Embracing Diversity with Asset-based Pedagogies

Embracing diversity, realizing equity, and promoting inclusion in online courses requires careful attention to pedagogy. CETLOE’s Diversity Readiness Suggestions Checklist offers DEI-related suggestions grounded in asset-based pedagogy.

Elements of an Asset-based Approach

An asset-based engagement model views diversity as a potential to channel rather than a problem to overcome or avoid. To achieve this goal, we suggest the following:

  • Encourage students to think about their characteristics, skills, values, or roles they view as important
  • Encourage students to think of themselves in ways that reduce the salience of a threatened identity
  • Allow students to apply their learning to real-life situations and to consider how their life experience and knowledge gained in the course will integrate into their future careers
  • Show video clips and/or use case examples of peers and/or local community using knowledge or skills relevant to the course to address real-world problems
  • Allow students to apply course concepts to contemporary social problems by participating in relevant internships and service learning programs

Personalizing a learning community starts with recognizing that the heart of the learning experience is the learner. We are not creating an assembly line with students as unfinished goods; instead, we are working together in community to help students contextualize and shape their own perspectives and goals within a larger social and academic milieu. To achieve this goal, we suggest the following:

  • Get to know your students, their individual perspectives, skills, experiences, and ideas that they bring into your course
    • Ask students to complete a survey that asks about their prior educational and life experiences relevant to the course
    • Incorporate learning spaces that are driven by student voices (special forum using videos, pictures, text)
    • Provide multiple options and opportunities for students to reflect on the course and give you feedback on the methods and strategies used in the course. Encourage students to propose alternatives, and consider implementing their suggestions.
  • Incorporate testimonials from diverse professionals or college graduates that highlight how overcame obstacles and achieved educational or career goals

An asset-based model is incomplete without directly addressing the ways that myriad voices have shaped our culture and our many fields of inquiry. Instead of inclusion for inclusions sake, asset-based approaches seek to represent the full conversations that have shaped our current understanding. Often, positions or understandings that seem natural and static are actually points in an ongoing evolution of ideas and the result of deliberations that have been shaped by asymmetrical power dynamics. To achieve this goal, we suggest the following:

  • Communicate that racial/ethnic, cultural, gender,age, social class, and other kinds of human difference are important and valued
  • Include reading material that demonstrates the contributions of diverse scholars and/or relevant community organizations

Through dialogue with people of many perspectives, our empathy grows and our perspectives become wiser and more integrated. To achieve this goal, we suggest the following:

  • Model openness to the new ideas and questions your students bring into the course. Help students understand that knowledge is often produced through conversation and collaboration among disparate points of view
  • Consider your diverse, eclectic experiences & biases when preparing course materials & interacting with students
  • Include material authored by people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives
  • Solicit different points of view that relates to students’ diverse backgrounds
  • Use examples encompassing different perspectives, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, age groups, religions and abilities to make the students feel more comfortable and validated
  • Show video clips and/or use case examples that illustrate the educational value of exploring a diverse array of experiences

Students may come to our classes with deeply personal beliefs and experiences that make it hard to process and understand contradictory points of view. As educators we have the wonderfully tricky responsibility of celebrating diverse ways of thinking and being while evaluating students according to how well they understand concepts, theories, and methods of inquiry central to our disciplines. To achieve this goal, we suggest the following:

  • Design assignments that prompt students to experience diversity firsthand. Encourage or assign students to take part in on and off campus or online events to experience perspectives different than their own, volunteer at an elder community, homeless shelter, community youth programs, etc.)
  • Provide students a variety of project and assignment choices. Allow students to choose project topics and/or ways of completing assignments (written vs oral; individual vs group assessment, text vs video)
  • Ask students to reflect on how their diverse knowledge and unique life experience impacts their learning
  • Promote fairness and transparency by sharing the criteria you will use to evaluate student work. Provide rubrics when appropriate

Diversity Readiness Suggestions Checklist

This checklist expands on DEI-related items included in the Design Suggestions Checklist. Faculty are encouraged to use the checklist to do their own course reviews. Faculty may also request that a CETLOE design team use the checklist to review their course and offer recommendations.

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