A college or university classroom, whether physical or virtual, is a reflection of the world in which we live. Research has shown that students from underrepresented groups often face additional challenges. By implementing inclusive teaching practices and culturally responsive instruction, faculty create learning environments where equity gaps can be closed and all students feel they belong and have the opportunity to achieve at high levels.
To support instructors in creating inclusive learning environments and student-centered pedagogy, we’re offering a set of free resources, including 10 inclusive teaching practices that can be immediately put to use to benefit both faculty and their students. These practices are tailored for online higher education teaching but are also relevant to the physical classroom.
These 10 practices include:
- Ensure your course reflects a diverse society and world.
- Ensure course media are accessible.
- Ensure your syllabus sets the tone for diversity and inclusion.
- Use inclusive language.
- Share your gender pronouns.
- Learn and use students’ preferred names.
- Engage students in a small-group introductions activity.
- Use an interest survey to connect with students.
- Offer inclusive office hours.
- Set expectations for valuing diverse viewpoints.
In the discussion forum below, we invite you to submit questions or share information about the inclusive teaching practices you use in your courses.
Ensure your course reflects a diverse society and world.
Ensure your syllabus sets the tone for diversity and inclusion.
Be intentional when selecting your multimedia (images, videos, blogs), required readings, and illustrative examples so that your course site and curriculum reflect diverse people, voices, and viewpoints. For example, seek articles from publications outside of your discipline’s main journals, in journals published outside the U.S., and in open-access databases.
Although you want to encourage diverse viewpoints, avoid calling on students from particular identity groups to ask for their perspective on an entire group’s experience. Instead, ask “Are there any other ideas?” “Can anyone offer a different perspective?” “How might someone who has a different life experience view the situation?” Download a planning guide.
An inclusive syllabus includes policies and resources that help to ensure all students are supported in their learning. Preview an example of an inclusive syllabus.
Adding a diversity statement that explains why diversity and inclusion are important to education—both generally and in your specific course—helps students understand the importance and relevance of diversity and inclusion. See sample diversity statements.
Be sure to post your syllabus on your course site and consider creating an automated, low-stakes syllabus quiz to help ensure that students read it. Download sample syllabus activities.
Use an interest survey to connect with students.
Ensure course media are accessible.
Create and disseminate an online questionnaire that asks students about their preferred names/pronouns, work experience and plans for the future, what they are most looking forward to and most concerned about related to your course, their communication preferences, and who they are as people (by asking about their hobbies, family, pets, etc.). Keeping this information in a spreadsheet for reference will help you customize your course (examples, speakers, assignments, etc.) and allow you to get to know your students as individuals. View sample survey questions.
Use inclusive language.
Offer inclusive office hours.
Remove barriers to students meeting with you by offering a variety of times (time of day and length of meeting), formats (e.g., video conference, phone call, text message, email), and structures (e.g., one-on-one and in small groups). Promote your office hours in a way that is visually engaging and encouraging. Continually invite students to your office hours throughout the semester. Preview a sample graphic showing office hours.
You might also refer to your office hours as “student hours,” since some students have the misconception, or may have received implicit messages, that “office hours” is the time instructors set aside to work in their offices and should not be disturbed. By referring to the time as “student hours,” you send a clear message that this time is for them.
Set expectations for valuing diverse viewpoints.
Engage students in a small-group introductions activity.
During the first week of your course, provide an opportunity for students to learn more about each other, in order to help everyone feel more comfortable and to start developing a sense of community.
Allow students to share something about themselves by providing a set of prompts and asking students to post a written or video response about their interests and aspirations. Download a sample discussion forum activity. Preview a guide for responding to student introductions.
If you have live sessions with your students, consider putting them into pairs or small breakout groups to complete an introduction activity.
Share your gender pronouns with students.
Model inclusion and send a message that your course is a safe space for students across the gender spectrum by including your pronouns on your syllabus, on your signature line, and in your LMS profile. It is also helpful to explain why this practice is important by including a link to information such as https://www.mypronouns.org/
As part of an introduction survey, you might also ask students to list their pronouns and ensure that you use their preferred pronouns in correspondence with them.
Learn and use students’ preferred names.
Special thanks to our incredibly talented and gracious contributors:
- José Antonio Bowen, PhD, Former President, Goucher College, Former Dean, Miami University and Southern Methodist University, Author, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning
- Kelly Hogan, PhD, STEM Teaching Professor and Associate Dean of Instructional Innovation, College of Arts & Sciences, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Darvelle Hutchins, MBA, MA, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Communication, University of Missouri
- Ece Karayalcin, MFA, Professor of Film, Miami Dade College
- Kate Kelley, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Religious Studies, University of Missouri
- Kevin Kelly, EdD, Lecturer, Department of Equity, Leadership Studies & Instructional Technologies, San Francisco State University
- April E. Mondy, Instructor in Management, Division of Management, Marketing, and Business Administration, College of Business and Aviation, Delta State University
- Viji Sathy, PhD, Teaching Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Alyson Snowe, PhD, Professor, English Department, Community College of Rhode Island
- Jerome D. Williams, PhD, Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost, Distinguished Professor & Prudential Chair of Business, Rutgers University-Newark
Inclusive Teaching and Learning Online. Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning.
Diversity and Inclusion. Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale University.
Teaching in Racially Diverse College Classrooms. Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University
Creating a Positive Classroom Climate for Diversity. UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development.
Want to Reach All of Your Students? Here’s How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive. The Chronicle of Higher Education.