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Making teaching inclusive

Inclusive teaching promotes a sense of belonging, respect for diversity, and path for successful learning for all students. Flexible and online courses must be intentionally designed to create learning environments in which all students feel valued and supported as learners.  Making teaching inclusive involves reflecting on your course content, teaching practices, and the climate for learning that you create. Here, we provide some general recommendations for each, along with key considerations for online environments.  This syllabus checklist is a useful tool for reflecting on the inclusiveness of your online course design. 

Inclusive course content

Inclusive course content demonstrates that diversity is valued and reflects diverse experiences and perspectives. Here are some suggestions for making course content inclusive:

  • Choose content and examples that address and model diversity, regardless of subject.
  • Reflect on whether your course materials perpetuate stereotypes or biases (e.g., a mathematical concept that assumes heterosexual pairings, or a history book that focuses on settlers at great length and only briefly addresses indigenous peoples' perspectives). If they do, change or supplement the material to provide multiple perspectives, or invite students to critically examine it.
  • Source existing videos that approach a particular topic from different angle, or record a short guest lecture video to let students hear from another expert.
  • Create opportunities for students to explain information to one another.

Inclusive Pedagogy

Some teaching strategies are particularly effective in engaging and supporting learning in students from a wide range of backgrounds, and closing the opportunity gap for historically underserved students. These include active and collaborative learning, problem- or case-based learning, increased course structure (e.g., guided reading questions, preparatory homework), and transparency in teaching. This handout on Supporting Learning for All Students provides more details.

Considerations for online learning environments. These approaches are effective because they reduce academic isolation and encourage a sense of community and social support. They also enhance critical thinking, improve student preparation and accountability, and transform students into active learners. Here are some keys to implementing inclusive practices in online learning environments- more details on each one are provided in other sections of this guidebook.

  • Organize your course to create a clear path for students, including a schedule for meaningful and active involvement.
  • Increase instructor presence through weekly announcements, live discussions, office hours, posting a summary and integration of what you saw in students' work that week, and timely grading.
  • Create opportunities for peer-to-peer engagement, such as icebreaker activities and collaborative assignments, to reduce social isolation and provide academic support.
  • Develop engaging assignments that arouse interest and help students make connections to life.
  • Improve transparency with thorough, yet digestible explanations of expectations, such as directions written in a conversational tone, informal two minute videos that explain the details of an assignment, rubrics, and examples of exemplar work.

Inclusive Class Climate

An inclusive classroom climate is one that embraces diversity and creates an atmosphere of respect for all members of the KU community. Students who feel unsupported or isolated at high risk for dropping out. Instructors can promote a sense of belonging, validation and mutual respect by making the class inspiring for underrepresented students, including statements about diversity and accommodations in the syllabus, establishing guidelines for class interactions, and building rapport and community in the class. These ideas and more are detailed in this handout on Creating an Inclusive Climate.

Considerations for online learning enviroments. In courses with little to no face-to-face interactions, instructors will have to be even more intentional about fostering a positive, inclusive climate. Here are some suggestions for online learning environments- more details on each one are provided in other sections of this guidebook.

This section of the CTE website provides a deeper dive into strategies and resources for developing Inclusive Content, Pedagogies and Class Climate. 

In this podcast, Doug Ward and Meagan Patterson discuss inclusive, equitable and accessible teaching
More on Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching material on the CTE website. 

Creating an Inclusive Online environment, on the CODL website. 

Advice Guide on Inclusive Teaching from the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Transparency and Underserved Students, article in Peer Review.

Best Practices for Online Learning for At-Risk Students; a reprort from Hanover Higher Education Research. 

A Dozen Ways Non-Black Faculty can Help Dismantle Educational Inequities. Article from Inside Higher Education (July 2020)