Brief Report on Diversity Course Initiatives

Spring, 2004

In the spring of 2000, when the Education Department Diversity Plan was being conceived, brief descriptive data were gathered from all department faculty regarding initiatives they were taking to address diversity in their courses. Those data were collected and reviewed but not analyzed. They are available in the appendices of the Diversity Plan. And although they were not analyzed, they did serve as a loose baseline to compare similar data on diversity course initiatives from fall semester, 2003. The data are difficult to compare, however, in that the question prompt(s) or indicators differed for each data collection. For the spring 2000 data, faculty members were simply asked to briefly describe (in a paragraph or so) what they were doing in each of their courses to address diversity. The fall 2003 prompt (see attached for a copy of the document) was broken down into 6 indicator categories: books/media; specific content/time spent on this; theories of multicultural education/time spent on these; adapted pedagogies/time spent on these; and experiences/assignments. For both data collections, all full-time Education department faculty members responded. Most part time and adjunct faculty did not. It should be noted that some courses are now being taught by new or different faculty. That may account for some of the changes noted from spring 2000 to Fall 2003.

Fall, 2003

It is reasonable to conclude from a perusal of the more recent data, that important changes have occurred since the spring of 2000. Faculty now seem to be addressing diversity in a noticeably more intentional and comprehensive way.

As of Fall, 2002, three courses in the Education sequence (for both elementary and 5-12/K-12 candidates), are specifically aimed at developing understanding of minority issues from an educational perspective. Those are Education 105, Exceptional Children; Education 205, Introduction to Diversity; and Education 390, Human Relations. Educ 105 and Educ 390 have been part of the curriculum for many years. Educ 205 was introduced for the first time in Fall of 2002. The content of those courses is entirely focused on educational issues for minorities. The summarized comments below are more descriptive of the other courses in the curriculum.

Books and Media: Faculty listed many more titles specifically dealing with diversity. Greater availability of textbooks and films on diversity issues may account for some of that; however, there may also be, as we suspect, a greater inclination to select books and media that raise important questions and cover important material on minorities of all kinds.


Educ 107 (Introduction to Teaching and Learning—Knaus) Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty, “Gender and Educational Equity” in  Cultural Diversity and Education by James Banks

Educ 151 (Principles of Art—Bot-Miller) Visual Jazz (video about Romare Bearden) and The Last Story Quilt (video about Faith Ringgold)

Educ 310 (Educational Psychology –Sass) A Different Place (video)

Educ 318 (Social Studies Methods—Spring) Finding Peace by Jean Vanier

Educ 334 (Science Pedagogy 9-12—Dickau) Science Success for Students with Disabilities, by Weisgerber, R. A. and The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners by Tomlinson, C. A. and “Grading Students with Disabilities” by Munk and Brusuck, 2003.


It is obvious that diversity is not simply an added topic but that it is well integrated into each important topic or module almost across the curriculum. It is also apparent that each topic related to diversity is re-visited several times. Students are expected to make increasingly more thoughtful and thorough use of the diversity information they are ingesting as they progress through the curriculum. By the conclusion of the program, students in Educ 390 (Human Relations – Hoodecheck) are invited/challenged to resist the status quo and to think as change agents. The student teacher portfolios (Educ 362--Brobst and Educ 361 -- Dick) requires that students constantly assess and adapt their instructional planning to the differences that present themselves. Attention to diversity permeates those experiences.

It is also apparent that a wide range of diversities are addressed in the program. Attention is given to diversity in religions, gender, ethnicity, race, economic assets, linguistic history, learning styles and preferences, physical/sensory/emotional/mental exceptionalities, sexual preference, family structures, and age.

Theories of Multicultural Education: Theories of Multicultural Education are addressed in several courses. For example, Ruby Payne, James Banks, and Gender Equity Theorists (as well as others) are introduced in Educ 107 (Introduction to Education). They are revisited in Educ. 205 (Introduction to Diversity) as well as in Educ 310 (Educational Psychology) and Educ 390 (Human Relations). In other courses, students are expected to apply their understandings of those theories. It is clear from the data that theories of multicultural education are treated in a spiraling manner throughout the program—i.e., they are introduced early in the first tier of the program (in Educ 107; re-explained and applied in Educ 310 Educational Psychology), applied in the second tier (methods courses), and recapitulated and applied again in the final tier senior seminar (Educ 390) and student teaching.

Themes involving how differences affect our lives.

As with content, themes permeate the curriculum. Examples follow:

  • Inclusion (Educ 105--Sass),
  • Far-reaching impact of poverty/homelessness (Wedl),
  • Gender and learning styles (Educ 107 –Andert),
  • Values that guide and distinguish Western from non-Western art (Educ 151—Bot-Miller),
  • Impact on development of poverty, gender, race, ethnicity, primary language, family structure (Educ 200 –Borka)
  • poverty as an overarching influence on learning (Educ 205 – Biermaier)
  • sensitivity to differences of all types in selection of literature (Educ 215 – Lamb)
  • Cultural Values Orientations (Educ 310—Sass)
  • peace and justice (Educ 318—Spring
  • peace and justice and focus on one world culture (Educ 357 – Spring)

Adapted Pedagogies – Virtually all program courses report spending at least some and sometimes a great deal of time on this.


  • Educ 105 – Sass) – 2 class periods on adapted instruction for students with SLDs and MR
  • Educ 215 – Lamb) – modeling of pedagogies that capitalize on the oral cultures of many minority groups
  • Educ 318/357 – Spring) – part of every lesson plan produced – all groups included
  • Educ 325 –Knaus) – some time devoted to this during the study of each content strand (every 2-3 class sessions)
  • Educ 357 – Borka) – recurring treatment of pedagogies for African-Americans, Somalis, Hispanics, and Hmong
  • Educ 355—Dickau) – focus on language issues as they impact science learning

Experiences and Assignments:

This indicator is evident across the curriculum. In general, students are asked to do research on specific minority groups, adapt virtually all lesson plans for specific minority group learners, participate in guided simulations, interview practitioners or parents about specific minorities, and reflect on observational or interactional field experiences involving minorities. Examples follow:

    • Research one physical, sensory or chronic-health impairment (Educ 105-Sass)
    • Review an article on gender equity, discussion/role plays on poverty, links to field work with at-risk youth (Educ 107- Knaus)
    • Classroom gender audit, right/left brain exercises, learning styles inventories (Educ 107—Andert)
    • Field trip to Minneapolis Institute of Art with focus on African, Asian, Art of the Americas, and Hmong exhibits (Educ 315 – Bot-Miller)
    • Student papers and presentations on diverse issues affecting development (Educ 200-Borka)
    • Two peer or elementary grade read aloud using ethnic literature and censorship test or debate involving minority literature (Educ 215—Lamb)
    • Observation of teachers to note how they deal with multiculturalism in their classrooms, philosophy of teaching formal paper must incorporate how students will address multiculturalism in their teaching (Educ 310 – Sass)
      • Guided ethnic simulation and each lesson plan must have an adapted component for some non-mainstream group (Educ 318—Spring)

Diversity has become an integral part of each course and program with adequate redundancy devoted to the full range of diversities addressed in the program. Each minority group has “many homes,” as it were. Repeated exposure to various minority groups occurs in each tier of the program.

Whereas many if not most department faculty might have described our spring 2000 course diversity initiatives as additive in nature (Banks and Banks, 1993), the fall 2003 data provide a different picture. Without specific directives, individual instructors have taken the initiative to thoroughly integrate a wide range of diversity topics into their courses. It is safe to say from the fall 2003 data that most program courses now operate at or between the additive and transformative stages (Banks and Banks, 1993). In some cases, a great deal of ethnic content is added to the curriculum while retaining the curriculum’s basic structure.  For other courses, the curriculum is fundamentally changed to accommodate multiple perspectives into various areas of study. The mainstream point of view is now one of many perspectives examined. Those courses are reflective of the transformative approach or stage. A few courses exhibit some of the characteristics of the social action stage.

It is difficult to account for the changes described above. The mere presence (some may say “omni-presence”) of the diversity plan may have raised faculty consciousness of the importance of integrating diversity content into courses. The multiple faculty development opportunities (both department and grant-funded) we have had as a faculty may also account for some of the course changes noted. And as acknowledged earlier, published materials (textbooks and videos, for example) on diversity topics are now more readily available.  That fact, too, may have effected some of the changes we have noted in our courses. And although it cannot be ascertained with certainty which factors have been most instrumental, noticeable, in fact fairly dramatic, changes have occurred.