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Cornell University

Incorporating Diversity

Why incorporate diversity into a course?
How can you incorporate diversity into a course?

Incorporating diversity involves designing your course with varied course materials, teaching methods and learning activities that accommodate a diverse group of students with a range of learning styles, abilities, experiences, and cultures. It may also mean that issues of diversity are part of the course learning outcomes and topics related to diversity are embedded within the course content.

Why incorporate diversity into a course?

Incorporating diversity into a course allows you to:

  • Create an inclusive course climate.
  • Connect with and reach out to a wider range of students.
  • Motivate students (Ginsberg & Wlodkowski 2009).
  • Create more positive educational experiences for students.
  • Help students gain an understanding of, and respect for, multiple perspectives and backgrounds.

How can you incorporate diversity into a course?

  • Consider these questions while designing a course:
  • What are your own cultural influences and personal ways of teaching and learning and how might these influence your choices in course design?
  • What are your students’ cultural influences and personal ways of learning and how might these influence motivation and course expectations?
  • Critically examine your course from multiple viewpoints and include materials that represent various perspectives accurately (consider gender, nationality, ethnicity, age, sexuality, political affiliation, socio-economic status, ability, linguistic background, etc.).
  • Be inclusive of various learning styles and preferences; plan to utilize a variety of teaching techniques and when designing assignments, wherever possible, provide a choice in how students can demonstrate their learning. Refer to inclusive teaching strategies for ideas.
  • Include issues of diversity as part of the learning goals of your course and tie current events and local histories into classroom activities.
  • Communicate your dedication to diversity by including diversity and disability statements in your syllabus; you might also include a classroom code of conduct to highlight expectations for classroom behavior.
  • Whenever possible, incorporate universal design for learning principles into your instructional methods and materials in order to increase accessibility to students. A course that incorporates universal design principles for learning (UDL) is accessible to students of various abilities at the onset. For example, if you plan to present material both orally and visually, you accommodate both auditory and visual learners and students with sight and hearing disabilities.


CTI Diversity (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
CTI Inclusive Teaching (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
CTI Universal Design pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
Faculty Institute for Diversity
CTI Diversity Resources
Learn more about Cornell’s commitment to diversity.
Visit the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) web page on diversity resources.

Past CTI Presentation Materials

  • Universal Instructional Design Checklists pdf
    Katherine Fahey, Director of Student Disability Services, Learning Strategies Center
    Paul Eshelman, Professor in Design and Environmental Analysis, College of Human Ecology
    Erin Sember from the Employment and Disability Institute in Industrial Labor Relations


Brown, S. C. (2010). Students as cultural beings. In M. Fallon & S.C. Brown (Eds.), Teaching inclusively in higher education. (pp. 17-37). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.

Cohn, E. & Gareis, J. (2007). Faculty members as architects: Structuring diversity-accessible courses. In J. Branche, J.W. Mullennix, E.R. Cohn (Eds.), Diversity across the curriculum. (pp. 18-22). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Davis, B.G.  (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ginsberg, M.B. & Wlodkowski, R.J.  (2009).  Diversity & motivation: Culturally responsive teaching in college (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Gurin, P., Dey, E.L., Hurtado, S., & Guring, G.  (2002).  Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes.  Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-366.

Gurung, R. (2009). Got culture? Incorporating culture into the curriculum. In R.A.R Gurung and L.R. Prieto (Eds.), Getting culture: Incorporating diversity across the curriculum (pp. 11-22). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Rose, D.H. (2006). Universal design for learning in postsecondary education: Reflections on principles and their application. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19 (2). 135-151.

Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.) To improve the academy. (pp. 208-226).
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