All instructors like to think of their classroom as a neutral space, in which all students have an equal opportunity to learn and perform well. However, students enter your class with different learning styles, abilities, strengths, and backgrounds. The idea of an inclusive classroom is one in which instructors incorporate the diversity of their students into the class. Specifically, instructors recognize that all students bring different strengths and perspectives to the classroom and incorporate strategies into their teaching and assessment methods that recognize not all students learn and communicate their learning in the same way. On this page, you can learn more about the basics of designing an inclusive classroom.
How can you create an inclusive classroom?
Creating an inclusive classroom begins with acknowledging your students enter your classroom with diverse perspectives, experiences, and approaches to learning. Recognizing and incorporating the diversity of your students into how you deliver class content, assess student learning, and promote dialogue creates not only an inclusive learning environment for your students, but gives your students the opportunity to challenge themselves and increase their own cultural awareness.
Here are a few tips to consider when designing or adapting your course:
- Design your course using principles of Universal Design, using not only multiple means of representation, but multiple perspectives of content.
- Be honest, transparent, and clear upfront with how students will be graded and assessed. Let students know what is expected of them and have classroom policies established from the beginning. Providing students with rubrics is a great way to do this.
- Connect and learn who your students are. Take the time to learn the names of your students, why they are enrolled in your course, and tell them a little about yourself (your research, your educational background, etc.).
- Take time to assess how your students feel about your course, seek feedback from your students on how they are doing midway through the semester.
We summarized a few of the key points to consider when creating an inclusive classroom. However, other resources online provide more details and specific strategies.
- Inclusive Teaching Strategies from Cornell University – The Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell University has broken down strategies for teaching inclusively and provided specific examples of how to do so.
- An Approach for Teaching Diversity: A Dozen Suggestions for Enhancing Student Learning – Jim Winship discusses 12 steps for creating an inclusive classroom. A great place to start, but as he states..not the only place!
- Creating Inclusive College CLassrooms from the University of Michigan – A great resource that helps you think about how you choose your course content, eliminate your own assumptions about students, plan class sessions, understand the backgrounds of your students, and make decisions when teaching.
- Diversity and Inclusion in the classroom – A resource on what inclusion looks like in a college classroom provided by the University of Central Florida Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning