Group of students, some with laptops, sitting in a row
HealthFebruary 04, 2021

“Pick me! Pick me!” How to promote diversity and inclusion in your nursing classroom

By: Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl
We all remember when we were in elementary school and two team captains were chosen by the teacher. Then those team captains looked at all of us and picked the team members they wanted. There always were a few students left toward the end (I was always one of them) to where they had to choose you.

Then when we played the activity, the team captain put the last chosen in the back of the batting order to where you might not get a chance to play until it was almost over. That is what is happening in our classrooms when we make assignments for students that require collaboration without forethought of needed diversity and inclusion interventions.

Diversity means people from all walks of life with every possible human difference represented. Inclusion means equal access to opportunities for those who might otherwise be excluded. So, looking at those two words together, we see that left to our human tendencies and biases that diversity and inclusion in the classroom will not happen naturally. It must be intentionally designed, overseen, and monitored. Promoting diversity and inclusion must start with us, the nurse educators.

So how do we make sure that we include diversity and inclusion in our day-to-day classroom and assignment planning? I am glad you asked! Here are a few ideas.

Design the groups purposefully.

The old method of counting “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3” does not guarantee a diverse grouping. Make a chart of your students with some biographical differences just for the purpose of grouping students, including age, gender, residence, race, previous degrees, etc. Do not allow the students to choose their groups or group partners. If you want diversity, you must arrange it.

Use a collaboration agreement contract.

Design two documents, a pre- and post-collaboration contract, and give points to the contract within the assignment. The students must each fill out one at the beginning saying what each person in the group is going to contribute to the assignment and have each student turn in the document to a dropbox before the assignment starts for approval. Then, when they turn in their completed assignment, have each student do a confidential post collaboration agreement contract with their perception of what each person did. I have used this method for the past two years in my assignments and I have not once had to act on anyone not “pulling their weight” or not being included.

Be a good role model.

If the students see you not valuing diversity and inclusion in your own practices then they will follow suit. Do I comment on a student negatively in front of the whole class? As a nurse educator, do I stereotype other interprofessional team members in the health care settings? Do I help the students see the value of diversity and inclusion intentionally in my lectures and active learning activities? Do I teach about different cultures, health disparities and social determinants of health? Intentionality is key in giving the right water for these little sponges to soak up and someday pour into their own practice!

These are a few thoughts on diversity and inclusion in the classroom. I would love to hear from you. Please email me at [email protected].

Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
Lippincott Nursing Education
Preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s nurses.