What is inclusive teaching? Why does it matter?
Reflecting on how students' identities and abilities may influence teaching and learning is often the first step in creating more inclusive classes, especially for those instructors who value equality and social justice in education. In this particular teaching resource, we focus on the following considerations for creating inclusive learning experiences for students at Saint Louis University:
- Crafting accessible learning environments for students through some of the following pedagogical approaches: Universal Instructional Design, Critical Pedagogy, Ignatian Pedagogy, and Sociocultural Theory
- Acknowledging how teacher and student identities play a role in teaching and learning, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability, and veteran status, among others
- Identifying the role sociocultural theory (Vygotsky) plays in how cultural beliefs and attitudes may influence teaching and learning
This teaching resource is organized around the five elements of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm since the concept and practice of inclusive teaching greatly benefits from considering one's personal, professional, and institutional context, experiences, reflections, actions, and evaluation in creating courses for diverse student audiences.
Promoting social justice at Jesuit learning institutions such as ours is a core mission and value: "Jesuit higher education is guided by a spirituality that seeks justice. Inspired by the tenets of Catholic social teaching and its intellectual and social justice traditions, a Jesuit education places great emphasis on forming ‘women and men for others'" ("Jesuit Higher Education," n.d.). Creating inclusive learning experiences and classrooms is an extension of SLU's overall commitment and work towards improving social justice and educating students to be ‘women and men for others.'
Diversity at SLU: http://www.slu.edu/diversity/about-diversity-at-slu
- This link includes the University's Diversity and Inclusion Vision Statement, Diversity Defined, University Demographics, and a Diversity Calendar of Events.
Some inclusive pedagogies include:
- Critical Pedagogy (Freire)
- Ignatian Pedagogy (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
- Sociocultural Theory (Vygotsky)
- Universal Instructional Design (Silver, Bourke, & Strehorn)
One's past experiences have an effect on the current learning environment. Research tells us that how people learn new knowledge is connected to previous knowledge, and students' past learning experiences have a bearing on their experience of their current learning environments.
Faculty assumptions about what learning is and what it looks like (particularly in the context of a discipline or field of study) are not always visible to students. In order to create transformative learning environments, it's important to make your own implicit assumptions and beliefs explicit for students, and to help them uncover theirs. This is especially important in the context of highly diverse learning environments, with learners from different cultures and backgrounds, and in the context of notable transitions, such as the transition from high school to college or from college to graduate or professional school.
Uncovering Instructor Identities
- "Instructor Identity: The Impact of Gender and Race on Faculty Experiences with Teaching" by Diana B. Kardia and Mary C. Wright (CRLT Occasional Paper): http://www.crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/CRLT_no19.pdf
- Inclusive Pedagogy & Diversity: Education for the 21st Century: Video reflections from faculty members at Ball State University who explored "the transformative impact inclusive pedagogy has on diverse students" (this resource also includes many disciplinary lesson plans too!)
Uncovering Student Identities
- Identifying students' prior knowledge and past learning experiences upfront, especially as these past learning experiences relate to a course, can build instructors' awareness of how students' attitudes, expectations, and histories may shape their learning in a current class. DePaul's Teaching Commons curates techniques for assessing prior knowledge, especially from Angelo & Cross' (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: http://teachingcommons.depaul.edu/Classroom_Activities/priorknowledge.html
- San Jose State University also offers a really comprehensive and practical Faculty Toolkit for Engaging Campus Diversity that includes examples of icebreakers, activities, and assignments: http://www.sjsu.edu/cfd/docs/integrated_faculty_toolkit.pdf
Many instructors are familiar with the importance reflection plays in transformative teaching and learning. As reflective practitioners teaching in a Jesuit institution, it's especially helpful to regularly consider how classes promote and honor inclusion.
To help you with this reflective process, consider your answers to the following reflective questions below:
- Recall [an] incident in which you first became aware of differences. What was your reaction? Were you the focus of attention or were others? How did that affect how you reacted to the situation?
- What are the "messages" that you learned about various "minorities" or "majorities" when you were a child? At home? In school? Have your views changed considerably since then? Why or why not?
- Recall an experience in which your own difference put you in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the people directly around you. What was that difference? How did it affect you?
- How do your memories of differences affect you today? How do they (or might they) affect your teaching?
- What scripts do I put upon my students when I first meet them? How do these scripts reflect my values, beliefs, and past experiences?
- What do my students choose to emphasize about themselves or hide and why?
- What do I assume "engagement" in my class looks like? In what ways might students have to cover - or reverse cover - in order to meet those expectations?
- What scripts do my students read about me?
- What do I choose to keep private or emphasize about myself in the classroom?
Questions 1-4 come from the article, "Diversity Issues for the Instructor: Identifying Your Own Attitudes", first published by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and then republished with permission on the University of Michigan's CRLT website.
Questions 5-9 come from a Reinert Center blog post written by Katie Beres entitled, "First Impressions: A Reflection on our Snap Judgments of our Students," published on January 25, 2013.
Reflective Podcast Series
In the fall 2012, Dr. Gina Merys, Associate Director in the Reinert Center, created and produced a podcast series on that year's theme of "Engaging All Learners": http://www.slu.edu/blogs/cttl/category/weekly-reflection/
The podcast series includes reflective prompts crafted around the five elements of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm. Some of the topics Dr. Merys explored are as follows:
- Reflective Review and Planning
- Engaging All Learners during Office Hours
- Learning through Risk Taking
- Authentic Projects for Authentic Learning
- The Many Faces of Participation
- Intentional Flexibility
- Intercultural Competence in the Classroom
General Teaching Resources
- The University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching is an excellent resource for reflecting about how teachers' actions cultivate inclusivity in the multicultural classroom in addition to providing a host of concrete instructional strategies and course planning considerations for designing productive and welcoming learning environments for our students: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/multicultural-teaching/inclusive-teaching-strategies
- Cornell University's Center for Teaching Excellence offers some great beginning strategies, resources, and references for building inclusive college classrooms. To get started, click here: http://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/building-inclusive-classrooms/index.html
- Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching offers a comprehensive guide for Diversity & Inclusive Teaching, including resources for fostering racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity; gender issues; sexual orientation; disabilities; and much more. Click here for details: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/teaching-guides/interactions/diversity/
- University of California, Berkeley's Multicultural Education Program curates many excellent resources on creating inclusive college classrooms, including teaching sensitive and controversial topics, creating inclusive student groups, and how team-based learning can promote stronger, healthier classrooms and communities: http://mep.berkeley.edu/classroom
- Supporting Student Veterans: The American Council on Education offers a Toolkit for Veteran-Friendly Institutions and the University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) highlights four concrete recommendations to assist anyone in creating veteran-friendly courses
SLU Resources for Fostering Inclusive Teaching & Learning
- Disability Services' Information for Faculty (http://www.slu.edu/retention-and-academic-success/disability-services/resources-for-facultystaff ), including the Student Support Services Syllabus Statement, Academic Accommodations FAQ, and Working with Students with Disabilities
- Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit: http://www.slu.edu/x45782.xml
- Cross Cultural Center: http://www.slu.edu/x24361.xml
- The Safe Zone Program: http://www.slu.edu/x57370.xml
- First-Generation College Students and Faculty: https://www.slu.edu/first-year-experience/first-generation-college-students
- Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity, including a list of faculty members on the President's Diversity Council, requests for Diversity & Affirmative Action training, and much more: http://www.slu.edu/general-counsel-home/office-of-institutional-equity-and-diversity
- Veterans' Benefits at SLU: http://www.slu.edu/x22758.xml
- A Checklist for Inclusive Teaching by Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/equal_access_udi.html
- Incorporate end-of-semester self-reflections on teaching and/or schedule a consultation with the Reinert Center to take stock of your class and/or the course design process. Use some of the reflective prompts above to review the inclusivity of a course.
Institution- and/or program-wide
- Institutional climate surveys are one way universities may assess the inclusivity of learning environments, as described by the Association of American Colleges & Universities' article, "Diversity in Teaching and Learning: Affirming Students as Empowered Learners" (Hurtado & Ruiz Alvarado, 2013): http://www.aacu.org/diversitydemocracy/vol16no3/hurtado_alvarado.cfm
- "A New Rubric for Assessing Institution-Wide Diversity" by Diaz & Kirmmse (2013): http://www.aacu.org/diversitydemocracy/vol16no3/diaz_kirmmse.cfm
- Higher Education Research Institute's Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) Survey (fee-based): http://www.heri.ucla.edu/dleoverview.php
- Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. Bloomsbury Academic.
- Jesuit Higher Education: Integrating a Commitment to Scholarship, Faith, and Social Justice. (n.d.). Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities. Retrieved from http://www.ajcunet.edu/about?Page=DTN-20120530014006
- McIntosh, P. (n.d.). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved from http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html
- Shelton, C. (2011). Social justice: Creating an inclusive university culture. American Council on Education. Retrieved from http://www.acenet.edu/the-presidency/columns-and-features/Pages/Social-Justice-Creating-an-Inclusive-University-Culture.aspx
- Steele, C.M. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Designing Inclusive Courses at SLU
If you are a faculty member or graduate student interested in talking with someone in the Reinert Center about designing inclusive courses and assignments, click here to request a teaching consultation.
Resources You'd Like to Share?
Do you have resources on inclusivity and accessibility that you would recommend to other instructors at Saint Louis University? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to share those resources and we may include what you recommend on this teaching resource webpage.