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Multicultural Teaching and Learning: Inclusion and Belonging In and Outside the Classroom

Embedding and Contextualizing Anti-Racism and Anti-Discrimination in Research, Pedagogy and Policy

What Do We Mean By Diversity?

In alignment with Brandeis University’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence, the Heller School endorses a broad definition of diversity reflective of differences that include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic background and interests
  • Age
  • Culture
  • Disability
  • Economic status and background
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender and gender expression
  • Individual personality
  • Language
  • Learning styles and pace
  • Nationality
  • Physical appearance
  • Political views
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation and identity
  • Visa status

This is not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start as you think about ways to create more inclusive teaching and learning environments that can result in a transformative classroom experience for both the instructor and the student.


Self-Reflection - the examination of and attention to our own ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Our upbringing and personal experiences inform our actions, values, beliefs, and assumptions and can shape our perceptions and expectations of others. This first part of the Multicultural Teaching and Learning project asks you to examine the ideas, thoughts, and feelings you have internalized and how they relate to engaging with diverse populations, sources, and materials, both in- and outside the classroom. Taking time to self-reflect can help you to:

  1. Identify the ways that you perceive and process differences
  2. Understand how you have been shaped by the world around you, and, in turn, how others have been shaped by the world around them
  3. Make sense of the things you do, say, and believe
  4. Become more aware of your perceptions of and interactions with others
  5. Better understand yourself, your motivations and values, and how they impact how you engage with those whose backgrounds differ from your own

This project gives all of us the opportunity to pause and reexamine how power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity impacts us, our teaching practices, our students and their work. We can then turn a critical eye to readings and assignments we include in our courses to ensure that materials reflect a diversity of thought and experience. Together, we will create learning environments in which all students feel like they belong.

“[W]hen students are able to see themselves represented in course content and discussion, it signals to them that their identities (such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, and disability) are valued and respected in the classroom.” [University of Utah, Developing an Inclusive Syllabus].

Self-Reflection Tools

Reflecting On Your Syllabus

Some reflection questions to consider as you think about your syllabus:

From Tufts University: The Syllabus as a Tool for Setting a Climate

  • Why do I select the content I do?
  • What assumptions have I made about the learners in my class?
  • Do I use examples and text throughout that are representative of my students?
  • Do I encourage and present alternative perspectives?

From The University of Kansas: Creating an Inclusive Syllabus

  • Consider who is represented in the readings in terms of topics covered. Is there a reason why one group or another is not represented or represented frequently?
  • Consider who is represented in the readings in terms of authors. Is there a reason why one group or another is not represented or represented frequently?
  • Do texts support deficit models that blame marginalized groups for the inequality they experience? Can asset-based reading and readings that address institutional and systemic discrimination replace or complement deficit model readings?
  • Can course topics and content be adjusted to speak to diversity and inclusion? Can examples used to illustrate concepts, theories, or techniques also present a variety of identities, cultures, and world-views?