A hallmark of effective teaching is racial awareness, where recognition of diversity
in the classroom informs teaching strategies. Instructors can use inclusive teaching
strategies, incorporate racial diversity into their courses, and moderate class discussions
about race in order to strengthen theirs and their students' knowledge of racial and
Inclusive teaching strategies can be separated into two categories.
- Incorporating diverse perspectives into course content by expanding reading lists beyond white male authors, offering
various ethnic and racial perspectives in case studies, ensuring PowerPoints and lecture
examples offer a variety of human examples, and avoiding tokenizing particular individuals,
students, or representations.
- Creating an inclusive classroom climate where all students are encouraged to participate, by learning about students’ backgrounds
and tailoring approaches accordingly, establishing ground rules for discussing controversial
issues, and developing (and helping students develop) deeper racial and socioeconomic
- Provide Support - Instructors can structure their courses to support students in and out of the classroom,
through open office hours, additional learning and grading opportunities, formative
assessments, and reliable email habits. Such support visibly extends the instructor’s
commitment to all their students’ learning.
- Structure classroom conversations to encourage respectful and equitable participation
- Instructors can establish ground rules or specific guidelines for appropriate behavior
early in the semester (including confidentiality, respectful disagreement, and civil
debate); as a strategy to promote student buy-in, instructors can enlist students
to help create and maintain these rules. Alternatively, students might be offered
a quiet minute to think of responses to key questions or to write down new questions
before responding. Instructors can also establish specific guidelines about how students
should signal that they want to speak and contribute to a discussion, and intervene
when students violate classroom norms.
- Consider Teaching and Learning Frameworks - Instructors should consider a variety of approaches to structuring their course content, and choose a design that best serves their student populations (to the best
of their foreknowledge). Various designs can support more rigorous learning outcomes,
additional review and support, or greater accessibility for diverse students.
- Examine Implicit Biases - Instructors can consider their own attitudes towards students and strive to minimize
negative impacts. This process can involve actively monitoring interactions with different
types of students, implementing policies like name-blind grading and inter-rater grading
to minimize the impact of bias, and maintaining high expectations for all students.
- Maintain Awareness of Classroom Diversity - Instructors can develop and maintain their awareness and understanding of various
racial and socioeconomic factors in their classes, as a way to test their implicit
bias, ensure equal access for all their students, and even enrich classroom discussion.
- Incorporate Diversity into the Curriculum - Instructors can be sure to represent diverse types of peoples and perspectives
through course content and materials, including readings, lecture examples, images
in PowerPoint presentations, and case studies. Doing so helps all students to imagine
themselves within various learning scenarios.
- Anticipate sensitive issues and acknowledge racial, class or cultural differences
in the classroom when appropriate - When discussing controversial issues, instructors should expect emotional responses
or even conflict. Such emotion is not necessarily negative, unless it makes students
unduly upset, inhibits class discussion, or causes students to behave rudely. In such
cases the instructor may need to intervene and remind students of the rules for classroom
discussion. Establishing shared guidelines can help to mitigate disrespect and hostility,
or prevent it from arising in the first place.
- Cultivate an Inclusive Climate - Instructors can create a nurturing classroom where students feel valued because
of their differences, and feel comfortable participating in class. Effective syllabus
and classroom behavioral policies can promote an inclusive environment, especially
when instructors take time to discuss such policies in class with students.
- Consider Universal Design Principles - UDL provides an intensive framework to enable varied and comprehensive access of course content to all students. UDL
helps instructors present information both orally and visually to accommodate student
visual or auditory impairments, while recognizing various student learning preferences.
- Model inclusive language - As an element of developing a respectful, inclusive environment, instructors can be
aware of the language practices they model. Common beneficial practices include: avoid
using masculine pronouns for both males and females; when using American idioms, explain
them for the benefit of non-native English speakers; and avoid using falsely inclusive
terms or statements like “women” for European or European American women or “all women/men”
for heterosexual individuals. To assist in this strategy, instructors can vary the
concrete examples and case studies used to include a variety of social characteristics,
such as race or gender.
- Provide alternative means for participation - To signal awareness of different emotional and social conditions in the classroom,
instructors should allow student participation opportunities via online discussions
in addition to the classroom. Instructors can also collect journal entries, reading
logs, or other reflection pieces, and should avoid a single homogenous strategy for
the entirety of term.
- Respectfully communicate with students - Instructors should take care to pronounce students’ names correctly and in the proper
order: this includes not shortening or simplifying a student’s name without his/her
clear approval; being aware that some ethnicities may arrange their given and family
names in various orders; asking students for their preferred gender pronouns, and
avoiding gender binaries by using plurals instead, such as “they” instead of he or
she; and being aware of contemporary terms for cultural identities. If unsure of an
appropriate address or cultural form of identity, the instructor can ask in a non-threatening
context. In contrast, instructors should not ask any student to be a representative
spokesperson for his or her perceived group, or look pointedly at or away from these
same students when discussing issues of race, class, gender, etc. Neither should they
ask or expect students to be knowledgeable about their ethnic heritage, history, language,
or culture unless they volunteer such information.
- Address offensive, discriminatory, and insensitive comments - As part of an inclusive classroom environment, instructors should respect all students’
honest expressions and thoughts. If a student’s response indicates an emotional investment
in the subject, instructors should not let other students dismiss their contribution
as “irrational” or “unscholarly” reactions; rather, they can address blatantly offensive
and discriminatory comments and hold students accountable for their behavior.
- Solicit Student Feedback - Instructors can use anonymous online surveys to gather information from students
regarding their prior knowledge and/or mastery of course material at the start of
the semester, and continue to monitor how students feel about the course content and
class climate by the middle of the semester. Midterm student course evaluations or
observation protocols can also help instructors comprehend the climate and effectiveness
of their classroom, and address inclusivity concerns (among other concerns) in real
References and Additional Reading
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M. & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works:
Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Armstrong, M.A. (2011). Small world: Crafting an inclusive classroom (no matter what
you teach). Thought and Action, Fall, 51-61.
Creating Inclusive College Classrooms - UMichigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
hooks b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge.
Kaplan, M. & Miller, A. T. (Eds.). (2007). Special Issue: Scholarship of multicultural
teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (111).
Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive
excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.)
To improve the academy. (pp. 208-226). Jossey-Bass.
Tanner KD. (2013). Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student
Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity. CBE–Life Sciences Education, 12: 322-331.
University of Virginia. Center for Teaching Excellence. Teaching a Diverse Student Body: Practical Strategies for Enhancing our Students’
Watson L et al. (2002). How Minority Students Experience College: Implications for
Planning and Policy. Stylus.