Teaching & Learning in the Diverse Classroom

As Michigan's only urban research university, Wayne State University (WSU) is a culturally pluralistic community of students, staff, and faculty.  The Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) joins with WSU instructors and students to create and sustain inclusive learning environments where everyone can be successful.  In addition to course-based consultation services, we collaborate with faculty, departments, and colleges on diversity-related systemic change efforts.

The OTL has compiled resources on student diversity to help instructors prepare for teaching at WSU.

At a national level in higher education today, we're more conscious of the impact well intentioned and conscientious instructors can have in setting up a multiculturally inclusive classroom environment.  Two concepts, implicit bias and stereotype threat, are particularly pertinent to this discussion. 

Implicit Bias is subconscious thinking that stems from learned associations.  Often our judgement can have errors, most of which are unintentional.  Instructors can make conscious decisions to attenuate the negative effects of their implicit biases.  For example, ask students to write their WSU Access ID on assignments rather than their names.  This way, you're more objective about giving feedback and less influenced by your conventional thoughts on gender, race, and prior achievement.         

To learn more about implicit bias, view these resources:

Stereotype Threat involves hidden or overt biases that can cause added stress on members of underrepresented groups (i.e., groups with negative stereotypes) which, over time, undermine the performance, motivation, and health of the students.  Various stimuli can trigger the stereotype threat in at-risk students, for example, a single female student in an engineering class may have thoughts of inadequacy because the environment is predominately males.  These feelings could inhibit her from performing up to her fullest potential because, stereotypically, engineering is predominately men and that stereotype is constantly, unintentionally reinforced by her surroundings.  However, instructors can design interventions into their courses to help alleviate stereotype threat in their classrooms.

To learn more about stereotype threat and what you can do to avoid it in your classroom, view the following resources: 

More strategies for addressing implicit bias and stereotype threat are explored in the Creating and Sustaining Student-Centered Classrooms section.