What is it?
Inclusive teaching refers to pedagogy that strives to serve the needs of all students—students of all backgrounds and identities—and supports their engagement with subject material.
Why do it?
There are many reasons to embrace inclusive teaching. The most compelling reason, however, may be linked to the understanding that students who feel included tend to be more motivated to engage successfully with the course content.
Hallmarks of Inclusive Teaching
Inclusive learning environments tend to meet students where they are, recognize their value, draw relevant connects to their lived experiences, and respond to their concerns. Additionally, inclusive learning environments rely less on deficit thinking—wherein students are viewed as needing knowledge gaps remedied—and more on asset-based thinking—wherein students and instructors bring knowledge to the space and create further knowledge together.
Operationalizing Inclusive Teaching (Some Basics)
Inclusive teaching is a continuous process of discovery—not an end goal. Definitions, students, contexts, and goals are always changing. Nevertheless, here are some inclusive practices that instructors can embrace.
Before the course begins, instructors can take action by reflecting on themselves—their identities as well as their biases. Through self-reflection, one can work towards addressing their implicit biases.
Additionally, instructors are encouraged to consider the social identities of their students and the implications of those identities for the course. You can find more information here.
Universal Course Design
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that can be used to create a more inclusive classroom. UDL seeks to create learning environments that appeal to the largest number of learners. UDL encourages instructors to utilize an instructional design model intended to facilitate equitable access for all students by offering options, flexibility, and setting goals to accommodate diverse learners regardless of the discipline. In addition, UDL prompts instructors to consider how they might improve their own teaching practice by thinking about diversity in the classroom, student voice, and agency.
Syllabus construction also provides opportunities for instructors to create more inclusive learning environments.
The inclusion of Diversity Statements on syllabi has recently gained traction. A diversity statement is a paragraph that welcomes a range of student identities, experiences, and perspectives—particularly those that have been historically marginalized—to the class. Examples of Diversity Statements can be found here: https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/DiversityStatements
Syllabus transparency and inclusivity often go hand in hand. Inclusive syllabi often contain the following items:
- DEI Policy/Statements
- Preferred Pronouns
- Course Content Goals
- Support Resources
- Instructor Communication Expectations
- Learning Objectives
- Teaching Methods
- Grading Schemas
- Course Policies
- Course Schedules
- Welcoming Tones
The first week of class is typically the moment when instructors present themselves and their course expectations. In online environments, these tasks must be digitally meditated, and Zoom use may prompt the need for specific inclusive strategies. Nevertheless, many of the following principals remain the same.
- Welcome students to the class
- Learn their names
- Pronounce their names appropriately
- Establish professional relationships
- Integrate culturally diverse and relevant examples
- Do not tolerate insensitive language/jokes in your classroom
- Consider co-creating community guidelines
Assessments and Grades
Assignments and grading tend to be components of the academic experience, and there are strategies that instructors can take to be more inclusive.
In engineering courses, group work is particularly important. We encourage instructors to be intentional with their group work and in their construction of student groups. You can find more resources here and here.
Assignments are often used to gauge student learning. Transparent assignments with real world implications, clear due dates, and grading criteria are also seen as components of inclusive teaching. You can find more resources here.
Grades often follow from assignments. Competency-based grading systems, rather than grading scales, are more often associated with inclusive teaching practices.
Inclusive teaching is a broad topic. For more information, please consider the following resources:
- Inclusive STEM Teaching Project: https://www.inclusivestemteaching.org/
- Teaching and Learning for Social Impact: https://scalar.usc.edu/works/teaching-and-learning/index
- Engineering a Better World Through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: https://www.abet.org/engineering-a-better-world-through-diversity-equity-and-inclusion/
- ASEE | Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: https://diversity.asee.org/deicommittee/