Tips for diversity-focused teaching

How can I make my teaching diversity-focused?

There is no general answer to this question, as different diversity aspects might be relevant depending on the situation and context, and actions might vary accordingly.
Nevertheless, we have put together a few tips to help you create a diversity-conscious learning and teaching process. This selection focuses on the methods and didactics used when designing courses.
Generally speaking, teaching should enable all students to make an active contribution. A varied use of interactive methods can promote participation and motivation.

Plenty of useful materials and web resources are available which take into account further aspects of diversity-focused teaching, e.g. how to make learning spaces and learning and teaching materials accessible, including for assessment purposes, or how to create a non-discriminatory teaching atmosphere.
A collection of links is included at the end of the list.

If you have found any other useful tips or materials, please contact us.

How can I make my teaching diversity-focused? 

There is no general answer to this question, as different diversity aspects might be relevant depending on the situation and context, and actions might vary accordingly.
Nevertheless, we have put together a few tips to help you create a diversity-conscious learning and teaching process.

How can I make my teaching diversity-focused?

There is no general answer to this question, as different diversity aspects might be relevant depending on the situation and context, and actions might vary accordingly.
Nevertheless, we have put together a few tips to help you create a diversity-conscious learning and teaching process.

Tips for diversity-focused teaching

  • Learning atmosphere and communication
  • Didactics and methods
  • Feedback & advice
  • Diversity as course content
  • Further materials and resources

Learning atmosphere and communication

  • View diversity as the norm and question your own perceptions of a typical student.
  • Clearly communicate your learning objectives, course contents, assessment requirements and expectations regarding course contributions to your students. This makes it easier for students to know what's what and to match your course to their personal learning objectives.
  • Create a pleasant, constructive seminar atmosphere, in which mistakes are treated as an opportunity to learn and as many students can contribute as possible.
    Make sure no one person dominates the discussion, by e.g. asking the most active participant to act as host.
  • Use inclusive language which addresses and welcomes all students, e.g. by using “they” instead of “he” or “she”, and by refraining from using potentially offensive phrases (More information).
  • Avoid generalisations and stereotypes (especially during case studies and examples) and stereotyped attributes or comments.
    This also includes (well-meant) remarks, e.g. if a student shows interest in a topic often associated with a specific gender (“It's great to see a man is interested in this topic for once!”), or assigning topics to students based on personal features (e.g. a presentation on Islamic art to a student wearing a headscarf). Such behaviour might draw attention to the students in a way that they might find uncomfortable, and which might also reproduce stereotypes.
  • Do not assume that the German language skills of international students necessarily reflect their study skills in general. Keep in mind that they must perform two challenges at once: Learn the subject matter and communicate in a foreign language. Give students struggling with the language the time they need to find the right words.
  • International students might also often be used to other study and learning cultures and might not be familiar yet with the specifics of the German system. Show understanding, and consider whether misunderstandings or behaviour that you believe to be inappropriate might stem from different academic cultures (e.g. relationships between students and lecturers, tone (polite/familiar, close/distant) or acceptance/directness of criticism).
  • Academic (technical) language must be learnt. Teach your students such language and give them the opportunity to apply it (e.g. through writing in the disciplines).
    Especially where a subject is not taught in the students’ Native language (e.g. English for German students or German for international students), collections of key scientific terminology and phrases might be helpful (such lists are often printed in textbooks of scientific German/English and are available online for English).
  • Where permitted in accordance with the General Assessment Regulations, students struggling with a language can be given the option to submit assignments in a different language (e.g. English instead of German or vice versa).

Didactics and methods

  • When we teach a course, we have a tendency to choose teaching styles that suit us or that we know from our own studies. But there are different styles of learners who might prefer different learning formats. Vary your methods, learning materials and assessment formats.
  • Make your teaching interactive. You will find it easier to handle different levels of prior knowledge and learning speeds if you break up your lecture with short one-on-one discussions or one-minute papers. This activates students, gives them the opportunity to help each other answer questions, and to relate what they have learnt to what they already know and to their past experiences, and to develop their own thought processes. In a 60-minute non-stop lecture, it can be difficult to take different skills levels into account, and to keep students interested.
  • Promote self-directed learning by enabling students to contribute topics of their choice and by offering several options for assignments and in relation to background materials, such that students can choose the level of detail best suited to their needs.
  • Give students the chance to select from among tasks at different levels.
    (Only vary the level for one or two competence targets (according to Bloom’s Competence Level Taxonomy) so that students do not just choose tasks at the lower competence levels which might prevent them from acquiring competences).
  • Especially during the Bachelor degree programme, teach learning strategies and the basic principles of scientific work, e.g. by providing reading lists or writing tasks. Portfolios might help promote learning process reflection and independent learning strategies.
  • Create links to existing student knowledge and individual experiences by repeatedly encouraging students to connect what they have learnt in different lectures and seminars or to relate it to experiences outside the university. This can often be achieved by including brief teaching sequences, such as brainstorming, clusters or one-on-one discussions. Visualising methods such as clusters and mind maps can be especially helpful in this context.
  • Make use of the opportunities offered bydigital teaching: Digital teaching units or tasks via Moodle can e.g. be used at any time and anywhere, and they can also give you information about student skills sets and any further questions that the students might have. They can further be used to put together wikis or glossaries to aid cooperative learning, and to give students skills feedback through quizzes and tests. Online catch-up courses can fill any gaps in the students’ prior knowledge.
  • Enables students to reflect on their own position and assumptions. Promotes different perspectives and conveys the value of multiple perspectives. To give an example, the Complementary Studies programme offers great opportunities by reflecting on interdisciplinarity.

Feedback & advice

  • Give your students regular feedback to allow them to evaluate their own performance and skills level.
  • Also use peer feedback. This activates students and gives them the chance to compare and learn from each other. It is often easier to comment and evaluate the work of others than to independently revise one's own work. Peer feedback also makes your life easier.
  • Regularly ask your students to give you feedback on your teaching. This allows you to adapt to student needs and prior knowledge. Leuphana provides numerous feedback tools for your support.
  • Signal to your students that they can talk to you, invite your students to attend your open hour and clearly state when they can find you at your office. Students might hesitate to come and speak to you, especially when they are struggling.
  • Inform students of the University’s advice and support offers, such as the Writing Center offer.

Diversity as course content

  • Keep up-to-date with current diversity research in your discipline and incorporate the relevant content into your teaching.
  • Consider team teaching with a Diversity Research lecturer in order to integrate diversity aspects into your teaching and enjoy the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching.

Further materials and resources

A list of further materials will be added here soon.