The Office of Faculty Development

Diversifying Course Content

When considering equity in the classroom and inclusive teaching strategies, part of the work should be a focus on your course content. Course content can be seen as the “clay” or raw material that students work with in order to learn. This includes facts, concepts, theories and ongoing research in any given discipline. There are two important points to remember about course content: it is more than the textbook, readings and other resources, and it is typically built from Eurocentric and North American traditions (consider the canon of many academic fields - what scholarship do they include and what do they leave out?). We owe our students a more expansive education that acknowledges larger contributions and other traditions than what we see in the main North American narrative of content. 

From the University of Minnesota: “We suggest instructors think of their disciplines as knowledge systems, where each system has its object of study, methodologies, concepts, theories, and findings or creations. We also invite instructors to think about the origins and assumptions of their knowledge systems.... Moreover, instructors can introduce the roles of specific people into their knowledge system. Who represents the discipline? Who are the actors, agents, or players? Who is left out? Who benefits from this knowledge system? Who is harmed? Students need to see knowledge not as a fixed category that they memorize or master, but as something created by people that evolves over time and serves a purpose. Ultimately students are the future creators of knowledge. Additionally, reframing disciplines as knowledge systems allows for a more inclusive vision, where instructors and students can conceive of multiple knowledge systems in a dynamic relationship, rather than a hierarchy of knowledge.”