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Diversifying Course Content

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Diversifying Course Content

Many faculty are seeking opportunities to foster a sense of academic belonging for the students in their classroom. Academic belonging is the “the extent to which individuals feel like a valued, accepted, and legitimate member in their academic domain” and is related to student achievement (Lewis, et al., 2016). One way in which you may cultivate a sense of academic belonging is by helping your students see themselves within the curriculum, through readings, examples and images. Through diversifying course content, you can help them build connections with your discipline, leading to improved retention and completion of their academic program. While this benefits all students as we are in an ever more interconnected world, with employers who want to hire employees with intercultural knowledge and the ability to communicate cross-culturally (Willis 2017), it also serves students who are underrepresented within your field have improved academic achievement (Chardin and Novak 2021).

Thank you to participants on the Pod Network list-serv, as well as colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and elsewhere, for providing references to support the development of this resource. We will continue to add to this list and encourage you to let us know of any additional resources you would like to see here. Notify us by contacting M. Geneva Murray, Senior Associate Director for Inclusive Teaching, at

Conduct an Analysis

If you are wanting to diversify your course content, we recommend conducting an analysis of your chosen readings for the course. Through this analysis, you can determine if you are presenting authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences, as well as critically examine the ways in which the readings themselves may be biased. Indeed, numerous studies have found cultural and gender bias in textbooks, with Parker, Larkin, and Cockburn’s (2018) analysis of the impact of gender bias in medical textbooks indicating that it can have a demonstrable effect on the implicit bias held by students. You may be unable to change the readings for your course, but you can consider:

  • providing students with context as to why you chose the readings you did,
  • naming what gaps may exist due to these choices so students may investigate additional information on their own,
  • assigning supplemental learning activities (podcasts, news articles, etc.) that engage in dialogue with your readings. 

The following resources on incorporating role models, lesson plans, readings, and imagery are available to help you with diversifying course content.

Role Models

As we consider diversifying representation, look at how diverse examples, images, and readings may be integrated throughout the course. This helps to counter stereotypical representations when only a single example is chosen, or narrow understandings of vastly varied experiences, such as assuming all Native Americans are the same without recognizing tribal differences. This can be achieved by including spotlights on role models within one’s field, which serves to introduce diverse leaders to students, while also exploring different career options for students.

It's important to highlight diverse role models because it can counter the harms of only acknowledging a lack of representation within one’s field, or how a field has excluded certain populations. As Oleson (2021) notes in her review of a study by Shaffer et al. (2012), “when [gender] representation [within STEM] was presented as balanced, women performed better than when it was presented as unbalanced or they did not learn about women’s representation. […] Seeing their group as successful and well-represented buffered women against stereotype threat” (P. 50). Instructors can instead stress new opportunities or actions within the field that are helping those who have been systemically marginalized gain access. Our section on role models includes references to websites that may help you identify scholars to share with your students.

BlackPast is a resource with thousands of posts dedicated to African American and Global American history that span many fields. For example, the site includes Special Features, such as 101 African American FirstsState Supreme Court JusticesSTEMEnvoys, Diplomatic Ministers, & Ambassadors, and much more. The University of Washington created an internship program where students contribute to the BlackPast website by researching and submitting new entries. This feature on the internship program may inspire a similar assignment in your own course.

GLSEN’s LGBTQ+ History Cards – The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network lists fifty bios of important figures within the LGBTQ+ community, including Chella Man, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Sally Ride, Ty Defoe, and Dr. Rev. Pauli Murray.

History Makers – At the time of this writing, over 3,000 biographies are available on this website, which is dedicated to “preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans.” Many fields are represented, including Art, Business, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, and Science.

Mathematically Gifted & Black – this website not only features Black Scholars, including pictures and bios, but also has an excellent resource section with recommended organizations, such as The African American Male Mathematics Network, as well as books and other resources that uplift systemically minoritized scholars, which we’ve also included on this list.

Lesson Plans

In addition to identifying role models, you can also use the resources that are included in our section on lesson plans to find ways of approaching your topic that addresses how your academic discipline is taught, so that you can include different viewpoints and a more holistic history.

Diversifying Econ – This resource for economics instructors encourages you to integrate inclusive teaching practices and provides examples of how you can do so. They also include a list of video recommendations for you to incorporate into your assignments or lectures, which will allow students to see diverse representations of economists speaking on their expertise.

Diversity and Inclusion Resource Modules (Social Sciences and Humanities) - Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts offered faculty support to share Diversity Resource Modules, which includes a description of the module, best practices in delivering the material, an annotated bibliography, example classroom activities, and a sample PowerPoint. This resource is useful for those in the Dodge Family College of Arts & Sciences who would like to see examples of how other faculty have integrated diversity, equity, and inclusion into a lecture. Current examples are provided by faculty within Political Science, History, Social Sciences, Ethnic Studies, Communication Studies, Psychology and Child Development, Art and Design, and English.

Gender Inclusive Biology – created for biology instructors, this resource includes lesson plans, inclusive images for teaching (e.g. charts, diagrams), videos and readings for students, in addition to providing support for instructors in considering inclusive language and general best practices. Lesson plans and activity topics include: sex determination, inclusive genetics, pedigree charts, diverse reproductive strategies, and more.

GeoContext – This resource provides teaching modules, including slides, lecture notes, and additional resources, “to assist educators in integrating topics on racism, colonialism, imperialism, environmental damage, and exploitation of natural resources into subjects commonly taught within geoscience departments.”

Project Biodiversify – This resource provides “research examples with core biology curricula and, at the same time, highlight and humanize researchers as role models for students from many walks of life.” They make available number of slides, lecture notes, and additional readings on a range of topics related to biology, including molecular biology, organismal biology, physiology, cellular biology, ecology and evolution.

Scientist Spotlights Initiative – Highlighting systemically marginalized scientists across a range of disciplines, this resource both introduces potential role models, as well as encourages you to incorporate learning about a scientist as a class assignment. Once you’ve created a free account, or logged in, and clicked on the scientist you are interested in, you’ll be provided with an example assignment that you may provide to your students to help them learn about the scientist and connect with your course.

Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges (SAGE 2YC) – There’s many opportunities for faculty development through the resources provided by SAGE 2YC. As you explore, we encourage you to look at their ideas for broadening participation through diversity and inclusion, which includes developing students’ science identity, mitigating stereotype threat, accessibility, integrating socially relevant issues, and more.

The Underrepresentation Curriculum Project – provides lesson plans for STEM instructors who wish to incorporate teaching about equity within their field.

VIDS (Video Interventions for Diversity in STEM) – Skidmore College provides videos on gender bias in STEM, which should be paired with their UNITE modules, to help students cultivate a more positive and equitable classroom environment.

Diversifying Readings

Our section on readings provides recommended articles that can help you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion within your field or as articles that you can incorporate as part of your course readings.

Adelphi University’s Decolonization of the Curriculum – Adelphi University created a “comprehensive collection of links to books, films, articles, videos, and other resources” to help instructors across many fields address issues of racism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. This resource is incredibly useful for instructors looking to reflect on their field and how it can be improved, with resources for Art, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Communications & Film, Economics, Education, English and Literary Studies, History, Languages and Literature, Math, Nursing & Public Health, Performing Arts, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology, and Digital Archives. Additionally, they have a general section dedicated to STEM resources.

American Association of Physics Teachers, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Physics – There’s excellent articles and presentations that address how to provide greater support for diversity in physics, as well as access to The Physics Teacher’s 2017 articles on teaching race, ethnicity, and culture in physics.

American Philosophical Association’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Syllabi Collection – The APA’s Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession reviewed and approved the listed syllabi as being appropriate for a course that was inclusive and diverse. The types of courses covered is expansive, and includes philosophy of gender, sport, race, economics, art, and much more. These syllabi are useful in identifying diverse readings. You may also submit your own syllabus for inclusion on this list.

Schiebinger, L, & Swan, C. (eds) (2007). Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World. University of Pennsylvania Press. This text looks at the cultural history of botany.

Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), DEI Syllabus Resources -  Recommended for those teaching on foreign affairs, GIWPS has collected “well-cited scholarship by diverse authors, along with scholarship that addresses key elements of diversity in the field of International Relations.” You can use their database to search by topic, such as international trade, business ethics, Indigenous Rights, and much more.

Amutah, C., Greenidge, K., Mante, A., Munyikwa, M., Surya, S. L., Higginbotham, E., Jones, D. S., Lavizzo-Mourey, R., Roberts, D., Tsai, J., & Aysola, J. (2021). Misrepresenting Race — The Role of Medical Schools in Propagating Physician Bias. New England Journal of Medicine, 384(9), 872-878. - This reading is useful for faculty who are teaching about health sciences to consider how they can use more inclusive, and precise, language that provides greater context when discussing health inequities and/or race. Recommendations are based on an analysis of 880 lectures in medical curriculum.

BlackPast includes many options for those looking to expand their content on African American and Global African history, including an engaging timeline, primary documents, and special features.

Walter, M., & Andersen, C. (2013). Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology (1st ed.). Routledge. This text illustrates how quantitative methods can still be informed by bias, despite frequent claims of neutrality, and centers an Indigenous approach.


Image based visual aids, like PowerPoints, are frequently considered positive in building connections with students. However, for all students to reap the benefits, diverse images, not rooted in stereotypes, should be incorporated into one’s visual aids (Davis, Barrick, and Talley 2020). As such, we encourage you to explore the following resources that will help you diversify the images that you use of people within your presentations.

All Go – Free stock images of plus-size people at home, in a relationship, and outdoors.

Black Illustrations – While many illustration packs are available with a fee, some, as of this writing, are available for free, including Black History Part 1 – Icons, The Great Outdoors Illustration Pack, and The Office Hustle [Medical Pack Included!]. – Many of the images available through Canva are free, though you may opt to pay for certain images. In recent years, Canva has introduced new stock images that aim to be more inclusive, including the “Natural Women Collection.” Additionally, contributing artists have made more inclusive graphics that include representation of those who use mobility aids.

Disabled and Here Collection – provides free stock images as part of “a disability-led effort to provide free and inclusive images from our own perspective, with photos and illustrations celebrating disabled Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC).”

The Gender Spectrum Collection – created a free stock image library that features trans and non-binary people “that go beyond the clichés of putting on makeup and holding trans flags.”

Library of Congress, Free to Use and Reuse Sets – These images are curated from the Library’s collection and are free to use. Collections that may be of interest include: Images of African American Women Changemakers and Women’s History Month. – Provides free stock images that feature Black and Brown people. – Pexels has a wide range of free stock photos.

A Note about Resources on this Page and the Language of Decolonizing One’s Syllabus

This collection of resources are intended to be used as a guide. The CFE cannot independently verify all of the resources linked within this guide. The CFE is available to help you as you utilize this list, and members of the CFE’s teaching team would be glad to meet you for a consultation to discuss applying any of these recommendations to your courses.

You may find as you explore these resources that some use the language of decolonizing one’s syllabus, rather than diversifying. CFE has chosen to use the language of diversification, rather than decolonization, because of Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s (2012) article “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Tuck and Yang challenge educators to not equate social justice pedagogies with the process of decolonization, which would require much more than the simple process of diversifying one’s readings, classroom examples, and images. We encourage active engagement with this article for those who are interested in exploring what decolonization would mean so that there is a clear understanding of the difference between decolonization and diversification.


Chardin, M., & Novak, K. (2021). Equity by Design: Delivering on the Power and                 Promise of UDL.
                Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Company.

Equity by Design provides tangible practices that may be incorporated into your
                classroom to help you align with Universal Design for Learning. While not
                written with university level education in mind, the concepts are very

Davis, D., Barrick, A., & Talley, K. (2020). “What Does This Have To Do With Me?”
                Black Student Perspectives of Image-Based PowerPoints in BSW
                Classes. Journal of Social Work Education, 1-11.

                This article demonstrates that not all PowerPoints are created equal and
                further illustrates the importance of inclusive, and non-stereotypical,

Lewis, K. L., Stout, J. G., Pollock, S. J., Finkelstein, N. D., & Ito, T. A. (2016). Fitting in or
                opting out: A review of key social-psychological factors influencing a sense
                of belonging for women in physics. Physical Review Physics Education   
12(2), 020110.

                This article provides recommendations for building sense of academic
                belonging that is helpful in all STEM fields, but specific to Physics.
                Recommendations include combatting stereotypes, use of Jigsaw
                discussion activities, and providing meaningful examples that relate to
                students lives.

Oleson, K. C. (2021). Promoting Inclusive Classroom Dynamics in Higher Education: A
                Research-Based Pedagogical Guide for Faculty
. Sterling, VA: Stylus
                Publishing, LLC.

                This provides a comprehensive approach to inclusive teaching, with
                particular guidance on managing conflict and sensitive topics in the

Parker, R. B., Larkin, T., & Cockburn, J. (2018). Gender bias in medical images affects
                students’ implicit but not explicit gender attitudes. AERA Open, 4(3), pp. 1-7.

                The authors demonstrate the ways in which biased images can contribute
                to implicit bias.

Willis, D. S. (2017, August 21). Getting up to speed on diversity. Inside Higher

                Willis describes how students have increasingly sought support in
                answering questions about their demonstrated knowledge of diversity in
                job interviews.

Tuck, E & Yang, K. W. (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization:
                Indigeneity, Education & Society
, 1(1), pp. 1-40.

                This explores the meaning of decolonization and why it’s important to be
                more precise in our language when describing diversifying our syllabi.