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).