Reflecting on an Inclusive Classroom
In pedagogical terms, inclusivity means building a classroom (and I would argue--campus) environment wherein faculty members and students share in the creation of a learning space in a way that respects all of the constituents, their lived experiences, and learning needs. Inclusivity means inviting and welcoming everyone to learn, including students with diverse race, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds, first-generation college students, returning veterans and active-duty students, students with disabilities, and more.
The arguments for inclusivity in the classroom are as diverse as the term itself with some experts citing inclusivity as the fulfillment of higher education’s democratic promise. And every classroom has the potential to be an inclusive space:
Classrooms are social environments, and all social environments are places where inclusivity happens—or fails to happen. In short, there is no getting off the hook: if you have students sitting in front of you, you are interacting with a social group. And if you are interacting with a social group, you have a job to do regarding the practice of inclusivity (Armstrong, 2011).
As faculty members, we play a critical role in theorizing, designing, developing, and facilitating inclusive spaces. Let’s reflect on this role together by asking ourselves the following questions based on the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate) model of course design:
What is my definition of inclusivity?
What would I expect to see in an inclusive classroom?
What is my inclusive teaching philosophy?
What are my teaching assumptions and biases?
What do I know about the students entering my course?
What are my students' needs?
How will I define success when it comes to inclusivity?
What course structures can I put in place to support inclusivity?
How do my course description and learning outcomes support students?
What classroom guidelines and policies do I have that support inclusivity?
How does my classroom schedule support feedback, reflection, and dialogue?
How do my lesson plans support student voice and collaboration?
How do I make space for assessing and activating prior knowledge?
How will I determine what resources my students need?
Are my materials accessible to every student?
Do my materials reflect my students and their unique experiences?
How do my activities and assignments support student choice?
How will I dedicate enough time, so students aren’t rushed during activities?
What resources will I need to curate and create to support students?
Do I know where to refer students for additional resources?
How will I facilitate the conversation about inclusivity in our classroom?
How will I encourage students to use resources like office hours?
How do I frame using support and resources?
How will I model the engagement and participation for students?
How will I invite students to collaborate on developing parts of the course?
What are different methods I will use to help every student participate?
How have I prepared to facilitate challenging conversations and difficult discussions?
What is my plan for collecting self-reflections?
What is my plan for collecting peer feedback?
What is my plan for collecting student feedback (public, private, named, anonymous)?
When will I create time to review the feedback I received during the course?
What will be my criteria for determining the feedback I choose to implement?
What will be my timeline for implementation?
How will I use my definition of success to evaluate my course?
How will I evaluate the success of these changes?
How will I determine resources, support, and/or development that could assist me?
Reflecting on these questions will help us take a deep dive into what it means to build an inclusive classroom.
Want to talk about how to implement these inclusive practices with other faculty? Join us in the OLT Community where we talk about inclusive practices and more!
Armstrong, M.A. (2011). Small world: Crafting an inclusive classroom (no matter what you teach). Thought and Action, Fall, 51-61.
Bussey, T. R. (2020). Understanding the challenges facing first-generation college students. Faculty Focus.
Butler, J. E. (2014). Replacing the cracked mirror: The challenge for diversity and inclusion. Association of American Colleges & Universities, Diversity and Democracy, Fall, vol. 17, no. 4.
Harper, S. R. and C. H. F. Davis. (2016). Eight actions to reduce racism in college classrooms: When professors are part of the problem. AAUP, Academe, November-December.
McKibben, S. (2018). Creating a gender-inclusive classroom. ASCD.
Roost, A. & N. Roost. (2014). Supporting veterans in the classroom. AAUP, Academe, May-June.
Rose, M. (2010). Working with working-class students. Association of American Colleges & Universities, Diversity and Democracy, Fall, vol. 13, no. 3.
Schley, S. (2019). Easy to implement strategies for disabilities in the college classroom. Faculty Focus.