Cultural Diversity Teaching Practices

Diversity can enrich the teaching and learning experiences of all students and staff, by bringing to them a variety of perspectives, backgrounds and experiences.

Diversity can also present challenges. It can be difficult to accommodate diverse staff and student perspectives, experiences, expectations and needs. 

The higher education sector has done considerable work to support you, and to develop resources to help you better understand and incorporate diverse perspectives, including international perspectives, into your teaching. 

The Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice (CDIP) toolkit has been customised for UNSW staff and students after being obtained under licence from Flinders University. 

The toolkit is designed to be used by individuals to support and monitor practices and identify areas of strength and areas for development. It is not a prescriptive, fixed set of practices, but a 

tool that you can use for self-reflection, or with small groups to facilitate discussions about: 

  • reflecting on current practice; 

  • obtaining colleague/student feedback; 

  • planning; and 

  • review and evaluation. 

General Information Folios

Cultural diversity and the Guidelines on Learning 

The UNSW Guidelines on Learning (a framework to inform teaching at UNSW) uphold the importance of embracing cultural diversity. They explicitly state the need to embrace different cultures and accommodate diverse educational backgrounds in the student body. 

Guideline 8 reads: Acknowledge, value and draw on the diversity of students' experiences in learning and teaching approaches and activities. 

And Guideline 9: Use multiple teaching methods and modes of instruction (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and read/write). Students learn in different ways. 

Requirements of a culturally inclusive university 

A culturally inclusive environment requires mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self-reflection. In an inclusive environment, people of all cultural orientations can freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities feel safe from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism. 

In a culturally inclusive university: 

  • individual students can participate fully in classes, aim to study better, aim to achieve better academic results, experience less stress and have enhanced career prospects; 

  • all staff can interact more fully with other staff and students, and can extend and develop their own cultural awareness; and 

  • the university as an organisation benefits from culturally diverse staff and students through exposure to alternate perspectives and experiences. 

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Features that are inherent in communication, the environment and people's expectations make major contributions to effective inclusive practice in a culturally diverse community. We ask our staff to consider the impact of: 

Communication 

Environment 

Expectations 

language 

speaking 

listening 

non-verbal 

understanding 

physical surroundings 

ground rules 

social relationships 

practicalities 

classroom 

workplace 

adjustment to change 

support systems 

Learn more

Theory into practice strategies

What constitutes good teaching and learning? Ask any member of staff, or any student, at UNSW, and they'll give you a different answer, influenced by their own culture and life experiences. For many, the educational environment at UNSW is a new and possibly challenging experience.  

Much of what we do is framed by tacit cultural rules about: 

  • the ways we teach and learn; 

  • the curriculum intent, design and content; and 

  • our attitudes and values about schooling and education. 

People tend to take their own culture for granted, notice what's different about other people's cultures. In an educational setting, even well-intentioned teachers and students can say, do or teach things that seem strange or offensive to others. Sometimes doing what seems "normal" means unintentionally excluding others from participating fully. 

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At UNSW we aim to help students find respectful and culturally inclusive ways of dealing with controversial issues. We expect that students will be able to recognise and think critically about various aspects of an argument, separating their own values, beliefs and emotions from their analysis and evaluation of an issue. 

View some strategies and tips for building trust and creating a positive classroom climate. 

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Teaching and learning in small groups provides opportunities for students to be more interactive than in settings such as large-group lectures.  

Generally the intention of small learning groups at UNSW is for students to: 

  • discuss issues, questions or problems; 

  • examine their personal views about course topics; and 

  • clarify their own understanding through comparing and contrasting their own views with those of their teachers and peers. 

Learn more

Professional development

Take a look at the Learning and Teaching Unit Professional Development Programs. In particular, the Foundations of University Learning and Teaching Program

  • Support for staff of non-English speaking backgrounds 

  • Non-English speaking staff make up a significant proportion of the academic staff at UNSW. This diverse body of scholars makes an immense contribution to our learning and teaching. 

The Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Toolkit allows you to monitor your own practice for strengths and areas in need of development, as well as providing strategies and suggestions to enhance inclusive practices.