Though a predominantly White institution, Tufts serves a diverse student body. Students bring with them an array of lived experiences and academic needs. As instructors, it is important that we do our best to serve this diverse student body, rather than simply teaching to the majority population. Make space for students to bring this diversity of experiences into the classroom. However, it is important that we avoid making assumptions about our students, their experiences, and their needs. Focus on building a classroom environment where students will feel accepted, welcomed, and heard. Here are a few strategies to support you in teaching a diverse student body from a strengths-based perspective. Here is a faculty reflection on being a strengths-based educator.
Avoid making assumptions about your students and their abilities, and instead make an effort to learn about them in the classroom and office hours. Allow students to bring their own identities into the course as they see appropriate.
Avoid homogenizing students based on their identities. Consider the fullness of students’ identities, rather than only thinking of them as a singular identity.
Be cognizant of how different experiences of oppression can impact a student’s engagement in the classroom.
Don’t assume students have the same cultural knowledge. Consider this when making pop-culture references and analogies.
Tips and Strategies
Allow students to use the names and pronouns they choose, which may not match what is on your roster.
Treat students’ lived experiences as a strength that can add value to their and their peers’ academic experiences.
For example, one can assign a biographical assignment where students reflect on their experiences and their relevance to the class.
Mentorship can be particularly beneficial for first generation students and BIPOC students, especially during their first year.
Try to show support for students in their academic and extracurricular pursuits when possible.
Remind students of on-campus resources that are available to help when an assignment calls for it.
Consider how to keep costs down. Provide alternative ways to get readings and books that cost less, or find out if your school has funds available. Also, you can put course materials on reserve in the library and inform students about the interlibrary loan system.