This brief guide, written by Dr Mrinalini Greedharry from the School of Management, helps explain what diversifying means in the context of the contemporary university, and offers some practical considerations for how to begin diversifying our teaching and learning environment.
Students across the UK have organized to tell us the current curriculum is a real barrier to their educational success. We want to create learning environments where they can see that people like them are authoritative producers of knowledge.
Colleagues from marginalized constituencies across the UK have written about the difficulties they face in the university when their research is undervalued, under-cited or dismissed. We want to create teaching cultures where the research all of us do is valued.
Diversity could mean including more content about marginalized people in your curriculum and it could mean including more content by marginalized scholars in your reading lists. The object is not to simply fulfil quotas or follow rules, but to foster a learning environment where knowers and knowledges that have been excluded from the academy are reincorporated. Generally speaking, this means knowledge produced by people marginalized as a result of their class, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, or ability.
It is common for those who teach content that relies heavily on numbers to assume that their syllabuses cannot be diversified. However, even if content cannot be diversified, the authors included on a reading list certainly can be.
What if the most cited (‘best’) research in my field is all by white scholars, or all male scholars? The idea that diversity occurs at the expense of quality is frankly a red herring when we consider how scholarly networks, journal rankings, and the linguistic advantage of native English speakers create the conditions for whose work is most widely cited. The most cited work is not the best work. Moreover, students need to learn how to seek out and use all kinds of research to be genuinely critical thinkers, not just the work that is easiest to find.
There is no one way to diversifying reading lists because the specific solutions lie in the relationship between the material you teach and the students in your classroom.
Take the easiest step first. It takes time to diversify reading lists thoroughly, and you will have to revisit this task as more research is published. Consider whether you can begin by doing any of the following:
Diversifying reading lists is only a first step in developing a learning environment where marginalized students and staff see themselves reflected. Other possible steps include: