The information contained in this chapter presents ideas on incorporating and including cultural and class-based perspectives, and discussions, in all content areas. Students at universities across the nation have repeatedly called for courses to foster discussion, for courses to help students learn to discuss cultural perspectives in meaningful ways with their peers.
OER presents a unique opportunity for bringing this inclusive perspective into classrooms as faculty can choose to include multiple voices and perspectives by remixing resources to cover a breadth of material in all disciplines.
Calls for diversity and inclusion within curricula often begin focused on decolonizing syllabi. It is important for students to read and work with ideas from a variety of authors. By including Black and Brown voices within their curriculum, faculty ensure representation from a variety of perspectives on a given topic, empowering students by giving them a diverse foundation on which they can draw from to have meaningful conversations with their peers. Using OER frees you to exceed bounds of commercial publisher texts, to build diverse and inclusive reading and/or studying materials to support student-centered learning. As discussed in Module 2, mixing and matching OER allow a faculty member to build the curriculum to support topics and ideas meaningful within a course. To ensure students are exposed to a diversity of thought, and to create an inclusive classroom experience for all students, faculty adopters should think beyond the adoption of just one, or a select few books, instead consider building a course mixing and matching resources.
For instance, in a recent OER course on rhetoric, Nicole Pfannenstiel was able to bring in ancient rhetorical theory discussions, and African American rhetorical theory discussions, and digital media rhetorical theory discussions. Based on her research, and the research support of her subject librarian, no commercial textbook with that breadth of topics existed. With OER materials, portions of several different books could be used, and easily accessed by students, so the course included a variety of perspectives.
In some fields a multiple source/book approach isn’t the best approach to the course, such as the math or STEM fields. For these courses, beginning with decolonizing the syllabus can be more difficult. This is where Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning: Building expressways to success offers a really important perspective on universal design for learning. In chapter 6, Andratesha Fritzgerald explores a classroom design where students have multiple examples to help them understand the application of the math lesson they are learning. In this situation, there is one textbook, one math curriculum, many different entry points. This is where all content areas can provide diverse and inclusive curriculum, with just one book. When bringing in examples, bring in diverse examples that could meet the needs of diverse students. One of the most prominent examples is the push within Biology and medical textbooks to include images with a variety of skin tones and body types.
Importantly, this does not need to be entirely faculty-driven work. Providing space for students to share examples of the course ideas in the real world, or asking them to share examples of where they applied a concept that improves their understanding, creates additional entry points for all students. As we’ll discuss further in the Open Pedagogy chapter, with student permission, this type of resource and example share can (and should!) be carried across semesters so future classes can add to and benefit from the open resource sharing and multiple entry point curricular development work.
- Adapting Resources for Inclusion – Worksheet that accompanies the Diversity & Inclusion chapter of the OER Starter Kit
- University of Michigan’s Equity-Focused Teaching Strategies Reflection (5 principles) The content in this checklist is founded in evidenced based research in the area of equity-focused teaching
- Optional: Columbia University’s Guide for Inclusive Teaching
Something to Ponder
- Where can you mix and match resources to build a more inclusive syllabus?
- Where can you mix and match examples and supplemental materials to bring in a breath of voices and experiences?
- What activities can you build in your course for more inclusion?
- How can OER and a mix of resources help you bring more voices into your classroom and content area?
Join the community conversation and share your decisions and experiences with improving diversity and inclusion in your courses on Twitter with #OERJourney.
Navigate to the next sub-module called “Accessibility“
For most, decolonizing syllabi means faculty creators have taken conscious steps to include a variety of voices and experiences in the learning materials their students read and encounter within the course. Including voices of color, including a breadth of experiences, and considering a range of needs are all important steps toward decolonizing syllabi. We encourage faculty working to create a more diverse syllabus to also include this decision process within their class, to talk to their students about the representation included, and why the breadth of voices matters.