Celebrate Learner Diversity

Community faculty can best engage learners through recognizing their unique characteristics they bring to clinical encounters and other learning experiences. Students may differ in ability level, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, learning style preference, physical appearance, race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background. 

Acknowledging the unique characteristics learners bring to clinical encounters, and other learning experiences, fosters an improved learning environment and experience for learners and patients.1 Community faculty should challenge their own unconscious bias in recognizing and appreciating what makes learners unique.2 Tailoring clinical teaching to better meet the needs of the individual learner through a learner-centered approach leads to improved educational and clinical outcomes.3

Community faculty should be able to recognize learner differences as an opportunity to develop varied skills and connect with a diverse population of patients. Community faculty should avoid judgments or behaviors that stereotype learners, or make learners feel that their differences are not valued.

Quick Tips:

  • Attend formal training in cultural competency
  • Recognize unconscious bias
  • Recognize that the unique attributes that each learner brings to an encounter can translate to improved patient outcomes
  • Model respect, tolerance, and a comfortable acceptance of different learners and patients

Authors: Joanna Drowos, DO, MPH, MBA, Cecil Robinson, PhD

  1. Whitla DK, Orfield G, Silen W, et al. Educational benefits of diversity in medical school: a survey of students. Acad Med 2003;78:460–6.
  2. Ross, H. Everyday bias. [Place of publication not identified]: Rowman & Littlefield; 2016.
  3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24783.