Inclusive Teaching

This resource was developed in collaboration with Dartmouth’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity. Please visit the IDE site for additional resources and information related to inclusion and pluralism at Dartmouth.

Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment

Dartmouth is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion across the institution, where a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff come together to share perspectives, learn, and grow. Creating inclusive learning environments in Dartmouth classrooms, labs, studios, office hours, and other learning settings is a critical component of fostering a culture in which all individuals can thrive.

Definitions

An inclusive learning environment is defined as one in which students of all identities and backgrounds can thrive.

The following well-ariculated description of inclusive teaching comes from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan:

Inclusive teaching involves deliberately cultivating a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel valued and supported in their learning. Such teaching attends to social identities and seeks to change the ways systemic inequities shape dynamics in teaching-learning spaces, affect individuals’ experiences of those spaces, and influence course and curriculum design” (Overview of Inclusive Teaching, 2018).

Inclusion in Your Discipline

Consider these five questions to raise your awareness of inclusion in your discipline and in your teaching:

  • Who has primarily been included and supported in my field of study? Are people of some identity groups overrepresented or underrepresented? Through my teaching, how might I facilitate inclusion of a broader range of identities and perspectives?
  • What do the most common pedagogical approaches in my field assume about students’ educational backgrounds, frames of reference, and/or ways of learning? Who might be excluded by those assumptions, and what role can I play in including them?
  • Where do I see gaps in perspective or marginalizing approaches in course materials? Where do I see marginalizing behavior in classroom interactions? How can I intervene to make changes?
  • How can I learn about and guard against my own implicit biases affecting my interactions with or assessments of students?
  • How can I learn about students’ experiences of the learning environment in my course so I can continuously work to create an inclusive climate?

(Overview of Inclusive Teaching, 2018)

Inclusive Teaching Practices

Inclusive teaching is relevant to all disciplines, regardless of subject matter, and describes a foundational intention that can take the form of many different techniques and pedagogical approaches. Effective strategies include:

Apply Universal Design: The principles of universal design are intended to make course materials and learning experiences accessible and welcoming to all learners. They guide instructors to vary their teaching strategies to meet diverse learning needs and perspectives, allow students various ways to demonstrate their learning, and encourage the development of a supportive class community, among other recommendations. Read more.

Diversify Course Materials: Incorporate diverse perspectives by including readings from authors of many different identities and backgrounds, representing a variety of experiences in examples and case studies, and reflecting a diversity of individuals in course imagery and multimedia content.

Cultivate an Inclusive Climate: Set the tone for respectful and supportive class interactions by setting explicit expectations for discussions and class discourse and addressing incidents of incivility and bias directly. Here are some sample guidelines for discourse, and you might consider these approaches to responding to microaggressions in the classroom.

Communicate Sources of Support: Add an inclusion statement and information about available student resources to your syllabus, and talk about them in class. Keep in mind that all students will not be equally aware of—or equally comfortable seeking out—academic and non-academic support and resources. Providing this information by default, rather than by request, can help make these supports accessible to all students. 

Be Mindful of Language: Model inclusive language by asking students about their personal pronouns, using generic language (e.g. “everyone” and “winter break” rather than “you guys” and “Christmas break”), and acknowledging different lived experiences. Avoid generalizing your own experience (e.g. living conditions, ability to travel, nuclear family composition) or assuming that all students have had the same experiences as one another. For more specifics, view these guidelines from The University of Victoria.

Build Rapport: Take steps to get to know your students and facilitate opportunities for them to get to know one another. These suggestions for the first day of class can help build rapport, and using inclusive practices like student groups can help develop a supportive classroom community throughout the term. 

Examine Your Own Implicit Bias: Consider how your own culturally-bound assumptions may influence your interactions with students, course materials, and your discipline. Reflect on your potential biases by reviewing these examples from Yale University, inviting feedback from students and outside observers, or taking an online self-assessment. To dig deeper into this topic, borrow the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People from the DCAL Lending Library in Baker 102.

Foster a Growth Mindset: Provide opportunities for students to make mistakes and fail in a safe environment, where they can try again and apply what they have learned in the process. Convey the idea that faltering can provide opportunities to grow, and is not a reflection of fixed, natural abilities, or lack thereof. Be sensitive to provoking stereotype threat, a phenomenon in which students’ awareness of negative stereotypes linking identity and ability can lead to depressed academic performance (Strategies for Inclusive Teaching, 2018).

Additional Resources

Principles of inclusive teaching are based on a large body of well-supported research. For a brief overview of key concepts and full citations, see The Research Basis for Inclusive Teaching from the University of Michigan.

Diversity & Inclusion in the College Classroom is free, downloadable special report from Faculty Focus featuring 20 articles from faculty teaching at a wide range of institutions throughout the United States and Canada. The articles tackle some of the trickiest challenges in creating an inclusive and respectful learning environment.

The Teaching a Diverse Student Body Handbook from the University of Virginia includes chapters on gender dynamics, teaching international students, teaching students with disabilities, dealing with conflicts, and more. 

Inclusive Moves from the Harvard Bok Center for Teaching and Learning provides a comprehensive guide to making your course design, class climate, and personal behavior inclusive.

Addressing Students' Diverse Needs from the University of Wisconsin suggests strategies for supporting students of specific identities and intersectionalities, and explores how these strategies may be applied in both a classroom enviroinment or mentoring relationship.

Consider these tips for supporting low-income students (PDF) at Dartmouth from the First Year Student Enrichment Program.

Sources

Overview of Inclusive Teaching at Michigan. University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. Retrieved October 31, 2018 from http://crlt.umich.edu/overview-inclusive-teaching-michigan.

Inclusive Teaching Resources and Strategies. University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. Retrieved October 31, 2018 from http://www.crlt.umich.edu/multicultural-teaching/inclusive-teaching-strategies.

Strategies for Inclusive Teaching. University of Washington Teaching Center. Retrieved October 31, 2018 from https://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/resources/inclusive-teaching-learning/strategies-for-inclusive-teaching/.