Top tips for creating diverse and inclusive content
The UK Office for Students statistics (2020) indicates that the diversity of our higher education student body is growing.
For example, there were 9.6% more mature learners in the 2018/19 academic year than in 2010/11. Students declaring a disability had also grown by 6%, and the proportion of minority ethnic students rose by 7.5%.
This is likely attributable to the concentrated diversity and inclusion recruitment activity that takes place at a central university level, which results in widening participation programmes, and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) projects.
A report on diversity, equity and inclusion in European higher education institutions (Claeys-Kulik et al, 2019) suggests that 85% of participating European universities are engaging in these types of central recruitment activities.
It is worth mentioning that statistics for online learners indicate that this group is even more diverse than on-campus students.
What are we doing to engage students?
Yet once this increasingly diverse body of students is registered, what are we doing to ensure we provide them with a diverse learning experience with which they can engage, rather than feel alienated or excluded from the learning?
By diversifying learning content we create a richer learning experience for all; promoting to the fore narratives that are sometimes hidden, and contributing to normalisation rather than perpetuating marginalisation. In fact, it could be argued that awareness of equality and diversity should be an attribute of all graduates.
This could be achieved by providing students with mandatory training alongside their course, or by embedding diversity and inclusion in their course.
Nelson Laird and Engberg (2011) compared these two alternatives and found that where equality and diversity was embedded in learning and teaching activities the students demonstrated greater diversity grounding, the learning was more inclusive, and the teaching was rated higher for teaching excellence.
Are we creating diverse and inclusive learning?
The need for diverse and inclusive learning is evident, but are we creating it? Claeys-Kulik et al (2019) suggest that only 26% of participating universities indicated that academic teaching staff have responsibility for implementing activities in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion, yet the academic teaching staff are the point at which students interact the most.
It is imperative that we take steps to revisit existing learning content and examine it through the lens of diversity and inclusion, and more importantly, that we create learning content with diversity and inclusion embedded from the start.
Without wishing to minimalise the complexity of creating truly diverse and inclusive learning content, below are some points that we hope you’ll consider regarding your own learning.
Claeys-Kulik, A.L., Jørgensen, T.E. and Stöber, H. (2019) Diversity, equity and inclusion in European higher education institutions: Results from the INVITED project, European University Association: Brussels. Available here (accessed 8 March 2021).
Nelson Laird, T.F. and Engberg, M.E. (2011) Establishing differences between diversity requirements and other courses with varying degrees of diversity inclusivity, The Journal of General Education, 60 (2), pp.117–137.
Office for Students (2020) Equality and diversity student data [online]. Available at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/data-and-analysis/equality-and-diversity-student-data/ (accessed 8 March 2021).
Pearson Education Ltd (2021) Race and ethnicity equity, diversity and inclusion guidance (Checklist).