Diversity training to expand

Sessions caution faculty could discriminate unknowingly

Joy Mighty says the Focus on Diversity training program is adding online modules to become more available to educators.
Joy Mighty says the Focus on Diversity training program is adding online modules to become more available to educators.
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A revamped program on campus is looking to show faculty members how course content can be made more inclusive.

More participants in the Focus on Diversity training program are expected this year after the structure of the free event was rejigged by its organizers.

The program, run through the Centre for Teaching and Learning, has added an online module this year and removed several in-class sessions to accommodate busy schedules.

Joy Mighty, director for the Centre for Teaching and Learning, said the aim of the program is to teach faculty about diversity and how this can be applied to the classroom.

“The whole idea is ‘What does the content look like in our classrooms, especially in a global context?’ ” Mighty said.

In the program, which has its first of two in-person sessions on Feb. 2, the term diversity is used broadly, Mighty said.

“We’re talking about disabilities, we’re talking about learning styles, socioeconomic status,” she said, adding that sexual orientation, race and gender are also included.

One year, Mighty was told an international student at Queen’s went through an entire semester too afraid to ask her professor what WebCT was.

“That’s just one example to show how we can be excluding unintentionally in the classroom,” Mighty said.

Faculty members typically teach in a similar way to how they were taught as students and this can be problematic, she said. Another example Mighty uses involved a professor at an American university who gave students a math problem that focused on a heterosexual couple.

“There was a male student who came up to him and said ‘Could you not have found another context?’ ” Mighty said. “We disadvantage students when we give them only one type of assessment over and over again.”

Through the use of panel discussions and films screenings, Mighty hopes that participants will become better instructors.

While the program was started in 2006, registration never reached 35-person capacity.

“I’m hoping that more and more people come,” she said. “We’ve found that either people don’t know about it or aren’t interested.”

Due to limited resources, the Centre for Teaching and Learning only offers the training once this academic year. Mighty said that while she has considered asking participants to pay, she doesn’t want to limit who can participate.

Unlike training offered by the Human Rights Office and Equity Office, Mighty said the Focus program is specifically for faculty and those involved in teaching.

This year will also feature greater student involvement in the program.

“One of the things we will have is a panel of students who will talk about their experience,” she said. “We work very closely with students, because it’s all about them.”

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