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Teaching for Inclusion

The aim of inclusive teaching is to create a teaching style that accommodates a diversity of abilities, cultural backgrounds, and learning needs.

Key strategies might include:

  • Highlighting positive role models from diverse groups within a discipline
  • Supporting students' sense of belonging
  • Conveying that diversity is needed and valued
  • Getting to know and value students as individuals

[Note: All of these are general good practice but also empirically shown to reduce stereotype threat.]

Classroom Discussion and Interaction

Students can work together and take responsibility for each other's learning as well as their own. Having students work together cooperatively can lead to greater understanding and retention of material. It can also lead to higher student motivation and more positive attitudes.

Sometimes students may not have the necessary skills to interact with their peers in groups. Establishing guidelines for group work and discussion not only sets expectations, but provides students with guidance on skills they may need to develop.

ROPES. General guidelines for group discussions.

  • R = Respect: Treat each other with respect, even if you disagree. Only one person speaks at a time. Listen carefully to each other without interruptions.
  • O = Openness: Speak honestly. The most respectful thing we can do together is to be real. Be willing to say what you really think about each topic. If you hold back, we cannot learn from you.
  • P = Participation: Speak briefly so everyone has a chance to participate. Stay on the topic at hand.
  • E = Education: Everyone comes to the table to learn, grow, and share, not to espouse expertise or authority over a subject.
  • S = Sensitivity: Use ā€œIā€ Statements. Speak only for yourself, rather than as a representative for any group. Remember that others are only speaking for themselves.

Within class discussion, students can participate in a number of forms. Clearly defining what participation means in your course allows students to anticipate how they will engage in the discussion.

  • Consider posing a question to the class but waiting a full ten seconds before allowing students to respond. This structured silence allows students to process the question and formulate their answer before participating.
  • Writing out responses to a question or comment ensures that all students participate. Reading a written response to the class may be easier for some students than verbally articulating their thoughts in the moment. Written responses can also be shared or collected.

Brookfield, S.D. (1999). Discussion as a Way of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Sometimes class discussions involve difficult dialogue. The University of Anchorage Alaska and Alaska Pacific University published a handbook that includes several classroom strategies for challenging conversations.

Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education



Feedback can take many forms. Informal feedback from students allows instructors to adapt to learners' needs. Speaking with students inside and outside of class about the structure and content of your course may provide you with further insight on student perspectives of the course.

Feedback can also be gathered from students through an Early Term Feedback (ETF) survey early in the semester. ETF allows you to engage students, address relevant questions or concerns, and make changes to your course you deem valuable based on their feedback.

If you would like to use your own Early Term Feedback survey, CET&L is more than happy to meet with you to develop your own questions and help you choose how you would like to deliver the survey. Simply request a consultation through our website.

Providing students with constructive and timely feedback on their work gives students a measure of their progress as learners. In addition, setting high expectations for students--and assurance that they can meet the expectations-- supports students' self-efficacy and sense of belonging in the classroom.



Promoting a growth mindset, or belief that knowledge and talent can be developed over time, involves praising students for their hard work and the process of learning rather than praising students for their talents.

Including activities that allow students to reflect on their own learning strategies and learn from others also helps promote student awareness that learning requires hard work (growth mindset) as well as opening up avenues for new strategies to succeed. e.g. trying a new method of taking and reviewing notes. Examples of activities include face-to-face discussion, use of online discussion forums around tailored prompts, or weekly journaling.

Developing a growth mindset is equally applicable to instructors. Developing a reflective teaching practice is a means of professional development.

Collecting information about the design of your course as well as the act of teaching provides a way to explore your own teaching practice and beliefs as well as help sustain a narrative of your professional growth as an instructor.

Often self-reflection leads to changes and enhancements of one's teaching.
Such reflection can take the form of a journal or collection of notes on how each class period went including possible changes for the next iteration of the course.

Peer observation can also be a valuable form of feedback, especially if the observer is from another discipline. Sometimes an outside perspective sheds light on challenges within the classroom and provides new ideas.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Larrivee, B. (2000). Transforming teaching practice: Becoming the critically reflective teacher. Reflective Practice, 1(3), 293-307.