Leah-Nani Alconcel (School of Metallurgy and Materials) discusses how to include an EDI discussion in Personal Academic Tutorials
Employment: Open a general discussion about employment. Ask students what resources they currently use to find work. Get them to explain what they do or don’t find useful about UoB-internal and external resources like Worklink, the Careers Network, and LinkedIn. To evaluate potential employers, have the students to select a couple of web sites of companies they’d like to work for. Have them to try to evaluate the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. For instance, they could look through the images portraying the workforce, and the board of directors. How many women and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds can they see? Of equal importance are their roles. Are they all in one area or represented across the company, including in technical roles? At interview, would you feel comfortable asking what their plans were to diversify their work force?
Academic writing: Select a piece of academic writing, such as a short journal article. Summarise it for the students, and then ask them to consider it in the context of unconscious bias. Why is this topic considered an important one to study in the first place? If, for instance, it relates to a medical condition or procedure, where and on whom in the world is this procedure most often carried out? Is the entire study centred around those from certain backgrounds and in upper income countries? If it relates to an ergonomic engineering design, around whom is the design based? Can you tell whether the subjects of the study were from a diverse range of backgrounds? If it is an expensive experimental study, who has access to the equipment required to carry out the research? How would someone from an underprivileged background gain such access?
Group dynamics: Many degree programmes are at least partially assessed on group work and group projects. Issues with group work are often raised in personal academic tutorials, and they also present an opportunity to talk about differing communication styles and neurodiversity. Students are frequently looking for a magic solution that will cause everyone in the group to execute their fair share of the tasks in an appropriate time frame. This is an unrealistic expectation at university as well as in the workplace. Ask the students to consider how they might build considerations of different personality types and prior education into their approaches to unresponsive or underperforming group members. What could change in their communication methods, their task allocation, or their decision-making strategy to help the group project move forward more efficiently?
This Canvas course’s discussion board topic “Examples of Inclusive Practice of Educators at the University of Birmingham” contains many personal examples and experiences from colleagues across the University that can be useful springboards for discussions about diversity and inclusion with your students. I’ve returned to it a number of times over the past year for inspiration and ideas.