Adding Diversity to Research Course Readings at University College

Adding Diversity to Research Course Readings at University College

University College’s (UCOL) Michelle Kruse-Crocker applied for a One New Thing mini grant to review the articles and textbooks for their two main research courses. Staff and instructors worked together to update the readings to reflect more diversity and inclusion. This blog post summarizes the process and outcomes of the project.

1. What were you trying to change or solve?
The two main University College research courses -4905 and 4910- contain a variety of articles and textbooks used to deliver information about types of research and social science methods exploration. The Research Practices and Applications course was taught using an outdated text that contained some publisher constraints. In addition, prior student evaluation feedback indicated and that text did not contain a diversity or inclusivity focus. Allison O’Grady, University College Senior Instructional Support Specialist, collected course evaluations from 16 sections of the research courses that allowed for a view of the quantitative and qualitative data about teaching materials and readings to help inform our discussions about new material choices. Results indicated that students were not completely displeased with the current readings, but no mention of diversity or inclusion appeared as a highlight or important factor related to the readings, although that is a goal within our unit. Therefore, we were at a crossroads of needing a new text and seeking an opportunity to select new course materials from a more inclusive and diversity-focused lens.

The goal: Determine feasibility for faculty and the program director to make changes to the reading materials for University College’s two main research courses that enrich the students’ exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds.

The following were the operational definitions paraphrased from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, which helped to focus the reading group.

  • Diversity – Individual differences and group/social differences.
  • Inclusion – The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (AAC&U, 2017).

2. What did you do?

Articles were selected by our group (all readers are Master Teachers at University College). Each article was selected for one or more of the following items: the author’s diversity, the sample diversity, or the diversity of the professional fields represented that reflect those that our students are engaged with studying while at University College. All articles were read by the group and examined through a Diversity and Inclusion in Course Readings Rubric, developed for Research Practices and Applications (4910) by Valentina Iturbe-LaGrave, Assistant Director for Inclusive Teaching Practices at the OTL. The rubric served as an inquiry tool for categorization of the authors or reading by the following criteria: Race, Gender Social Class, and Sexual Orientation. Our UCOL program assistant, Genna Madic, conducted research about each article’s authors to determine what form of diversity they represent in terms of demographics and divergent thought. We created a chart to track different aspects that contribute to author’s diversity – knowing these were surface level based assumptions to some degree. All readers were provided with the readings’ authors’ information. A determination of whether a reading or course material content met the rubric criteria led to the addition or subtraction of the reading from our reserve of potential course materials. This process was challenging and led to much discussion about meaning and intent of the project and if the readings aligned with the overall course outcomes. However, we did decide that the readings chosen can easily be incorporated into curricula because they included research conduct, the role of IRB and ethical boards, and how to recognize and evaluate ethical situations in practice as they relate to author diversity, sample diversity or inclusion, and diversity of thought.

3. How did it go, and what did you learn?
In the end, new readings were found and selected to add to the research courses to help foster a variety of ideas and inputs for students to gain exposure to diversity of thought, various population samples, and authors’ backgrounds. However, the difficulty for all readers was the application of the rubric. The readers felt it did not fit our exact purpose nor was it clear to each reader how to interpret different criteria. Based on readers’ feedback and not the rubric, they felt that the end result was a set of articles that truly did “increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions” (AAC&U, 2017).

When we started this evaluation process, we thought it would take only a matter of two to four weeks. However, it took much longer due to the back and forth discussions about interpretation of rubric language. We did find that when embarking on updating and changing readings for this class or others in University College the issue of diversity and inclusion has now been raised to the fore. This is a worthy exercise to complete for any course.

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