Tips to Foster Diversity and Inclusion in Business and Economics Courses

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Author: Beth Ryan is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Business and Entrepreneurship department at Columbia College Chicago.


Fostering diversity and inclusion in the classroom is an ongoing process that requires consistent, conscious choices. It also necessitates considerable in-person attention and can be even more challenging in an online environment.

Here are nine tips I find valuable that may help in your courses:

Tip 1: Provide Relevancy

Content selection is a dynamic process. Bringing fresh, current and relevant content examples is imperative to student engagement.

Tip 2: Consider Multiple Perspectives

When starting, I check my curricula through an antiracist and cultural lens. I ask myself, “does it represent and affirm all of my students?” I draw from multiple resources to provide cases and examples representing minority business leaders.

Tip 3: Encourage Conversation and Discussion

Start an online discussion forum to foster a community learning environment. Instruct students to research and share real-world examples applicable to the course content. This expands conversations and allows multiple voices and perspectives to be heard.

Tip 4: Ask Students to Share

Have one or two students be the teacher for the day. Students bring a fresh perspective to the content and feel a sense of ownership as the instructor. Whether it’s bringing in new technology or interactive tools like polling, word clouds or online quiz makers, students find new and creative ways to instruct—and give ideas for future classes, too.

Tip 5: Frame Up Course Guidelines

Create buy-in for class expectations.  I create a framework of guidelines and agreements for the class, then students expand and add their own. This becomes a commitment that’s transparent and everyone has a sense of ownership.

Tip 6: Recognize Biased Thinking

I challenge myself to “check my bias at the door” and invite students to do the same at the beginning of each synchronous class meeting. As we uncover a bias, we can name it and invite each other to see something from a different perspective.

Tip 7: Utilize Peer-to-Peer Reviewing

Consider using peer reviews in forums and assignments. This enables students to get feedback from more than just the instructor.

Tip 8: Place Students in Small Groups

Use Zoom Breakout Rooms to foster small-group learning. Some students find it difficult to speak up in large, online courses. Smaller groups can be a way for more students to engage and speak up in a more comfortable environment.

Tip 9: Continue Your Own Education

Commit to becoming more culturally responsive and antiracist. Continue to build your own cultural intelligence and competencies. Look to credible sources to keep up with current research and trends.

We won’t get it perfect all the time, but if we keep striving to recognize and remove obstacles, we’ll continue to create more diverse and inclusive learning environments, whether we’re physically distant or face to face.


Watch this video about creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the classroom from the 17th Annual Economics Teaching Conference.