Guide To Teaching and Learning

How to Create an Inclusive Learning Environment

Create a welcoming, respectful learning environment that recognizes and values difference by adopting the following practices. 

  • Adopt community agreements
    • Promotes the notion of a classroom as a community of learners, including students and faculty. Supports respectful interactions among students and between you and the students and encourage students to raise concerns about issues before they fester or escalate.
  • Communicate clearly using inclusive language. 
    • If you use Americentric (or other culturally specific) idioms, take a moment to explain them and don’t assume that students will understand the phrases you use.
    • Use gender-inclusive phrases. Instead of “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” say “Good evening, everyone.” And “guys”, while often used colloquially to mean all genders, is not really inclusive. 
    • Don’t assume someone’s gender based on their name or appearance. 
    • Respect students’ pronouns.
  • Teach with transparency 
    • Explain the decision-making behind your various course elements, why you chose particular activities, what you expect students to learn from them and their relevance.
    • If you think some students may find some of the material emotionally upsetting, give students a heads up about what is to come. Consider allowing students to choose from one than one assignment or activity if one of the options is emotionally concerning.
    • Communicate clear and high expectations and provide constructive feedback
  • Get to know your students as whole people
    • What are their personal, educational and career goals? Know their names and use their correct pronouns. What are challenges to their participation? Ask what they need to do well in your class.
  • Provide alternatives. 
    • Provide students multiple entry points and ways to engage with the course material and demonstrate their knowledge. For example, letting students choose between writing a final paper or creating a digital project, gives students autonomy and caters to different learning styles. 
    • Use teaching methods that consider diverse learning preferences, abilities, ways of knowing, and prior experience and knowledge.
    • Ensure accessibility.
  • Overemphasize structure. Structuring your syllabus and course assignments in a clear and consistent manner levels the playing field and will enable your students to stay on track. This is even more important in the online setting.
    • Provide natural supports for learning to enhance opportunities for all learners

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