As the US continues to become more diverse, school leaders are standing firm in their commitments to create inclusive learning environments where all students and staff feel safe, included, valued, and accepted. This work is challenging, especially in today’s politically divisive environment, but the benefits of diversity in education stretch far and wide — affecting students’ academic and social experiences, as well as having a direct impact on their future.
Why Focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Professional Development?
The goal of diversity learning at the individual level is to bring about self-directed changes in behavior toward emotional connection and understanding between people of diverse backgrounds and cultures that may be unfamiliar, disempowered, underrepresented, or seem very different from one’s own.
The intended outcomes of effective DE&I PD initiatives are to:
- Activate behavioral, affective, and cognitive learning;
- Offer skills that learners can apply, master, and confidently execute;
- Counter and debunk stereotypes, rather than modeling, familiarizing, and reinforcing them;
- Inform rather than direct decisions;
- Expand—not restrict—opportunities for successful engagement with difference;
- Elevate diverse and underheard voices and points of view;
- Be respectful of how experiences of racism, homophobia, sexism, or other exclusions may resonate deeply with individual learners.
Implementing a DE&I professional development program can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you get buy-in? Should you measure outcomes? In this article, we’ll walk through best practices for delivering diversity programs for teachers and staff.
Before You Begin
Here are some questions to consider as you embark on a DE&I program at your school:
Why are we implementing this? How does diversity professional development connect to our school’s stated values? Articulating this will help you get buy-in from all parties and keep the program from being siloed.
Who will we include? Is the program just for teachers, or will you invite staff and administrators to join as well? How will you shift your messaging to communicate the value of DE&I to different audiences?
What content will we cover? Look for content that is research-based, skills-driven, engaging, and culturally affirming. Good diversity programs for teachers and staff address topics like common myths and biases in the classroom, respectful identity terminology, cultural humility, and the impact of teacher expectations.
Where does this fit within our existing initiatives? It’s important to frame diversity professional development as a long-term endeavor. It’s less of an isolated, one-off engagement than a fundamental shift in how your school operates. Embed your DE&I program into your school culture by connecting it to existing programs.
During the Program
With the aid of online learning solutions, rolling out diversity professional development for teachers is easier than it used to be. With Vector Solutions’ Diversity & Inclusion Program, facilitator’s guides that align directly with the content of online courses make it simple for facilitators to bring online lessons into their own digital and in-person spaces.
Whether digital or in-person, these spaces must be inclusive and conducive to dialogue. Here are some practical tips to prepare for the emotions and deep conversation that diversity professional development inspires:
- Leave room for all learners to participate, and offer different ways to engage.
- Avoid assuming that learners will want to speak on behalf of their identity group.
- Be aware that majority group members may emphasize harmony over conflict and the personal over the political.
How do you ensure these changes are happening? As with any new initiative, it’s a good idea to measure outcomes and collect feedback. Through anonymous surveys, ask everyone in your school community if they are treated equitably and feel they belong.
Want to see a step-by-step guide on implementing diversity professional development for teachers? Download the full DE&I Professional Development Guide.
Learn more about online diversity and inclusion PD options for your teachers and staff, including supplemental guides and follow-on learning resources, that will support the goal of creating an environment where staff and students feel cared for, safe, included, valued, embraced and accepted.