Embedding diversity into the curriculum
So after a year of research work exploring students understandings of diversity in their (psychology) degree, I ran a workshop, intended for academic staff, to consider how diversity could be better embedded within the curriculum.
Because let's be honest, on the whole, a really poor job is being done. Diversity really has become something of a 'buzzword', and pretty much a tick box exercise for senior management (not just in academia, but across the job market) to show how they are taking the issue 'seriously'. As reported in The Times Higher, diverse representation is poor at the higher levels. They state how there is a struggle to recruit 'diverse talent' at this end. The talent *is* there, but maybe they don't look the same as all of the previous 'talent' they've recruited. In addition to this, we know there are barriers to opportunities facing those from minority backgrounds, those subtle (and not so subtle) biases. Relating this to the student population, the diversity that there is (we won't talk about Oxbridge today), it's perhaps clear why they do not see themselves represented in their courses, given who runs them.
I'm not saying that all people are ignorant here. You really do have to push (and continually push back) for change.
So on a small scale, here is where my workshop comes in.
Based on the research Tanya, Rose and I did over the last year, I really wanted to use this workshop as a way of opening dialogue about diversity, and really get people to question their own assumptions and biases. I have to say, some of the conversations we had in that room where great. It's clear that those who attended wanted to see change, otherwise they wouldn't be there. We talked about disability and accessibility in purpose built buildings, we talked about language barriers that often go unaccounted for, and also cultural differences in expectations around teaching. But we also talked about the difficulty in making change (I *always* refer to Sara Ahmed for this - you highlight the problem, you become the problem), the seemingly insurmountable amount of things that need to be done, pitted against the inconceivably little time we have to attend to those things that need to be done. Academics are stretched for time. They don't have time to think about how to teach things differently, or how to address someone in a more 'PC' way (as was brought up). But why should this be used as a reason to keep things the way they always have been?
To create change is to make change. Even the *simplest* of things.
What does the reading list look like? What is the make up of the authors?
How do you refer to a group of students? Neutrally? Or with 'guys and girls'?
Do you have transcriptions / captions for videos?
Where does the research being discussed come from? Are there non-western alternatives?
This is clearly not an exhaustive list. And there is much, much more to be done. But these little things trigger conversations, between staff members, between students, between staff and their students, and the ripple effect continues.
The conversation will continue. I've just been awarded the University of Northampton Institute for Learning and Teaching Fund for 2018-19, to continue work into diversity in the academy. Stay tuned.