Why Diversity and Inclusion?

Every classroom has students with differing sets of skills, abilities, and personal identities. Some of these differences will impact students’ ability to participate in class activities, such as a visual impairment. Others will manifest themselves either in the ways that students approach the course material, understand their role in the classroom, or interact with one another. Instructors often struggle to manage students’ diverse learning habits and abilities and worry about addressing cultural diversity in the classroom.

To begin to address diversity in the classroom, we suggest instructors consider how multiple factors—the syllabus, course content, class activities, their own classroom behavior, and their knowledge of students’ backgrounds and skills—contribute to the classroom environment and students’ ability to succeed in the tasks of the course. By thinking through how each of these factors can be geared towards all of the students, instructors can create a safe and comfortable inclusive environment in which their students can succeed in meeting the course’s goals. Including clear policies about disability accommodations, or even your goal to create a safe and shared classroom environment, demonstrates to your students your commitment to helping them succeed. Being aware of the ways in which course content or class activities might be more difficult for some students to engage with or complete can help you plan for a more flexible classroom environment in which activities can be adjusted to ensure that all students can participate in the learning process. 

While different approaches may be required to address the particular issues each student brings to your class, there are some strategies that are useful in all scenarios. Some of these include:

  • development of assignments that reinforce important topics or concepts that students can complete in their own time and at their own pace (e.g., a take-home exam)
  • including a range of different learning, teaching and assessment approaches and providing students with options to choose the ones they feel suit them best
  • providing opportunities for students to reflect on their own experiences and to consider how these experiences influence the way they learn
  • scaffolding skills and assignments so that students can gradually build the critical skills of the course

Check out the CCT's page on Inclusive Teaching for upcoming programs as well as a host of resources. See the "Teaching Students with Disabilities" packet on the right hand side of this page for some tips on inclusive classroom strategies as well. 

Recommended Reading

  1. Inclusive Teaching Strategies,” Center for Teaching Excellence, Cornell University
  2. Diversity & Inclusive Teaching,” Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University

Links

  1. CCT Inclusive Teaching Page (with upcoming programs and further resources)
  2. Learning to Teach Inclusively, The Higher Education Academy, University of Wolverhampton
  3. Checklist for Inclusive Teaching, Monash University
  4. Creating an Enabling Classroom Environment Workshop