Difficult Conversations: Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI)

July 13, 2021

By Dr. Gretchen McAllister (Associate Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University) & Dr. Hoda Harati (Instructor, Educational Technology at Northern Arizona University)

As new teachers enter the classroom, they will find themselves in a difficult environment where diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI), as well as antiracism and Critical Race Theory, are being questioned. This instills dread in our teacher candidates, limiting their ability to construct a culturally responsive and anti-racist curriculum. Teacher educators continue to offer content and pedagogical suggestions for assisting their candidates in developing a practice that benefits all children in their classrooms. Although they offer diversity seminars and practicum assignments, as well as promote learning through in-depth cultural encounters in communities, this is insufficient. When teacher candidates enter their classrooms for the first time, they are often confronted with policies, practices, and protocols that are out of sync with the theoretical and pedagogical concepts taught in their teacher education programs, making it difficult to integrate what they have learned into their own teaching (Johnson & Battalio, 2008). Simulations have been increasingly popular in recent years as a means of assisting inexperienced teachers in developing confidence and practicing decision-making.


Allowing users to examine possibilities, make mistakes, and draw inferences from the experience is how simulation learning is accomplished. In the case of diversity simulations, participants look at how to broaden the curriculum to include more material that validates students’ lived experiences, as well as how to create allyships in their communities so that they can advocate for their kids. The overall purpose of a simulation is not to offer participants a prescription for dealing with issues in the classroom and school, but to investigate and fully comprehend that we have a variety of choices to make, all of which have the potential to perpetuate structural inequalities and harm students. When it comes to diversity-based simulations, they are deeply rooted in socio-cultural contexts that must be investigated through multiple decision points (Kaufman & Ireland, 2016). Learners can attempt different routes and understand the ramifications of each choice by playing simulations multiple times, allowing them to use that knowledge when confronted with comparable challenges in real life. Having the ability to learn from mistakes in a safe environment promotes engagement, information retention, and efficacy. Furthermore, simulations allow for discussion among participants both during and after each simulation. Learners are compelled to comprehend not just the ‘how,’ but also the ‘why,’ and these discussions frequently expose hidden biases and places for development. This future casting session will provide participants the chance to play and debate this simulation as well as the importance of online simulations in teacher education.


As more teacher educators use simulations, they are learning how to effectively enhance curriculum for their teacher candidates. The evidence for the effectiveness of online spaces to enhance learning among teacher candidates is growing as a result of simulation research. Simulations havebeen shown to be an essential tool in teacher and principal preparation. Furthermore, we expect that the ability of simulations to give spaces for teacher educators to investigate DEI in the classroom will make it easier for candidates to address these issues.


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