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Curricular Infusion

A page within CATL Instructor's Guide to Inclusive Excellence


Infusing a course or curriculum, for the purposes of this guide, means including voices, perspectives, approaches, concepts, research methods, and research questions from a broad range of people. Instructors infuse their courses to achieve a variety of educational goals, from helping students to transfer concepts from one setting to another, to empowering students with the analytical skills to solve complex problems, to helping students see the relevance and salience of a course or a degree program to their own lives and the lives of the people they love.

Summary of Research

Studies of "diversity in higher education" examine multiple issues: "structural diversity" (the proportion of students from  historically-underserved groups on a campus), informal interactions among diverse students, diversity-related learning (curricular infusion of diversity into pedagogies), and classroom interactions among diverse students. The benefits of an infused curriculum are clear, but all students benefit further from all other forms of diversity engagement, especially from informal interactions (Gurin, P., et al, 2002).  An infused curriculum may encourage this full range of interaction. 

Academic disciplines challenged by critical race theory and feminist theory have transformed, and for many instructors, the ongoing development of their discipline through inclusivity is both intellectually stimulating and challenging. Engaging students in these disciplinary conversations is fun. Those disciplines that transformed earliest and most clearly have been in the arts and humanities:  literary studies has expanded its "canon" of great literature and in that process challenged its own traditions defining "greatness;" historical analysis today is much more complex and nuanced because it not only includes the voices, experiences, and perspectives of those previously excluded but also tries to synthesize meaning from often-contradictory experiences.

The social sciences have also transformed through inclusivity.  In the sciences, feminist and critical race theorists have challenge scientific processes, such as the exclusion of female rats as well as human women from drug trials despite science's own discrediting of the reason for such exclusions.  Critical race theorists in the sciences have also challenged the value that both the sciences and the social sciences place on objectivity, produced much of the science that debunks racial stereotypes, and centered the voices of communities and neighborhoods in defining questions that demand scientific analysis.  Research methods in the sciences have also been impacted.

Inclusivity is one force in creating new disciplines and both cross- and interdisciplinary research, and many instructors find that exploring new developments as an increasingly diverse younger research community enters the discipline to be crucial and invigorating to their personal growth.

Research on students' sense of belonging indicates that a variety of social cues can signal to individuals from historically underserved groups that they are not welcome in that field.  Teaching students how to function in an inclusive workplace is critical to many fields and is increasingly reflected in program-level student learning outcomes and accreditation processes.


Diversity-related course infusion is harder or easier depending on your discipline.  Here are several strategies to find more research or perspectives or writing from, say, women, people of color, people with disabilities.  One or more might work for you.

1. Consider expanding how you educate students about your field by exploring the diversity-related critiques of your field with students. Try conducting a literature review of your field specifying "critical race theory" or "feminist theory" as one term in an advanced search, and your course topic(s) in another. This could be part of how you address developing your students' diversity-related professional skills.

2. What research areas are new in your field?  Two strategies for keeping up:  download BrowZine and select the broadest range of journals related to your field as you can; or browse through the research presentations in your discipline's conference programs, many of which are now online.  Newer areas of study are more likely to be of interest to a more diverse group of researchers than older areas of study. Don't forget newer interdisciplines such as Women's Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Queer Studies, and cognitive science.

3. Does your professional association support identity-based interest groups? Most will have a web presence that might help you identify research interests.

4. Does your discipline have something to say about a stereotype? UWL's plant biologists know that their field can tackle, say, food-related hierarchies. Ask Meredith Thomsen about that.

5. Is there a canon of foundational research in your discipline?  Who is challenging that canon and why?

6. How are research questions generated in your field?  What research gets funded?  What research does not? Why? 

7. Address a program-level or accredication-mandated student learning outcome that expects all students to learn to function effectively in a diverse workplace.

8. Consider partnering with an instructor of a course that focuses on diversity or social justice issues to develop an interdisciplinary assignment or online discussion or both. 

The online workshop below was created by members of the CASSH Inclusive Excellence Committee 2019. Many of its ideas for implementation pertain to other disciplines. 

Please play with closed captioning ON. The links to the worksheet and references pop up when you click the Information icon in the video player.


Ahmed, A. F.,  & Shayla Herndon-Edmunds, S. (2018). Classroom diversity and inclusive pedagogy. ACUE Community Blog.  Good introductory tips for implementing inclusive teaching.

Collins, P. H. (2015). Science, critical race theory, and colour-blindness. In British Journal of Sociology. 66:1, 46-52. Patricia Hill Collins is one of the principle critical race researchers in the United States.

Crasnow, S., Wylie, A., Bauchspies, W. K., Potter, E. (2015). Feminist perspectives on science.  In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.

Delgado, R., Stefancic, Jean, & Harris, Angela P. (2017). Critical race theory : An introduction. 3rd ed. New York: New York University Press.

How a Sustainable Campus-Wide Diversity Curriculum Fosters Academic Success. (2010). Multicultural Education, 17(2), 27-36.

Nejman, M. (2007). The Hidden Power of Curriculum Infusion. Campus Activities Programming, 40(4), 40-43.

Obiakor, F. E. (1994). Multiculturalism in the University Curriculum: Infusion for What?

Wyer, M., Marbercheck, M., Cookmeyer, D., et al, eds. (2014). Women, science, and technology: A reader in feminist science studies. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge. Note:  the link goes to the first edition (2001).

Hoskins, D. (2019). Curricular infusion. In Instructor's Guide to Inclusive Excellence. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from