Unit I: Diversity and Inclusivity

1.1    Meaning and concept of diversity

1.2    Learner diversity

1.3    Disability as a human diversity

1.4    Diversity for sustainability

1.5    Strength of diversity for inclusivity





















1.1      Meaning and concept of diversity



The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice and by fostering a climate where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic, we will create a success-oriented, cooperative, and caring community that draws intellectual strength and produces innovative solutions from the synergy of its people.

"Diversity" means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference. Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:

Diversity includes, therefore, knowing how to relate to those qualities and conditions that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. These include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, as well as religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, and work experiences. Finally, we acknowledge that categories of difference are not always fixed but also can be fluid, we respect individual rights to self-identification, and we recognize that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another.

Much discussion about diversity focuses on the following forms of marginalization: race, class, gender, and sexual orientation — and rightfully so, given the importance of these forms of difference. In fact, students come to the university classroom with different backgrounds, sets of experiences, cultural contexts, and world views.

Additionally, issues of diversity play a role in how students and teachers view the importance of the classroom and what should happen there. For example, assumptions about what a typical student should know, the resources they have and their prior knowledge are extremely important.

Students may perceive that they do not “belong” in the classroom setting — a feeling that can lead to decreased participation, feelings of inadequacy, and other distractions. Teachers may make flawed assumptions of students’ capabilities or assume a uniform standard of student performance. Teachers may themselves feel out of place based on their own ascriptive traits (i.e. differences based on class, privilege, etc.).

Identifying and thinking through notions of difference and how they affect the classroom allow both students and teachers to see the classroom as an inclusive place. 



1.2      Learner diversity



The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice, and by fostering a climate where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic.

"Diversity" means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference.

Learning Styles:

Psychologists and educators have developed many theories of learning and identified an array of learning styles. Some learning style theories concentrate on the sensory pathways that students use to learn. Other theories focus on the physical environment in which learning takes place. Still others emphasize social interaction as it relates to learning.

While this section highlights some of the characteristics of learning styles, the emphasis is on understanding that individual differences and preferences play an important role in learning. Adding diversity to your teaching will accommodate the learning styles of your students and make your teaching more exciting and enjoyable.

Print learners

Print learners prefer to see the data in print preferably printed in words. When introducing course concepts or the steps of a process, print learners like to read about the information and then study an illustration or other visual aid. Visual learners also benefit from seeing assignments in print.

When presenting key terms and concepts, refer to the textbook and use the textbook examples. Print learners can later go back and study the material.

Consider using handouts and study sheets. Students can also make their own study sheets. Word games can help print learners grasp key terms and concepts.

Visual learners

Visual learners need to ‘see’ the concept. One way for learners to see the idea is through visualization. Discuss basic concepts using an overhead transparency or the board. In addition, ask students to make a mental picture before you write a descriptive phrase or idea on the transparency or board.

Visual aids are particularly important to visual learners. Today’s textbooks are filled with images. For some students, these images are the key to learning; for others, they offer reinforcement. In addition to the visual images in the textbook, overhead transparencies, videotapes, slides, and presentation graphics can all be used to help students visualize concepts and skills. Web sites with rich multimedia components can be used effectively to demonstrate processes or explore concepts.

Demonstrations allow visual learners to see what you are doing as you do it. Manipulatives provide visual cues for all learners, but are particularly helpful to visual learners. Visual learners also benefit from seeing assignments in print.

Videotape a demonstration and offer the tape as a study aid.

Make a point of focusing on charts, diagrams, graphs, illustrations, maps, photographs, and tables while explaining a concept.

Write assignments on the board and remind students to write them in their planners.

Create graphic organizers the help understand the key content of the lesson.


Auditory learners

Auditory learners learn best by hearing. Auditory learners who read a textbook lesson benefit from spoken reinforcement of key ideas. Consider asking other teachers, guest speakers, and family members to address your class. Ask students to summarize their reading as part of discussion activities. Read directions for assignments aloud and be sure to tell auditory learners the steps involved in a new process or procedure.

Develop a vocabulary activity patterned after a spelling bee. This kind of activity offers the added benefits of social interaction, competition, and movement.

Identify steps through lecture or a taped tutorial.

Have students recite steps to each other in pairs or in small groups. In a group of three, for example, each student should get the opportunity to explain the procedure to the other two students. Through this process, each student in the group will explain the procedure once and hear the procedure twice.

Use student oral presentations to help summarize or reinforce key, concept understanding.

Tactile learners

Tactile learners learn best by touching or handling objects. By fourth grade, tactile learners appreciate learning activities that use fine motor skills including writing. Manipulatives are particularly important to tactile learners. They also benefit from participating in hands-on activities, role playing, and creating displays. Tactile learners remember what they did and how they did it; they do not necessarily remember what they saw others do or what they heard.

After demonstrating a procedure to the class, have a student repeat the demonstration. Allow other students to coach the demonstrator.

When activities include taking on roles, repeat the activity until each student has a chance to play each role.

Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners achieve best by taking an active part in classroom instruction. Motion is an important part of kinesthetic learning including motion that is not specific to the learning process. Simply allowing students to move about the classroom can be particularly helpful to kinesthetic learners. For example, walking to the board to work a problem involves the motions required to walk and write.

Design activities that require students to move from station to station within the room.

During some activities, allow students to move about the room to use certain resources for example, a dictionary, pencil sharpener, or sink.

Allow students to use technology tools that are available in the classroom to complete assignments.

Types of Social Diversity on the basis of:

Language: Language is one of the main markers of group solidarity in any society.

Religion: Religion is an important binding force of social integration among individuals and groups.

Caste: Caste is a system of social relations. It is an important feature of Indian society based on endogamy, hierarchy, occupational association, purity and pollution, and inscriptive status.

Tribe: Tribal people are other important socio-cultural groups in India

Gender: Gender is a form of socio-biological difference between man and woman.

India is a land of diversities. Its diversity is expressed in terms of language, religion, caste, tribes and gender. The diversity is a result of both internal differentiation and external influence. The processes of differentiation and unification have been going on simultaneously. The groups that have been differentiated on one social marker may be seen united on others. For instance, the groups which are divided on religious lines such as the Hindu, the Muslims etc. are united in terms of languages, gender etc. Thus 'unity' amidst diversity' prevails in the Indian society. However the balance between diversity and unity is delicate and fraught with several problems. One needs to analyze the power relations between diverse groups.




1.3      Disability as a human diversity



According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 'disabilities' is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. 'Impairment' is a problem in body function or structure, an 'activity limitation' is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action, while 'participation restriction' is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

One of the key trends in the disability rights movement has been the shift towards viewing disability as part of human diversity. More than ever, people with disabilities are taking advantage of opportunities to share their unique perspectives and contributions with society as a whole.


Many organizations are concerned about the cost of making programs accessible to people with disabilities, so incorporating a "disability accommodation" line item into every project and administrative budget is the most reliable way to ensure that resources are at hand. The investment of financial resources represents a critical benchmark of an organization’s commitment toward diversity.


With funding  established, organizations will be able to respond positively and creatively when outreach efforts pay off and an outstanding disabled participant, job applicant, or potential partner comes knocking at the door.


By including people with disabilities, international professionals can diversify their programs and offer life-changing opportunities to a broader population. The world needs all its citizens involved.


There are various ways to interact with and inlcude the Disability Community. While there are several models of disability,1 advancing equity and inclusion particularly requires that we consider and utilize the Social and Human Rights Models of Disability:

·       Social Model: This model “proposes that what makes someone disabled is not their medical condition, but the attitudes and structures of society. It is a civil rights approach to disability. If modern life was set up in a way that was accessible for people with disabilities then they would not be excluded or restricted.”2

·       Human Rights Model: Based on basic human rights principles, "it recognizes that disability is a natural part of human diversity that must be respected and supported in all its forms. People with disability have the same rights as everyone else in society,” and disability “must not be used as an excuse to deny or restrict people's rights.”3

Using both models, we can begin to see people with disabilities correctly: as human. We may start to consider how we can become better allies for Individuals with Disabilities by ensuring that society is accessible. Perhaps you supervise someone with a disability and notice that their equipment is not meeting their needs; you should ask the person what barriers they are facing and work with them to accommodate their needs. The Social Model “does not deny the reality of [disability] nor its impact on the individual. However, it does challenge the physical, attitudinal, communication, and social environment to accommodate impairment as an expected incident of human diversity.”4

Each of us can look at the Human Rights Model as how we interact with and view people with disabilities. In the Human Rights model, we treat people with their basic human rights. This includes a “set of principles concerned with equality and fairness…living a life free from fear, harassment or discrimination.”5 Individuals with Disabilities are recognized and respected as a critical part of diversity. Everyone has many layers to who they are; a person is not wholly defined by their disability. We must ensure that our policies and practices support the Human Rights Model and encourage full inclusion and participation for Individuals with Disabilities.

Practicing the Social and Human Rights Models does not preclude the possible desire for a cure among people with disabilities. Those sorts of desires and decisions are personal and unique to each individual, and they should not dictate how we, or society, interact with this community. While NIH staff might often use the Medical Model of Disability to conduct research, the Social and Human Rights Models represent the ideal and should always be part of the conversation.6 Society should always work to envision and treat people with disabilities as humans—with dignity and respect.




1.4      Diversity for sustainability


The term “sustainability” can be complex and take on different meanings. The most common definition of sustainability comes from the 1987 UN Brundtland Commission:

“Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Here are three reasons why diversity is important to sustainability:

Diversity is embedded in the definition of sustainability

·      Sustainability is both global and local in scope
Environmental impacts are as global as carbon footprint and as local as litter in our neighborhoods. There are so many ways diversity comes into the picture as we think about today’s businesses. From the footprint of global supply chains to multinationals’ locations in communities around the world, companies are intrinsically linked to the people they employ and places in which they operate.

·      Environmental justice and sustainability
The costs and benefits associated with environmental impacts aren’t always equally distributed among people. According to the National Resources Defense Council, people who live, work and play in America's most polluted environments are commonly people of color and disadvantaged communities. Increasingly, businesses have the duty to help reconstruct how resources – and environmental impacts – are shared among communities.

Diversity adds value across multiple perspectives

·      Strength in diverse voices and views
The more representation, inclusion and engagement there is in the workplace, the stronger the outcomes. As the number of diverse stakeholders grows for global businesses, so too does their corporate responsibility team’s need to account for and incorporate these diverse perspectives.

Diversity enriches collaboration

·      Corporations, nonprofits and individuals can partner to better serve communities
When environmental progress stalls at a national level, creative and dedicated partnerships across sectors can step in to fill the void. Bringing together the diversity in opinions, approaches and goals of various organizations and individuals can help bridge the divide at all levels – local, state, national and international. 



1.5      Strength of diversity for inclusivity



An inclusive classroom climate refers to an environment where all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom regardless of identity, learning preferences, or education. Such environments are sustained when instructors and students work together for thoughtfulness, respect, and academic excellence, and are key to encouraging the academic success of all students. Research indicates that many students may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative modes of learning that acknowledge students’ personal experiences (Kaplan and Miller 2007).

Student learning can be enhanced by establishing a classroom tone that is friendly, caring and supportive, and that lets students explore the relationships among course material, personal, and social experiences. Instructors can consider a variety of areas to promote inclusivity, including the syllabus, choices in assigned reading, discussion expectations, and personal style.


·       A thoughtful diversity statement in the syllabus offers support to students by welcoming identities into the classroom, making visible disabilitystudent support, and academic strategy services on campus, and inviting students to share any concerns with the instructor. The instructor also takes time to focus on the diversity statement during the first class meeting.

·       Instructors in the humanities and social sciences explore diverse readings and social examples that engage with often-marginalized experiences. They remain attuned to contemporary political and social issues, and provide opportunities for students to freely share their thoughts and perspectives from all sides, with civility and respect.

·       A course integrates various methods of assessment in order to reflect different ways to demonstrate learning. This approach, while eschewing the notion of learning styles, visibly performs acknowledgement that each student in a class pursues their own learning path with unique struggles and successes.

·       On the first day of class, and / or the first few minutes of each class, an instructor gets to know students, asks what they are thinking, and invites them to contribute their hopes and learning goals for the course or session.


To maintain an inclusive classroom climate, the instructor can:

·       Structure classroom conversations to encourage respectful and equitable participation - Instructors can establish ground rules or specific guidelines for appropriate behavior early in the semester (including confidentiality, respectful disagreement, and civil debate); as a strategy to promote student buy-in, instructors can enlist students to help create and maintain these rules. Alternatively, students might be offered a quiet minute to think of responses to key questions or to write down new questions before responding. Instructors can also establish specific guidelines about how students should signal that they want to speak and contribute to a discussion, and intervene when students violate classroom norms.

·       Use small groups to encourage non-competitive ways of learning and encourage cross-cultural communication - If patterns of seating segregation in the classroom are tied to patterns of nonparticipation, instructors can assign small groups across racial/ethnic or gender lines. If some students are hesitant to speak up in class, they might contribute in small groups first. Instructors should pay careful attention to group dynamics, and intervene if some students become excluded from full participation and/or more assertive students begin to dominate. Beyond classroom strategies, instructors can set up study groups or assign collaborative projects that require meetings outside of class, such as peer editing, group papers, laboratory assignments, or presentations that enable students to work with each other.

·       Anticipate sensitive issues and acknowledge racial, class or cultural differences in the classroom when appropriate - When discussing controversial issues, instructors should expect emotional responses or even conflict. Such emotion is not necessarily negative, unless it makes students unduly upset, inhibits class discussion, or causes students to behave rudely. In such cases the instructor may need to intervene and remind students of the rules for classroom discussion. Establishing shared guidelines can help to mitigate disrespect and hostility, or prevent it from arising in the first place.

·       Model inclusive language - As an element of developing a respectful, inclusive environment, instructors can be aware of the language practices they model. Common beneficial practices include: avoid using masculine pronouns for both males and females; when using American idioms, explain them for the benefit of non-native English speakers; and avoid using falsely inclusive terms or statements like “women” for European or European American women or “all women/men” for heterosexual individuals. To assist in this strategy, instructors can vary the concrete examples and case studies used to include a variety of social characteristics, such as race or gender. 

·       Use multiple and diverse examples - Expanding on the idea of varied examples above, instructors can include multicultural examples, visuals, and materials as much as possible in lectures. These should include multiple perspectives on the syllabus, in class discussion, and in assignments, when possible. If including course material or examples that place a group in the position of an oppressed victim, instructors should be sure to provide examples of empowerment for balance. Other ways to involve multiple perspectives include playing devil’s advocate, engaging in a debate about the possible interpretations of a text, and assigning the work of relevant minority scholars.

·       Personally connect with students - Instructors can use a diversity statement or teaching philosophy statement in the syllabus as a way to welcome all students and model openness and honesty. Extending this policy, instructors should feel free to discuss personal learning experiences and challenges whenever appropriate - studies show that students appreciate and learn from metacognitive moments where they can reflect on their or other peoples’ thinking. Where appropriate, instructors can even encourage students to meet one-on-one during the semester for conversation. 

·       Provide alternative means for participation - To signal awareness of different emotional and social conditions in the classroom, instructors should allow student participation opportunities via online discussions in addition to the classroom. Instructors can also collect journal entries, reading logs, or other reflection pieces, and should avoid a single homogenous strategy for the entirety of term.

·       Respectfully communicate with students - Instructors should take care to pronounce students’ names correctly and in the proper order: this includes not shortening or simplifying a student’s name without his/her clear approval; being aware that some ethnicities may arrange their given and family names in various orders; asking students for their preferred gender pronouns, and avoiding gender binaries by using plurals instead, such as “they” instead of he or she; and being aware of contemporary terms for cultural identities. If unsure of an appropriate address or cultural form of identity, the instructor can ask in a non-threatening context. In contrast, instructors should not ask any student to be a representative spokesperson for his or her perceived group, or look pointedly at or away from these same students when discussing issues of race, class, gender, etc. Neither should they ask or expect students to be knowledgeable about their ethnic heritage, history, language, or culture unless they volunteer such information.

·       Address offensive, discriminatory, and insensitive comments - As part of an inclusive classroom environment, instructors should respect all students’ honest expressions and thoughts. If a student’s response indicates an emotional investment in the subject, instructors should not let other students dismiss their contribution as “irrational” or “unscholarly” reactions; rather, they can address blatantly offensive and discriminatory comments and hold students accountable for their behavior.

·       Perform a Self-Assessment - Instructors can explore any number of teaching inventories to assess habits and classroom practices, reveal gaps in approaches, and consider strategies for revision. The “Downloads” section at the bottom of this page includes an assessment for considering the degree of inclusivity in the syllabus and course design.