One way to address homogeneity is to construct curricula that better reflect the diversity of voices in the field (see our Diversifying Syllabi page). Another is to adopt classroom practices that promote inclusion. Here we share thoughts related to this end. We welcome other suggestions.
Be aware that gender identity and gender presentation are not the same thing. The gender a person identifies with is not always discernible by appearance. In addition, it is impossible to know by appearance what pronouns people prefer. We recommend:
(a) asking people to indicate pronouns when they introduce themselves at the start of the semester
(b) encouraging people to list pronouns under their name during online sessions (talks or classes)
Please be aware that asking for pronouns can potentially make people who are trans, nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, intersex, or otherwise gender nonconforming uncomfortable if doing so draws unwanted attention to their gender identity. Normalizing this practice among cis people (people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth) is one way to pursue that end.
If you misgender someone, do not make excuses. You can apologize and move on.
Teaching Material Pertaining to Underrepresented Groups
While we encourage everyone to diversify their syllabi, there are some risks associated with teaching material by members of underrepresented groups or material that addresses topics pertaining to by underrepresented groups if it’s outside your expertise. Please bear these in mind:
- If you are not a member of the group in question, you may not be in the best epistemic position to assess some claims in the text.
- Students in your classroom who belong to the group in question may feel they are expected to deliver an expert opinion. They may feel like recipients of unwanted attention, expectations, or burdens to explain things.
- Students belonging to these groups may also feel uncomfortable when others speak presumptuously about them.
- Students belonging to these groups are also potentially threatened professionally when students of more privileged groups gain expertise. For example, they may find themselves competing for jobs with people in privileged groups who have specialized in philosophical issues relating to underrepresented groups. A balance must be struck between everyone learning this material and those in privileged positions taking over the conversation.
- Opinions expressed in class may be contentious, untutored, or unintentionally offensive.
Reflect on mitigation strategies to address these and other challenges:
- Express such concerns preemptively, perhaps even on your syllabi.
- Encourage mutual respect.
- Invite and be receptive to concerns your students may have.
- Check in with students periodically.
- Think together with them about how things might be improved.
- Feel free to raise matters of concern with EDIC (see the Contact page).