Developing knowledge and understanding of diverse perspectives, global awareness, or other cultures

Author: David Pollock, IDEA

Research-based evidence has shown for years that socially diverse groups are more innovative than those that are less diverse (Phillips, 2007). Citizens of a multicultural society, like ours, need the ability to understand the perspective of others and incorporate that understanding in their interpretation of events and decision-making and generally operate effectively cross-culturally (Whaley & Davis 2007).

The ability to see the world from the personal, social, religious, cultural and other perspectives of others is something that does not always happen naturally and, therefore, must be specifically identified as a learning objective. The AAC&U Value Rubric defines the skill, sometimes called “cultural competence” (Whaley & Davis, 2007) as, “a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.”

Many faculty are underprepared to teach issues related to diversity in their courses—particularly those that typically elicit emotionally charged reactions. “I don’t think I have good strategies for thinking about framing or managing it,” as one instructor said, and many faculty worry about discussions getting out of hand and becoming too volatile, particularly in relation to discussions about race (Sue, Torino, Capodiupo, Rivera, & Lin, 2009). But guiding students into seeing the world from different perspectives is an important cornerstone of the educational experience. It gets one out of a limited, narrow point of view into one in which all manner of things can be interpreted in a variety of ways. From such an open perspective comes new insights and new innovations in addition to helping create a just and tolerant society.

Learn more about teaching this Learning Objective in the Note for the related Teaching Method: Helped students to interpret subject matter from diverse perspectives (e.g., different cultures, religions, genders, political views)

Resources and References

  1. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2003). A theory of critical inquiry in online distance education. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 113-127). Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  2. Phillips, Katherine W. (2014). How diversity makes us smarter. Scientific American, 311(4).
  3. Sue, D. W., Torino, G. C., Capodiupo, C. M., Rivera, D. P., & Lin, A. (2009). How white faculty perceive and react to difficult dialogues on race: Implications for education and training. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(8), 1090–1115.
  4. Whaley, A. L., & Davis, K. E. (2007). Cultural competence and evidence-based practice in mental health services: A complementary perspective. American Psychologist, 62(6), 563-574. doi: