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Diversifying Course Content

A Resource for Faculty


Diversifying your syllabi might mean including more content about marginalized peoples and more reading materials by marginalized scholars. The aim is to foster an environment that includes knowledge that has been systemically excluded from academia. This refers to knowledge produced by marginalized groups for reasons of race, class, sexual orientation, gender, or ability. For more information, check out the LTC page on course design and rethinking the syllabus


Some Ways to Diversify Course Materials:

  • Diverse authorship of readings (ethnicity, gender, geo-location)
  • Invite guest speakers who bring different perspectives
  • Use diverse A/V material, ie, films, interviews, TED talks 
  • Incorporate readings that challenge standard approaches
  • Use primary research with authorship that reflects local collaborators
  • Offer multiple perspectives in assigned readings; let students choose which to read/discuss

Reflecting on Your Syllabus

Some reflection questions to consider as you think about your syllabus:


From The University of Kansas Creating an Inclusive Syllabus:

  • Who is represented in the readings in terms of topics covered? Is there a reason why one group or another is not represented or represented frequently? 
  • Who is represented in the readings in terms of authors? Is there a reason why one group or another is not represented or represented frequently?
  • Do texts support deficit models that blame marginalized groups for the inequality they experience? Can asset-based reading and readings that address institutional and systemic discrimination replace or complement deficit model readings? 
  • Can course topics and content be adjusted to speak to diversity and inclusion? Can examples used to illustrate concepts, theories, or techniques also present a variety of identities, cultures, and worldviews?


From Tufts University The Syllabus as a Tool for Setting a Climate:

  • Why do I select the content I do?
  • What assumptions have I made about the learners in my class?
  • Do I use examples and text throughout that are representative of my students?
  • Do I encourage and present alternative perspectives?


10 questions to help you evaluate your reading list from Sheffield Hallam University 

Decolonising Reading Lists from University Arts London

Diversity Statement for Syllabi

A diversity statement is a paragraph or section in institutional, department, or course language that welcomes the range of human representations including race, class, gender, religion, accessibility, and socioeconomic status. Instructors can use the diversity statement to set expectations for civil discourse, encouragement for varying opinions, and standards of behavior both within a course or discipline and during controversial campus events. At root, the diversity statement signals belief that all students have value and bring unique perspectives worthy of consideration. 


Sample Syllabi Statements:

Accessibility and Land Acknowledgement (Tufts University)

Diversity Statements (Yale)

Diversity Statement (Carnegie Mellon University)

Territory Acknowledgment: From the Native Land website and map

Tools for Building Inclusive Syllabi

The syllabus is the first opportunity you will have to give students an impression of your course. In addition to providing an overview of course policies and goals, a well-designed syllabus can demonstrate your teaching style, values, and commitment to helping each student in your course. Centering your syllabus around equity and inclusivity in this way can contribute to overall student success in your courses. Below are some resources for building an inclusive syllabus and tools to decolonize your syllabus.

Disciplinary Projects

The reading list is a familiar way of directing students’ reading. These lists often offer ideas and language that shape how course discourse is created, forming perceptions of the types of knowledge that are valued or given most prominence. Decolonizing reading lists is an intrinsic part of the work of decolonizing the curriculum and enables all students to explore and reference different cultural histories and narratives in their work.

Below are some examples of reading and resource lists by discipline or topic. These can be good starting points for ideas as to how to diversify you curriculum from readings to discussion topics, etc. 


A recent movement on social media is for people to compile readings that they would put on a syllabus about recent events.  These are often done via Twitter and other social media using a hashtag #______Syllabus (for instance, #ReparationsSyllabus).  This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to demonstrate the breadth of topics that are covered. Searching Google or Twitter for a topic and the term "syllabus" is a good start in finding other such reading lists.