Getting Started

Laying the groundwork for an inclusive learning community begins well before the course’s start date. Strategies that help you to get to know your students and communicate that they belong and are capable of meeting your high expectations go a long way in establishing such a community. Many of these strategies are simple to implement but do significant work for setting the tone for your course.


Before the Course Starts

Syllabi Statements

Developing your own Diversity & Inclusion Statement for your syllabus is a simple way to signal to students that you value the participation and contributions of those from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. You can use this statement to communicate your expectations for civil debate, critical thinking, and personal accountability.  It is also a helpful reference point when responding to team conflicts, discussion “hot moments,” crisis, and student grievances. Depending on your goals, you might consider including language about personal challenges/health issues, preferred pronouns/names, or being a SafeZone Ally.

  • Example of a Diversity & Inclusion Statement tailored to UC:

The University of Cincinnati embraces diversity and inclusion as core values that empower individuals to transform their lives and achieve their highest potential. The University of Cincinnati recognizes a very broad and inclusive concept of diversity that includes commonly recognized considerations such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, socioeconomic status, gender identity and expression, sexual identity, sexual orientation, religion, and regional or national origin.  Going forward, we emphasize that UC’s concept of diversity will retain the capacity to grow with our understanding. Inclusion authentically brings traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making.

We are committed to creating and fostering a positive learning and working environment based on open communication, mutual respect, and inclusion. If there are aspects of the design, instruction, and/or experiences within this course that result in barriers to your inclusion, participation, or the accurate assessment of your achievement, please feel free to contact me. 

Adapted from

Content that Represents Diverse Perspectives

If you have some control over the content (books, slides, images, articles, videos, etc.) used in your course, the following two questions can help you select a diverse collection and present it in an inclusive manner.

  • Whose voices, perspectives, and scholarship are being represented?
    • Strive to include multiple perspectives on a topic. Try to include materials that are written or created by people of different backgrounds and/or perspectives.
  • How are the perspectives and experiences of various groups being represented?
    • Include materials that address underrepresented groups' experiences in ways that do not trivialize or marginalize these groups' experiences. Be aware of and responsive to the portrayal of certain groups in course content.

Adapted from University of Michigan CRLT


Fair Grading

Anonymous grading can reduce the effect of unconscious biases, which influences the way that we evaluate others. It also signals to students that they have been evaluated fairly, without reference to their background or personal characteristics. Student work can be graded anonymously by having students write their names on the back of their exam/assignment or by assigning a code to each student at the beginning of the semester. Blackboard, UC's Learning Management System, also has features that allow for anonymous grading.

In addition, using rubrics for assignment and assessments leads to more consistent evaluation. Sharing your rubrics with your students helps them understand your expectations and criteria for evaluation. If you choose, you can create and use rubrics within Blackboard.


At the Beginning of the Course

Name Changes, Preferred Names, and Gender Markers

It is helpful to familiarize yourself with the processes your students may use to change their names and/or gender markers. You may wish to provide this information to all students at the beginning of your course.

How do students change their names and gender markers in Blackboard courses?

Students may change their name and/or gender marker within Blackboard by completing the following steps:

  • Login to Blackboard.
  • Locate the Tools header in the lefthand column.
  • Click Personal Information.
  • Click Edit Personal Information.

Here students can provide their preferred name. They may also choose to label their gender as Female, Male or Not Disclosed. Please note that making changes within Blackboard will not make changes to official student records.

To avoid the possibility of confusion, students should be advised to inform faculty members of any changes.

How do students change their names on student records? 

Students may request a change to their official name on their student record once they have legally changed their name. To do so, they should submit the Legal Name Change Request Form and documentation of the name change to the Registrar’s Office.

How do students change their gender markers on student records?

Students may request a change to their gender marker on their student record at any time. To do so, they should submit the Sex Marker Update Request Form to the Registrar’s Office. Please note that this process is separate from the process for requesting an official change to a name.


Getting to Know your Students

Building rapport and community can help foster positive interactions, a sense of belonging, the willingness to take intellectual risks, and persistence when challenged.

  • Learning students' names and using their names throughout the course is a simple way to build community. In a large course, you can use table tents. Some instructors have found it helpful to ask their students to add additional details about themselves on their table tents.
  • Surveying your students at the beginning of the semester can help you get a sense of their previous experiences, interests, study habits, and career goals. This information can help you relate course material to student interests as well as assist students who may be struggling in your course. CET&L can help you develop a survey tailored to your course and your goals for your students. Example for beginning of the course questionnaire.

Setting Expectations

Setting clear expectations can help avoid miscommunication and frustration for you and your students. Sometimes high expectations are most likely to be met. In addition, students benefit from the assurance that they are able to meet these expectations.

  • Consider sharing expectations regarding class discussion, netiquette, technology use, the structure of the course, and what students will accomplish by the end of the course.
  • Communicating your expectations clearly in multiple places such as in the syllabus and at the beginning of the semester and continually reconfirming your expectations throughout the course will help reinforce student responsibility.
  • Provide feedback, resources, and supports that assure students that they are capable of meeting your high expectations.
    • Example of feedback that provides high expectations and the assurance the student can meet them

Paula, This is an excellent draft, perhaps one revision away from an A. I like very much your discussion of Diem’s leadership and the rise of dissent in Vietnam. You set your ideas clearly and with strong evidence. However, I got lost in a few places, which I noted in the marginal comments. It would also help your reader if you mapped out your purpose and structure more clearly in the introduction. Finally, in the middle of your paper, you need to expand and clarify your discussion of Vietnamese attitudes towards American soldiers. I wasn’t quite sure what your point was in that whole section. Again, check my marginal comments to see where I got confused. Good job. I’m looking forward to your revision.

 Example from John Bean’s book Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (2011)