Classroom Atmosphere: Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity

Tapestry

Maintaining a classroom that understands and respects student diversity maximizes student involvement and participation. A tone of inclusiveness will ensure a safe and comfortable environment for student learning. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion provides suggestions, links, and training via workshops and larger programs. For more information on diversity at UCF, click here to download a chapter from Gino Perrotte's Culture and Diversity: A Closer Look at Our World. Additionally, principles of Universal Design for Learning promote accessibility and inclusion of all students.

Classroom Atmosphere

  • Learn student names. When personally recognized, students are more likely to be motivated and interested. Many teachers follow up by learning as much as they can about their students, and relating to them on a personal level.
  • Avoid judging students. Inadvertent judgments discourage students and negatively impact their ability or motivation to learn.
  • Treat students as adults. For obvious reasons, avoid condescending behavior to students, and never humiliate them.
  • Provide encouragement and positive reinforcement. Fostering a positive classroom atmosphere will maximize your students’ ability to focus on learning.
  • Consider adding a diversity statement to your course syllabi.

Managing Your Environment

  • Movement in the Space: Many teachers pace unconsciously when lecturing or facilitating a discussion. Those who don't do it naturally should make an effort to do so consciously; remaining behind a lectern or table might be comfortable for you, but being sedentary decreases student involvement. The more kinetic your classroom, the more engaged students will become. Try to avoid always moving in the space locations. Many instructors move unconsciously back and forth in an "L"-shape; strive instead to cover all parts of the room, even ascending stairs or aisles.
  • Conveying Information through the Space: Write legibly, and write large enough that students in the back can read it also. It is usually best to avoid cursive script--write with block letters. Write key terms and concepts on the board you want students to pay particular attention to.
  • Rearranging the Space: Many students learn better when positioned in configurations other than the standard rows associated with lecture. Instructors in rooms with moveable desks often ask students to shove desks together to form groups, or alternately to create one giant circle (or semi-circle) with the entire class. Group work can be used to great effect even in traditional lecture classes, and provides an excellent opportunity to interrupt the teacher's lecture once in a while.
  • Technologizing a Space: Relying too much on technologies can create a static environment when there’s little interaction among students and the instructor. Thoughtful integration of technologies, however, can create intimacy and interaction. One way to extend learning outside the classroom is to take advantage of communication technologies such as chat, listservs, email, and discussion boards. Often these technologies can be used to stimulate further discussion of a topic, thereby extending the classroom beyond its four walls.
  • Breaking up the Space: Class sessions longer than an hour might benefit from a pause of five or ten minutes, but the concept of breaks should also be extended to pausing even shorter lectures regularly. Student attention wanes after ten minutes, so interspersing activities and frequent changes of direction leads to greatly enhanced student retention.
  • The Timing of a Space: It’s important to consider that the time of the day that your course meets can impact learning in a classroom. Teaching at 8:00 a.m. may require more gateway activities to get students talking early in the morning. In addition, students may be distracted at certain points in the semester, like right before fall break, on Fridays, the week before final exams. You may want to consider your own schedules as well. If a graduate course requires a paper due before midterm, realize that this puts even more pressure on you than in other parts of the semester.

UCF Diversity Initiatives around Campus

Diversity and Inclusion Syllabus Statement

One way to promote a safe and caring classroom community is to encourage each student's unique voice, perspective, and presence. The following diversity statement gives professors language for explaining how students' contributions will be valued:

The University of Central Florida considers the diversity of its students, faculty, and staff to be a strength and critical to its educational mission. UCF expects every member of the university community to contribute to an inclusive and respectful culture for all in its classrooms, work environments, and at campus events. Dimensions of diversity can include sex, race, age, national origin, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, intellectual and physical ability, sexual orientation, income, faith and non-faith perspectives, socio-economic class, political ideology, education, primary language, family status, military experience, cognitive style, and communication style. The individual intersection of these experiences and characteristics must be valued in our community.

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual misconduct, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find resources available to support the victim, including confidential resources and information concerning reporting options at www.shield.ucf.edu and http://cares.sdes.ucf.edu/.

If there are aspects of the design, instruction, and/or experiences within this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or accurate assessment of achievement, please notify the instructor as soon as possible and/or contact Student Accessibility Services.

For more information on diversity and inclusion, Title IX, accessibility, or UCF’s complaint processes contact:

Diversity Resources

Enhancing Education. (n.d.). Checklist: Responding to student diversity. Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/trynew/checklist-studentdiversity.html

  • This webpage provides examples for general student diversity principles and also explains common problems that faculty should avoid.

Gleig, A. (2014). Resources for talking about race, privilege and diversity in the classroom.

Miller, D. (2008). Diversity checklist: Guidelines for course planning. Penn State Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. Retrieved from http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/pdf/DiversityChecklist.pdf

  • This checklist shares tips for faculty members who would like to create a classroom environment that respects diversity. Sample tips include “including a diversity statement in the course syllabus,” “using gender neutral language in lectures, presentations, assignments, and exams,” “do not single out a student to represent his/her group,” and others.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion. (2014). Syllabi examples. California State University, Chico. Retrieved from https://www.csuchico.edu/diversity/diversity-inclusive-teaching/syllabi-examples.shtml

  • This website contains links to syllabus diversity and disability statements as well as example syllabi from different disciplines.

University of Central Florida College of Medicine. (2010). Diversity and inclusion statement. Retrieved from http://med.ucf.edu/media/2011/08/COM-Diversity-and-Inclusion-Statement.pdf

  • This diversity statement applies to the entire College of Medicine, rather than an individual course. It is also longer than a typical syllabus statement, but may be used as the basis for an instructor’s syllabus diversity statement.

University of Central Florida Libraries. (2014). Multicultural resources: UCF organizations & resources. Retrieved from http://guides.ucf.edu/content.php?pid=29957&sid=341341

  • This library guide links to various multicultural groups and services offered around campus, including UCF Multicultural Academic & Support Services, UCF Office of Diversity Initiatives, and more.

University of Central Florida, Office of Diversity Initiatives. (2014). Diversity week 2014: October 13-October 17. Retrieved from http://diversity.ucf.edu/events/diversity-week/

  • This webpage lists the dates of the UCF Diversity Week celebration and links to past years’ diversity week pages.
 

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