Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching
Prof. Rick Reis


The posting gives some good advice on promoting student engagement in the classroom.  The article is reproduced with permission, and is from the Tuesday, October 30, 2018 issue of the online publication, Graduate Connections Newsletter[ ], from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is published by the Office of Graduate Studies. ©2018 Graduate Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
UP NEXT: Becoming a “Bilingual” Advocate for Your Discipline and Your Graduates

Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

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Inclusive Teaching

College classrooms are increasingly diverse places. Instructors need to consider not only the obvious diversity in their classroom such as gender and ethnicity, but also aspects such as students’ prior knowledge or preferred ways of learning. Inclusive teaching refers to using teaching methods to address the needs of all students in your classroom and ensure that all students are able to participate equitably in your class. Inclusive teaching requires preparation before entering the classroom and consistent efforts in the classrooms to create an environment that will be beneficial for all.

Before Entering the Classroom

Examine your implicit biases and the classroom environment you will teach in

Everyone has some implicit biases about people of different backgrounds. Whether those biases are positive or negative, it is still worth being aware of those unconscious biases because it might impact (unintentionally) the examples you use, who you call on during class, or how you view students’ success or failure in the class. Take some time to reflect on your own views. Some people use a measure like the Implicit Association Test to think about this; others may simply engage in meaningful reflection about diversity, their experiences, and how that impacts their teaching. You also need to consider the class’s demographics. Are there specific concerns relative to that class that you should be aware of? For example, if you are teaching a politics class you might have students from both ends of the political spectrum. What will you do to ensure there is productive, civil discourse in your class?

Plan for diversity in the syllabus

All classes start with a syllabus. If you plan to be mindful of diversity and teach inclusively, that should be reflected in your syllabus. You might have a statement about diversity in your classroom explaining how you value diversity and what that means for your classroom. You can also think about the readings or assignments your students might have. For example, if you teach an English class, do you include diverse authors? Are there ways to bring in readings or assignments that might appeal to students’ backgrounds or preferred ways of learning? How do you describe the class and your expectations in the syllabus? All of those elements should be part of your syllabus if you are serious about inclusive teaching.

In the Classroom: Teaching Strategies

Establish a positive classroom environment

A positive classroom environment is one where all students feel comfortable to participate and that their contributions are valued. To create a positive classroom environment, think about the rules you might establish to encourage everyone to participate. It also means a classroom where there is rapport between the teacher and students, and they all feel comfortable. Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other and for them to get to know you. While it is important to have some professional distance between teacher and student, you may be willing to share a few facts about your life, perhaps a hobby, that might help students see you as a person and not just a teacher. Learn their names. Let students know you care about their success. More information on creating a safe environment is available in this article.

Encourage participation

Not all students may be comfortable participating in class. This could be for any number of reasons. Some may be naturally shy. Others may feel uncomfortable if they are outnumbered by others in the class. For example, physics classes can often have very few women, and we know that this gender imbalance can affect their willingness to participate and their success in those classes. One simple way to address this is to think about the way to set up groups in the class making sure you are conscious of the class demographics when you do so. Show that you are welcoming to all student questions and comments and encourage students to think through answers even if they make mistakes initially. For example, saying “good thinking”, or “almost there”, are more encouraging that saying “no, that’s not right” when students answer a question in class.

Provide support

Be available to students when they need help. Check in with students to make sure they understand the material and to offer support when needed. Offer support outside of class when necessary. Encourage a growth mindset in your students by fostering the idea that they can all learn the material if they put in the effort and not simply whether they innately understand the subject.

You may also familiarize yourself with resources and support for students across campus. The Services for Students with Disabilities, the Writing Center, or other offices can be useful resources for you in making sure all students have other resources needed to succeed. They can also provide you some resources to make sure you are meeting the needs of students in the classroom regardless of their backgrounds or needs.

Vary teaching strategies and examples

Use examples that include people of diverse backgrounds. If you use case studies or examples, try to vary your examples to include people from different backgrounds. If you talk about researchers or past studies, are they written by researchers of the same background? Remember students benefit when they can see themselves as professionals in that field and showing them examples of researchers who might look like them is one way of doing this.

Solicit student feedback

Just as not all students may be comfortable speaking in front of the entire class, they may not be comfortable giving feedback in a formal setting. Provide opportunities for them to express themselves or share concerns in other formats, perhaps minute papers or reflective assignments. Some students who may not shine in class discussions, may love written assignments.

Learning Sustainable Cultural Safety …

Lautensach, A.K. & S.W. Lautensach. 2018. Learning Sustainable Cultural Safety in a Crowded, Warming World. Journal for Sustainability Education (March).

The Big Idea behind the article was that education for sustainability and education for cultural safety can be reconciled and made to reinforce each other – contrary to some claims in the literature that educators had to choose and prioritise between opposing aims.

Deep Adaptation

Thanks Alex …

Deep Adaptation: Resilience, Relinquishment, Restoration (Bendell 2018)

Friesen (2018) suggested for teacher educators to explore their unexamined assumptions (thank you Susan for the link). One implicit assumption that I notice about our program (and others like it) manifests in the frequent calls for ‘preparing learners for employment’ or for ‘the real word’. This qualifies as a ceteris paribus fallacy, the assumption that everything outside one’s focus will remain unchanged for the time being. Bendell argues that we all need to prepare for the exact opposite, namely the prospect that most of the sources of support we have come to rely on are likely to collapse or disappear within our lifetime. I suggest that teacher training for the 21st century must focus on empowering learners to cope with that prospect. Bendell’s paper has inspired me more than just about anything else I have read this year:

Bendell, Jem. 2018. Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. IFLAS Occasional Paper 2 (July 27). Occasional Paper, Institute of Leadership & Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria, UK.  (accessed 29 July 2018)

Here is how I interpret his three principles in the context of teacher education:

– Empower learners to help build community resilience to mitigate the outcomes of collapse – e.g. aim for the safe operating space between ecological and social boundaries as described by Raworth’s Donut Economics. The first thing learners can do is study Raworth’s model.

– Relinquish what traditions, ideals and practices have become counterproductive – such as the ideals of limitless growth, or the right to receive or extract even more resources. Get used to the idea of making do with much less – but strive to distribute it more equitably.

– Restore practices and structures that can facilitate a Great Transition to a sustainable future of acceptable quality – respect for the intrinsic worth of all life forms would be a great start, as was modelled by many indigenous cultures from time immemorial. Colonialism was a mere blip in history, and so is ecological overshoot!