Editor’s Note: This post is the first in a series about Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP).Shelly Brown-Jeffy and Jewell Cooper (2011) argue that CRP means a pedagogy in which instructors “need to be non-judgmental and inclusive of the cultural backgrounds of their students in order to be effective facilitators of learning in the classroom” (66).  As instructors at a variety of very diverse campuses, Perimeter College faculty develop a variety of strategies that could be included under the umbrella of CRP.
By Dr. Tiffany A. Flowers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As many faculty know, teaching diversity courses is a challenge. The best and most prepared college professors have issues while teaching diversity courses. Although, the need to have these courses is written into the current legislation of most states, it can be a challenge for faculty teaching these courses to make the course rigorous, engaging, meaningful, and culturally relevant for students. An additional challenge for faculty can include working with administrators who may not possess the same level of expertise or educational background. If you teach diversity courses, you will find yourself having to provide additional documentation of course assignments, rationales, and assessment documentation. This is why refocusing your college teaching when teaching diversity courses is important. After a 15 years of college teaching, I have identified several challenges which can make teaching diversity courses difficult.
Challenge #1 – Students may lack a basic understanding of key historical moments.
As a college level professor, experiencing this can be stressful. This experience is especially salient for those teaching diversity courses. There is an assumption that students know about the Holocaust, the Suffrage movement, Slavery/Reconstruction, and the Great Depression. Each year, you teach college courses, you will find that this is not the case.
Solutions: I learned to focus on what the students know instead of assuming that students have the necessary background. I have a heavy reliance on documentaries and history sites. I also focus more on critical thinking rather than rote memorization since this is what I expect them to be able to by the end of the course.
Challenge #2 – Teaching can overshadow service requirements.
This can be an issue since some service requires large amounts of time. This can limit the planning time of junior faculty that need time to make their courses stronger and more challenging.
Solutions: I recommend setting up a time to meet with the community-engagement office on campus and setting up a service-learning initiative. Creating a course assignment which allows students to discuss or present their service learning experiences can enhance their learning. This also can help faculty with putting much of what they are teaching into action.
Challenge #3 – Learning to deal with disruptions.
Any faculty teaching a diversity course will inevitable have to deal with class disruptions. This issue is important because it can impact student engagement, and especially student learning.
Solutions:Sitting down with your department chair and discussing some of the avoidance behaviors (skipping assignments, inappropriate emails, threats, disrupting the class, temper tantrums, crying, and skipping class) is key to managing this behavior. Getting on the same page early on can help you with managing the course in a more efficient manner.
Dr. Tiffany A. Flowers is an Assistant Professor of Education at Georgia State University Perimeter College. Her research interests include African American Literacy Development, Literature, Diversity Issues in Education, Traditional Literacy, and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
 Brown-Jeffy, Shelly and Jewel E. Cooper. “Towards a Conceptual Framework of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: An Overview of the Conceptual and Theoretical Literature. Teacher Education Quarterly (2011): 65-84.