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Creating an Inclusive Classroom

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This post was written by Rock Creek TLC Coordinator and History Instructor Heather Mayer.


Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Classroom

Summer is often when faculty take a look at their syllabi, assignments, and classroom practices over the last year and evaluate what worked and what could have worked better. I wanted to provide some strategies and ideas for creating a more inclusive classroom that I hope you will find helpful when you begin preparing for the upcoming school year.

What is an inclusive classroom? According to the University of Michigan Center for Research in Teaching and Learning “Inclusive classrooms are classrooms in which instructors and students work together to create and sustain an environment in which everyone feels safe, supported, and encouraged to express her or his views and concerns. In these classrooms, the content is explicitly viewed from the multiple perspectives and varied experiences of a range of groups. Content is presented in a manner that reduces all students’ experiences of marginalization and, wherever possible, helps students understand that individual’s experiences, values, and perspectives influence how they construct knowledge in any field or discipline. Instructors in inclusive classrooms use a variety of teaching methods in order to facilitate the academic achievement of all students. Inclusive classrooms are places in which thoughtfulness, mutual respect, and academic excellence are valued and promoted.”

So where do you start? Here are a few ideas to think about:

  • Learn your students’ namesThis can go a long way towards students feeling included in the classroom. This especially goes for students with names that you may find difficult to pronounce. They would much rather you make an effort, even if you mispronounce it,  than to avoid saying their name altogether, or worse, giving them a different name that you can easily say.
  • Ask about their goals and experiences – On the first day of class, I usually have students fill out a notecard with information about how many colleges courses they have taken, how many in my discipline, and what their educational or career goals are.
  • Ask about preferred gender pronouns – On this same notecard, I also asked my students to list their preferred name and prefered gender pronoun (he, she, they). This normalizes the question and asks all students, rather than targeting a specific student whose gender identity might not be apparent to you.
  • Establish Classroom Ground Rules – These can be created with students on the first day of class. They can include rules relating to respecting classmates and their contributions, and not expecting students to be a spokesperson for their gender, sexual orientation, disability, culture, religion, ethnicity, or race in classroom discussions.
  • Rethink your visuals, test questions, and case studies. Are all of your pictures of white students? Do all the characters in your case studies have names like Jim and Mary? Try to include a broad variety of socio-cultural contexts in your course materials.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for inclusion strategies in the classroom. Keep an eye on the TLC Blog, Faculty Spotlight, and programming throughout the 2015-2016 academic year for more tips and resources.

Additional Reading:

About Heather Mayer

Part-Time History Instructor and Coordinator of the Rock Creek Teaching Learning Center. more »


There is one comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Peter Seaman 2 years ago

Nice blog posting, Heather! I especially like your first point about learning your students’ names. What about the online classroom? As more and more work moves online, we need to be thinking about how best to use the online space for teaching and learning. I love having the Classlist in D2L so I can see all of my students in one click. Thanks. – Peter

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