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 diversity professional development for teachers & staff
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.
Emotions and deep conversations
With the aid of online learning solutions, rolling out diversity professional development for teachers is easier than it used to be. 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. That might look like inviting learners to submit responses and questions anonymously through an online discussion board or on slips of paper.
- Avoid assuming that learners will want to speak on behalf of their identity group. It can lead to painful experiences of tokenism or pressure to represent one’s entire identity group.
- Be aware that majority group members may emphasize harmony over conflict and the personal over the political. Look out for when majority group members seem to view their perspective as the default or express diversity resistance because they aren’t used to talking about race.
Here’s a glimpse at what inclusive school culture looks like when impactful diversity learning is taking place:
- Learners are informed about DE&I and have the skills to act when those values are undermined. Learners are less likely to reinforce biases in their daily interactions and decisions and are committed to continued self-reflection.
- Underheard perspectives are elevated, and race, gender, sexuality, and ability are talked about openly. Curricula include diverse cultures beyond the majority group, and school communications account for different languages, financial situations, and accessibility needs.
- The school’s physical environment reflects its DE&I values. That might mean reconsidering the school’s name or mascot and decorations in classrooms and hallways.
- Teachers, staff and students have more opportunities for engagement with their community, not fewer.
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.
Olivia McGill is a writer specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion content for companies, colleges and universities, and K-12 schools. She was the lead content developer for the online learning start-up DiversityEdu, now Vector Solutions. (A version of this article was published on the Vector Solutions blog).