A Look at Diversity Wheels

Being a culturally responsive educator includes the practice of introspection. In fact, it’s important to consider to what extent does your classroom or teaching practices reflect culturally responsive teaching? The five essential components of culturally responsive teaching are as follows:

  • Developing a cultural diversity knowledge base,
  • Designing and incorporating culturally relevant curriculum & strategies,
  • Demonstrating cultural caring & building a community of learners,
  • Fostering cross-cultural communications, and
  • Cultivating cultural congruity into instructional practices (Gay, 2002)

Part of the introspective process regarding the development of a cultural diversity knowledge base can include the consideration of visuals such as the diversity wheel from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Diversity Leadership Council. “The center of the wheel represents internal dimensions that are usually most permanent or visible. The outside of the wheel represents dimensions that are acquired and change over the course of a lifetime. The combinations of all of these dimensions influence our values, beliefs, behaviors, experiences and expectations and make us all unique as individuals” (Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council, n.d.).


Though an argument can be made as to whether some of these dimensions belong in the center or outside of the diversity wheel. Other perspectives might include the notion of how some of these dimensions are, in fact, fluid and thus, can belong at some points within the center and at others in the outside.

A quick Google search produced many examples of diversity wheels from different types of organizations (e.g., schools, churches, private companies). Consider the one from Northcentral University (2018):

PrintThis diversity wheel aligns with Bronfenbrenner’s (1977; 1994) nested model of the ecological systems approach. In this case, the individual is the focal point from which radiates the varied types of influences upon the individual organized in concentric circles (from narrow to broad).

Another example of a diversity wheel comes from the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (2018):

Dimensions-of-Diversity ASTCv2.png

This diversity wheel also begins with the individual as the focal point with concentric circles representing the broader influences on one’s personality.

The point of displaying these types of diversity wheels is to show the various ways one can look at diversity. To bring the point back culturally responsive teaching practices, what this means is that we, as educators, need to take time to consider who we are and how that affects what we do in our respective classrooms. We cannot deny the fact that an increasingly diverse student population walks through our doors each and every day. Thus, it is important for us to develop explicit knowledge and understanding of cultural diversity so that we can better meet the needs of our diverse student body (Gay, 2002).


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32, 513–531. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.32.7.513

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecology models of human development. In T. N. Postlewaite & Husen, T. (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1643-1647). Oxford, England: Elsevier.

Cultural Competence Learning Institute. (2018). Group activities. Retrieved from the Association for Science-Technology Centers website: http://community.astc.org/ccli/home

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53, 106-116. doi:10.1177/0022487102053002003

Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council. (n.d.). Diversity wheel. Retrieved from from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Diversity Leadership Council website: http://web.jhu.edu/dlc/resources/diversity_wheel/index.html

Northcentral University. (2018). Diversity wheel. Retrieved from Northcentral University website: https://www.ncu.edu/about-ncu/who-we-are/diversity


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