Authored by: Eileen Bien Rumpelein
The past year has brought many changes to seemingly unchangeable institutions. Among these is long-overdue action to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within higher education. A look at curriculum and content from a variety of disciplines – even those created recently – reveals the need to provide learning experiences that better mirror the world in which we live, address disparities, and present more than one perspective. We are spending – and encouraging our customers to spend – time and effort to address these issues, not to participate in merely performative inclusion, but to contribute to better accuracy, engagement, and outcomes.
There are several cases where word choices alone have led to fundamental inaccuracies. In one glaring example, a lesson that describes enslaved Black people as “workers” or “immigrants” explains the Atlantic Slave Trade through the lens of the dominant perspective, ignores the reality of slavery’s legacy, and is factually incorrect. Ensuring that content includes non-white, non-Western perspectives, using unambiguous terms to describe events and people, and acknowledging that lessons speak to students of different backgrounds differently, increases accuracy and understanding.
Likewise, content with increased inclusion and diversity improves student engagement with the material. Several studies have shown that building diversity into educational content helps all students develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter, perform better in class, and achieve more.(1)
Finally, inclusive learning experiences lead to better academic outcomes. In 2019, for example, the persistence rate – the rate at which students return for a second year of college – was 78.1% for white students, but only 66.2% for Black students.(2) Studies have shown that addressing inequalities in the content and providing a diverse curriculum helps close these persistence, retention, and degree attainment gaps among Black and ethnic minority students.(3)
Our clients aspire to meet the DEI standards set by their institutions or organizations. But how do you operationalize this vision? How do you actually go about this important work? The Content Development team at LearningMate has been hard at work on solutions. We have looked for the best ways to help our customers create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive content. We have sought thoughtful, informed guidance, and created tools that aid our content creators, editors, designers, reviewers, and clients in an equity-minded approach to education.(4) We invite you to call on us for a complimentary DEI assessment, and to view our resources and services in practice.
These efforts provide real, measurable value to educators and students. After all, we aren’t simply updating pronouns in assessment questions or inserting non-Western names into legacy content. Rather, our DEI efforts are part of a larger accessibility initiative to create content that better integrates students’ experiences, improves learners’ interactions with each other, and creates a learning environment that supports the best possible educational outcomes.
What is your most immediate concern with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Please take our one-question survey. We will follow up with survey results in our next post on this topic.
Eileen Bien Rumpelein
Director of Content Development Content Services, Higher Education