Creating Inclusive Course Assignments

inclusive teaching banner_FINALA new resource guide on Creating Inclusive Course Assignments [LINK to PDF] has been posted to the Reinert Center website.

If you want to talk with someone about designing more inclusive assignments in your own classes, you may request a teaching consultation by completing this form (LINK).

If you have ideas for resource guide topics you would like to see posted, share them here (LINK).

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at

Focus on Teaching & Technology Conference: Nov. 3-4

UMSLSLU faculty and graduate students are invited to attend the 2016 Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference (FTTC) on November 2-3 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  The two-day conference features presentations, workshops, and exhibits on emerging trends and effective uses of technology in higher education.

Several SLU faculty and instructors are scheduled to present including:

Simone Bregni (Languages, Literatures and Cultures),

Patrick Brooks (Prison Program)

Mary Gould (Communications)

Fr. Mike May (Mathematics and Statistics)

Dan Nickolai (Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

Nathaniel Rivers (English)

Mark Wilson (Theatre)

Derek Bruff will present the keynote address for the conference. Buff is the Director of the Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. His research interests include educational technology, visual thinking, and social pedagogies. His book, Teaching with Classroom Responses Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2009. Buff has taught at Harvard University and has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Vanderbilt University.

The conference is a great opportunity to learn new technologies and to meet other faculty who are incorporating technology for effective teaching in their courses.

Because Saint Louis University is a co-sponsor for the conference, SLU faculty will receive a 25% discount on the conference registration. Graduate students already receive a reduced student rate for registration. The early bird registration deadline is October 1, 2016.  To register for the conference, visit:

Also, considering nominating a colleague for the conferences’ Teaching with Technology Award. The award is for an instructor who has used technology in innovative and effective ways for classroom and online teaching.  To submit a nomination, visit: Nominations are due October 1, 2016.

Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces: What Do You Do?

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

It’s hard to open a newspaper this fall without coming across an article about trigger warnings or safe spaces on college campuses.

Perhaps the most well-known set of readings is from the University of Chicago, where the dean of students, students, and faculty have all weighed in. (See links below.)

This has led the staff of the Reinert Center to wonder how faculty at SLU feel about trigger warnings and what strategies they are using in the classroom. We invite SLU faculty to anonymously submit their thoughts on the form linked below. We will summarize the responses in a blog post later this semester.

To share your thoughts anonymously, go to:

University of Chicago Links

Dean’s letter:

Students’ letter:

Faculty Letter:

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at

Who Are You Excluding? Seeing the Diversity in Your Classroom

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

When developing this year’s theme of Inclusive Teaching, Reinert Center staff and advisory board members considered this question: Who are we excluding in our courses?

Even without being aware of it, our courses may create unnecessary obstacles to learning for some or many of our students.

For instance, my classroom might be a space where extroverts are implicitly rewarded for jumping into class discussions quickly, verbally.  Or my exams may be designed in ways that implicitly reward students whose language proficiency allows them to read English as quickly as I do.

The content in my course might artificially distort students’ views of who is allowed or encouraged to be scholars in my field. Or I may ask (at the start of a term, as a way to build connections with students) where students’ families used to go on summer vacations, not realizing that I am potentially alienating students in certain socio-economic classes who may not have had the means to go on summer vacations.

By not explaining that I assign student groups randomly, I may inadvertently lead minority students in my class to wonder if they’ve been placed in a group as a “representative” of their racial or gender or nationality group. Or when using my perceptions of a student’s physical appearance to determine which pronoun to use in referring to her or him, I may unwittingly reinforce a binary view of gender identity and create an exclusion for a student who experiences gender in a non-binary way.

These are just some of the ways our choices in course design and instruction may – without our intending to – reward certain kinds of learners or identities and perhaps disadvantage others. We all do this; in many ways, it’s unavoidable. Intuitively, we often design courses that would work very well for the kinds of students we ourselves were but not necessarily for diverse group of students who enroll in our courses. Therefore, it can be useful to examine our course design and instruction choices through the lens of different kinds of difference, in order to identify – and mitigate – possible sites of difficulty.

Particularly on campuses with a majority-white (or majority-female or majority-Christian) student body, it can be difficult to see the different kinds of difference within our classrooms.  Here are just some of the kinds of diversity we encounter, whether differences are immediately apparent to us or not:


The list goes on. And no student, no instructor, is just one of these things. Identity is inherently intersectional.

In the end, we cannot know all the different kinds of difference that are represented within a single group of students in a single classroom. But we can become aware of our own personal biases, assumptions, and expectations, as well as the ways in which these may create barriers for students.  And we can engage students in a range of activities and discussions that help us to better understand who they are and what they need to be successful in achieving the rigorous learning we want for all students.

To see some common strategies for uncovering the diversity within a classroom see this Resource Guide on Seeing the Diversity in Your Classroom [LINK].

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at

Faculty Book Group: Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi


October 21, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Des Peres 214

The Reinert Center will host a conversation for faculty (full- and part-time) on the effects of stereotypes and how stereotype threat enters into our classrooms as we discuss the book, Whistling Vivaldi, by social psychologist Claude Steele.

We will be giving away a copy of the book to the first ten people to register and commit to participating in this discussion on October 21, 2016.

Click here to register to attend. [LINK]


Image courtesy of

Intersectionality in Action

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Intersectionality, a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), “provides a critical lens to interrogate racial, ethnic, class, physical ability, age, sexuality, and gender disparities and to contest existing ways of looking at these structures of inequality” (Dill & Zambrana, 2009, p.1). A recent edited volume by Elon University Professors Brooke Barnett and Peter Felten invites readers to develop the knowledge and capacities necessary to create inclusive campus communities and learning environments mindful of these complex intersections. Of particular interest are the chapters focused on learning intersectionality, which offer different practical accounts of teaching about and for inclusion. Below is a brief excerpt from the editors’ introduction that states the goals of the volume and general organization of its chapters.

From, “Intersectionality in Action: A Guide for Faculty and Campus Leaders for Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Institutions”:

“This book explores the practices and perspectives necessary for rethinking higher education to focus on the intersections of identity. Building on the emerging literature on intersectionality and on the rich scholarship about diversity and inclusion and rooted in the context of a range of different campuses, this book includes chapters by an array of experts from different institutions and roles. Each chapter offers action-oriented analysis focusing on particular campus intersections, rather than attending to specific demographic groups. Chapter authors also build on their own local expertise of doing this work on campuses that often do not have deep pockets or rich histories of such efforts.

The book is organized into three parts:

  1. People focuses on the broad concept of diversity, considering how we recruit and engage the students, faculty, and staff in the campus community and how we work with governing boards and others to promote inclusive excellence.
  2. Environment focuses on inclusion, including residence life, the local community, the working and learning environment, and external factors, such as national and international news events or town-gown relationship.
  3. Learning focuses on perspective taking and learning about difference in the core curriculum, the disciplines, and the co-curriculum, as well as professional development for faculty and staff.

The practices and scholarship in these chapters capture some of the power of using intersectionality to think about and organize diversity and inclusion work on campus. Moving from theory to practice is rarely easy, but it is fundamental to the mission and purpose of higher education” (pp. xv-xviii).

Please stop by the Reinert Center to look at our copy of this volume. Also, contact us at if you would like to schedule a teaching consultation to discuss intersectionality.


Barnett, B., & Felten, P. (2016). Intersectionality in action: A guide for faculty and campus leaders for creating inclusive classrooms and institutions. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago legal forum, feminism in the law: Theory, practice and criticism, vol. 1989 (139-167). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Legal Forum.

Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at

Ignatian Pedagogy as Critical Pedagogy

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

Critical pedagogy is a philosophy of education and social movement that combines education with critical theory. First described by Paulo Freire, it has since been developed by others as an approach to inclusive teaching practices. Critical pedagogue Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as:

“Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.” (129)

With this definition in mind, I would like to highlight a brief exploration into the ways in which Jesuit education through Ignatian pedagogy can be seen as critical pedagogy, in the same ways that feminist, queer, postcolonial, and anti-racist theories have, too, given birth to their own strands of critical pedagogy. The excerpt below traces Ignatian pedagogical principles as parallel with and influential to, Freirean pedagogy (the “godfather,” so to speak, of critical pedagogies).

From, “Paulo Friere and the Jesuit Tradition: Jesuit Rhetoric and Freirean Pedagogy”:

Much like the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, the problem-posing method and all of Freirean pedagogy moves through a learning cycle that sets as an ideal the process of moving through that cycle: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. These terms are used with specific intention by Ignatian pedagogues, as each term encompasses many layers of meaning. […] Working not only as a means for judgment of the type, quantity, and quality of student learning by the teacher, evaluation also, perhaps more importantly, is a time for self-assessment by both student and teacher about the learning of the class in order to reenter the cycle at a deeper level of awareness. All of these specific terms, with their multifaceted meanings, must work in concert with each other within the complex web of the paradigm. When analyzed carefully, it can be seen that the learning cycle Freire sets up in his theories includes similar complex elements, beginning with a sharp and intentional awareness of context and moving to the core of his theories, praxis (action + reflection), and ending with a transformational experience that interpolates us to continue the cycle, going ever deeper into knowledge and naming (word) of the world.

We can continue noting the additional parallels in these two pedagogical approaches by reaching deeper into the rhetorical tradition of eloquentia perfecta and comparing it with Freire’s pedagogy of the wordEloquentia perfecta goes beyond just perfect eloquence in words. It calls us to use speech or communication that focuses on truth, accuracy, and comprehensiveness as a path into the world, especially used in order to stand for the silenced, excluded, or impoverished. We cannot forget Ignatius’s and the Jesuits’ preferential option for the poor. At the same time, as mentioned above, Freire’s concept of the word is action + reflection, or praxis. He states that to speak a true word is to transform the world (88). The idea that speaking (not to be confused with chatter) is the right of all, and that speaking evokes dialogue that has the capacity to change the world, which is to be transformed and humanized, especially for and from those whom have been silenced, excluded, or impoverished, parallels what the Jesuit rhetorical tradition has been advocating for centuries.

Thus, the Jesuit rhetorical tradition of eloquentia perfecta is “education as the practice of freedom.” It works together with cura personalis “as [opposition] to education as an act of domination—denies that a person is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people” (Freire, 81). Cura personalis, the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, and eloquentia perfecta now carry the Jesuit rhetorical tradition, and with them the Ignatian educator, toward collaboration, in this case as teachers and students, in order to address the world through real education and real understanding of all of the world, including and especially those parts beyond the ivory tower. As educators who see the parallel approaches of the Ignatian and Freirean models, we are called to be and to teach our students to be what Superior General Hans Peter Kolvenbach has called “whole persons in solidarity for the real world,” beginning with how and what we teach in our classrooms and programs. With Kolvenbach’s statement, we must acknowledge that what we see as parallel pedagogical theories are actually intertwined theories in our contemporary educational reality. (244-45)

Through this lens, we can see the ways in which Ignatian pedagogy acts as another example of critical pedagogy, which places the multilayered tenants: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation, as well as the ideals of eloquentia perfecta and cura personalis, at the center of inclusive teaching practices meant to challenge students’ understanding of how and why they create the knowledge and skills they are called upon to do through their educational journeys.

Works Cited:

Pace, Thomas and Gina M. Merys. “Paulo Friere and the Jesuit Tradition: Jesuit Rhetoric and
Freirean Pedagogy.” Traditions of Eloquence. New York: Fordham, 2016. 244-45.

Shor, Ira. Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1992. 129.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at

Two Questions for Starting the New Academic Year

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Last week, new faculty and students officially joined our community, and just like that, the campus is back to life. Personally, I love the start of a new term, a new academic year; possibility is a powerful thing, and fresh starts can be motivating.

If you’re new to teaching, or new to SLU, I invite you to learn more about what the Reinert Center does [LINK to Programs and Services] and how you can get involved [LINK to Events]. We’re eager to help you discover the right teaching choices for you.

If you’ve been teaching for a while (or longer than a while) and want to explore ways to reinvigorate your teaching, you might be interested talking with someone about new pedagogies [LINK to Consultations] or in applying for an Innovative Teaching Fellowship [LINK] to teach in our Learning Studio [LINK] next year. (The next Call for Applications will be issued in early September.)

If you’re interested in designing and teaching courses in inclusive ways, you may be interested in our theme for this year – Inclusive Teaching. Earlier this month, I shared a few initial thoughts about our approach to the theme [LINK]. All year, we’ll offer programming and publish web-based resources that focus on practical strategies for creating inclusive and equitable learning environments.

No matter what your level of teaching experience, I invite you to reflect on two key questions as you begin the new term:

What matters most to you this semester?

You can’t do everything this semester. What are the highest-value goals you have for your teaching? Your interactions with students? What actions will help you to keep those at the forefront of your work with students?

When will you reflect?

Seriously … when? Often, we intend to reflect critically on our teaching, but the time pressures of class prep and grading and meetings and scholarly work can push those good intentions to winter break. Take a moment now to schedule half-hour check-ins with yourself every few weeks. Consider what’s working for you and what’s not; identify small, concrete steps you can take to enhance your experience as a teacher this semester.

Write down your responses to both of these questions. Keep them in view as the term unfolds. Doing so will help you stay in touch with the good intentions you have here at the beginning, when possibilities still feel endless and realities aren’t yet preventing you from achieving them all.

Best wishes for reflective new term. We look forward to seeing you at a Reinert Center event soon.

A Review of Recent Articles from The Teaching Professor

The-Teaching-Professor-Newsletter-Cover-Imageby Sandy Gambill, Senior Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

The Reinert Center maintains an institutional subscription to The Teaching Professor newsletter so it is available for free to anyone with a email address. Here is an overview of articles you may have missed this summer that might be useful as you plan for classes to begin next week.

Teaching a Course Students Don’t Want To Take

This is a collection of easy-to-implement strategies and tips to motivate students in courses they might be hesitant to take such as large survey courses that a student may not see as relevant or courses with a reputation for having difficult-to-master content.

Grading Advice for Those Who Grade A Lot
If you teach a course where your students produce work you need to grade on a regular basis, this list of recommendations for handling the workload could be useful.

Does Participation Promote Engagement?
This article presents the findings of two recent studies investigating the relationship between class participation and student engagement. It might be of interest if you are considering how or if to offer credit for oral participation.

Why Won’t They Ask Us For Help?
This article presents the results of a study investigating why students don’t come to office hours or delay asking for help until it is too late. It’s of particular interest at the beginning of the semester if you are looking for strategies to increase student attendance at office hours.

You can create your free account to The Teaching Professor by following these steps.
Go to

  1. Click ‘Create an Account’

  2. Complete all fields under “Required Information” and then click the blue “Create Account” button

  3. You will receive an e-mail at the e-mail address you entered while creating your account

  4. Open the email used to register your account and find the new e-mail sent to you from Magna

  5. Click the link in that e-mail to complete your registration

  6. Enter your email or username and password (case sensitive) and select ‘Login’

  7. Select the “Group Subscriptions” tab at the top of the page

  8. In the red box, enter the Authorization Code: SLU7M2P4  (case sensitive)

  9. Select Activate to access the subscription

Acknowledging Difference on the First Day

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

One of my early teaching mentors encouraged me to prioritize difference during the first class of the semester. “But, how?” I asked, with a heavy feeling of accountability. She told me I needed to reflect on my goals for the course and their relationship to matters of difference to answer that question. Instead of giving me specific strategies, she offered two guiding purposes for initiating a conversation about difference with my students. First, she said it was an opportunity for me to share with students my perspectives on difference. Second, and more importantly, she said it was an opportunity for my students to share with me their perspectives on difference. “Be prepared to listen as a way of acknowledging their voices,” she said. “Listen to their concerns, ideas, and questions. Write things down to process and return to later. Show them you care.”

Show them you care.

I always come back to that last point when designing activities and discussions for the first day of class. For me, how I show students I care about difference depends on the context of the course, the current discourses (e.g., cultural, political, social) shaping matters of difference for all of us, as well as my own critical commitments as a scholar and teacher. I show students I care about difference by being transparent with them about my thinking in each of these areas. It is important for me to find ways to create a classroom environment where difference can be acknowledged among everyone in the class. You may be wondering just as I did, “But, how?”

Deanna Dannels (2015) at North Carolina State University suggests three first-day action items to help set up this type of classroom climate:

  1. Use an icebreaker to highlight multicultural voices in the classroom, including your own.
  2. Discuss explicitly your view on discrimination (and put it in the syllabus).
  3. Model intellectual and multicultural curiosity and tolerance.

These are three effective strategies to acknowledge difference on the first day. They are applicable across a variety of disciplines and fields of study, and each can be designed to support specific goals you have for your course – even if the goals do not explicitly address difference. I agree with Dannels (2015), “Acknowledging difference is not a one-time ‘checklist’ item as a teacher. It can and should be an important part of every class you teach” (p. 154). However, it is up to you do decide how you will acknowledge difference with your students. Consider making it a “front burner” topic as you prepare for the first day of class this fall.

Show them you care.

Dannels, D. P. (2015). Eight essential questions teachers ask: A guidebook for communicating with students. New York: Oxford University Press.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at