-accessible courses. In Jerome Branche, John Mullennix, and Ellen R. Cohn (Eds.), Diversity across the curriculum: A guide for faculty in higher education (pp. 18-22). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ginsberg, M. B., & Wlodkowski, R.J. (2009). Diversity & motivation: Culturally responsive teaching in college (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gurin, P., Dey, E. L., Hurtado, S., & Guring, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-366.

Gurung, Regan A.R. (2009). Got culture? Incorporating culture into the curriculum. In Regan A.R Gurung and Loreto R. Prieto (Eds.), Getting culture: Incorporating diversity across the curriculum (pp. 11-22). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Rose, D. H. (2006). Universal design for learning in postsecondary education: Reflections on principles and their application. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19(2), 135-151.

Salazar, Maria D., Norton, Amanda S., & Tuitt, Franklin A. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In Linda B. Nilson and Judith E. Miller (Eds.), To improve the academy (pp. 208-226). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.