Embedding Diversity

One of the best moments on the PTLLS courses is when I observe students disaggregating ‘equality‘ from ‘diversity‘, like separating out the jelly from the ice-cream and arranging each neatly on the plate.

Equality = ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to participate

Diversity = the differences between us, that make us fascinating

At the heart of diversity is the notion of identity.  One of the applications of a Thinking Environment (http://www.timetothink.com) is the Diversity Process, which helps expose and address untrue limiting assumptions which may be holding us back (eg ‘people from Mexborough can’t be prime minister’)  Untrue limiting assumptions shrivel in daylight and the process of hanging them out to die is a powerful one.

The Diversity Process digs deep; at its simplest the act of privately listing identities can itself be empowering.  Here are some of mine:  teacher, writer (that’s a new one), single mum, carer, daughter, Northerner, runner, friend, leader, Dearne Valley person.  Typically, we might have about 10 or 20 identities, which we either claim for ourselves or internalise via experience (‘Carer’) or others’ imposition (‘Chav’).  Of course they change over time.

Embedding Diversity in teaching enables individuals to think for and as themselves and is a cornerstone of Teaching for a Social Purpose (see below).  When thinking through the ‘how’, it’s helpful to consider three aspects of embedding diversity:

  • Encouraging diversity of opinion enabling each student to think and speak for themselves, respectfully (eg Thinking Rounds)
  • Resonating with those identities present providing points of recognition to enable each student to connect (eg telling stories which connect with what you know about students)
  • Providing perspectives from absent identities bringing the outside world into the classroom (eg visually diverse images)


Each of these aspects can be evidenced on a session plan and mindfulness at the thinking stage leads to greater confidence when it comes to taking ‘in-action’ opportunities.

Of course, it’s a work in progress.  Each teaching context is itself diverse and teachers are often fearful of getting it wrong or being accused of tokenism or – horrors! – being ‘right-on’.  But I’d rather be told – as I frequently am – that I’m “too PC” than stand by and collude with an unequal world.

Interested in exploring more?  The first annual TeachNorthern conference will be held at The Northern College on Friday 15th June 2012, theme ‘Embedding Diversity’.  Watch this space for booking details.




Author: TeachNorthern

We are hard working educators with passionate interest in Teaching for a Social Purpose. Everything we've learned is through observing colleagues and students, all of whom are committed to changing the world. And reading interesting stuff. We work at The Northern College in Barnsley and its mission (and thirty-eight year history) of social transformation makes it an ideal base to face the challenges of teaching adults in 21st century England.

2 thoughts on “Embedding Diversity”

  1. It’s refreshing to read something about the PTLLS classroom. I taught my first 10 weeks PTTLS class last Sept and was most dismayed when my #pttls comments about my classroom experiences joined other #pttls tweets that were advertising courses, courses and more courses.

    I also enjoyed the E&D session and think the changes to the qual which sees the assessment having clearer links to our roles and responsibilities is an improvement.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Cathy! I love teaching PTLLS, although I’ve enjoyed being stretched by the HE courses in recent years, PTLLS is still my baby and I learn something new from it every time – revisiting the basics on a regular basis keeps me mindful and my practice sharp. I agree about the new assessment too!

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