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Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Inclusive teaching strategies refer to any number of teaching approaches that address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment, in which students feel equally valued.

Why use inclusive teaching strategies?

“Even though some of us might wish to conceptualize our classrooms as culturally neutral or might choose to ignore the cultural dimensions, students cannot check their sociocultural identities at the door, nor can they instantly transcend their current level of development… Therefore, it is important that the pedagogical strategies we employ in the classroom reflect an understanding of social identity development so that we can anticipate the tensions that might occur in the classroom and be proactive about them” (Ambrose et. al., 2010, p. 169-170).

Benefits of inclusive teaching:

  • You can connect with and engage with a variety of students.
  • You are prepared for “spark moments” or issues that arise when controversial material is discussed.
  • Students connect with course materials that are relevant to them. 
  • Students feel comfortable in the classroom environment to voice their ideas/thoughts/questions. 
  • Students are more likely to experience success in your course through activities that support their learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds. 

How can you teach inclusively?

  • Be reflective by asking yourself the following:
    • How might your own cultural-bound assumptions influence your interactions with students? 
    • How might the backgrounds and experiences of your students influence their motivation, engagement, and learning in your classroom?
    • How can you modify course materials, activities, assignments, and/or exams to be more accessible to all students in your class?
  • Incorporate diversity into your overall curriculum.
  • Be intentional about creating a safe learning environment by utilizing ground rules.
  • Be proactive in connecting with and learning about your students.
  • Utilize a variety of teaching strategies, activities, and assignments that will accommodate the needs of students with diverse learning styles, abilties, backgrounds, and experiences. 
  • Use universal design principles to create accessible classes. For example, present information both orally and visually to accommodate both students with visual or auditory impairments in addition to students with various learning preferences.
  • When possible, provide flexibility in how students demonstrate their knowledge and how you assess student knowledge and development. Vary your assessments (for example, incorporate a blend of collaborative and individual assignments) or allow choice in assignments (for example, give students multiple project topics to choose from, or have students determine the weight of each assignment on their final grade at the beginning of the semester.)
  • Be clear about how students will be evaluated and graded. Provide justifications.
  • Take time to assess the classroom climate by obtaining mid-semester feedback from students.
    • Pass out index cards during class for anonymous feedback.
    • Ask students to rate from 1-5 how comfortable they are in class. Also ask for 2 suggestions for how they could feel more comfortable.
    • Conduct a Qualtrics survey.
    • Discuss your findings in the next class and share any changes you will make regarding the feedback.

Resources for Inclusive Teaching Strategies

CTE Universal Design pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
CTE Inclusive Teaching pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
CTE Diversity pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)
Faculty Institute for Diversity
CTE Diversity Resources
CU CIRTL

The Center for Integrating Research, Teaching and Learning’s (CIRTL) web pages have case studies on issues of inclusivity in the classroom and other resources related to diversity.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Diversity and Democracy periodical provides information on various diversity initiatives.

Cornell’s Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) and Cornell’s commitment to diversity provides information on what is going on at Cornell regarding diversity and inclusivity.

References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Armstrong, M.A. (2011). Small world: Crafting an inclusive classroom (no matter what you teach). Thought and Action, Fall, 51-61.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Kaplan, M. & Miller, A. T. (Eds.). (2007). Special Issue: Scholarship of multicultural teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (111).

Warren, L. (2006). Managing hot moments in the classroom. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/hotmoments.html

Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.) To improve the academy. (pp. 208-226). Jossey-Bass.