As instructors in evermore diverse college classrooms where faculty and students from various backgrounds come together, Duke graduate students need to be familiar with a broad range of approaches, techniques, and practices that speak to the diversity of the learners they interact with. The Graduate School embraces a holistic approach to diversity, especially at the intersection with the wide range of teaching and learning contexts across the university. Below we provide you with resources that will help you achieve an inclusive classroom.


In her seminal essay, “Diversity and Complexity in the Classroom: Considerations of Race, Ethnicity and Gender,” Barbara Gross Davis provides helpful strategies for teachers to ensure that their teaching practices foster an inclusive and diverse learning environment. Davis recommends that teachers: 

  • Recognize any biases or stereotypes you may have absorbed.
  • Treat each student as an individual, and respect each student for who he or she is.
  • Rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups.
  • Do your best to be sensitive to terminology that refers to specific ethnic and cultural groups
  • Get a sense of how students feel about the cultural climate in your classroom. Tell them that you want to hear from them if any aspect of the course is making them uncomfortable.
  • Introduce discussions of diversity at department meetings.
  • Become more informed about the history and culture of groups other than your own.
  • Convey the same level of respect and confidence in the abilities of all your students.
  • Don’t try to “protect” any group of students. Don’t refrain from criticizing the performance of individual students in your class on account of their ethnicity or gender. And be evenhanded in how you acknowledge students’ good work.
  • Whenever possible, select texts and readings whose language is gender-neutral and free of stereotypes, or cite the shortcomings of material that does not meet these criteria.
  • Aim for an inclusive curriculum that reflects the perspectives and experiences of a pluralistic society.
  • Do not assume that all students will recognize cultural, literary or historical references familiar to you.
  • Bring in guest lecturers to foster diversity in your class.
  • Give assignments and exams that recognize students’ diverse backgrounds and special interests.