Inclusive Classrooms

Question Formulation Technique

This page introduces the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), which is a student-centered approach to developing questions in the classroom. The QFT originated in the early 1980s through a dropout prevention program in Massachusetts. To engage parents in their children’s success in school, social workers began developing questions with parents to address their unique and individualized concerns. Once this practice successfully increased parent participation in meetings, instructors adopted the QFT for students. Instructors taught students how to formulate questions that were meaningful to them. The QFT improved students’ engagement, learning, and retention. The QFT is important to inclusive teaching because it creates a student-centered classroom where students take ownership of their education.

An Introduction to Content Warnings and Trigger Warnings

This page explains what content and trigger warnings are, why they are important to include for inclusive classrooms, and how instructors can implement them. Content warnings are verbal or written notices that precede potentially sensitive content. Trigger warnings are a specific type of content warning, which attempt to forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders. Content and trigger warnings give students the forewarning necessary to make use of strategies that will decrease the harmfulness of encountering triggering material. Common triggers include sexual violence, oppressive language, gunshots, and representations of self-harm. Instructors who use content or trigger warnings recognize the importance of including students with mental health disabilities in the classroom.

An Instructor’s Guide to Understanding Privilege

This page helps instructors better understand and attend to the ways that privilege operates in the classroom. Privilege refers to the systemic or structural advantages that affect people based on identity factors, such as race, gender, sex, religion, class, sexuality, and disability. Depending on their proximity to privilege, students and instructors may find that thinking about and discussing privilege can be difficult. Students and instructors can navigate this difficulty by acknowledging discomfort without avoiding discussion. Instructors should familiarize themselves with the ways that privilege can impact their classroom and implement strategies to mitigate this impact.

Jigsaw Collaborative Discussion Method

This page introduces the Jigsaw discussion method and describes how to use this method in classroom activities. Jigsaw was first developed as a way to combat racial bias and diffuse tension in classrooms in the early 1970s. This method has been proven to ease hostilities and increase students’ level of mastery. The primary strategy is to create activities that allow students to cultivate topic-specific expertise and then teach the material to other students in the class. The Jigsaw method fosters a cooperative rather than competitive environment, as students draw on everyone’s expertise to complete a task, understand a text, or prepare for an individual exam.

Implicit Bias

This page provides resources for instructors to learn about implicit, or unconscious, bias. Implicit bias occurs when stereotypes and attitudes that we are not aware of shape our behavior. Research shows that implicit bias interferes with an inclusive teaching environment in STEM courses. Instructors can use these resources to address and confront implicit bias in their own classrooms.

Facilitating Through “Perfectly Logical Explanations”

This page focuses on an article written by the Commission for Social Justice Educators. The article describes multipartiality, or the strategy of balancing the power of narratives in discussion facilitation, as a way to address the weight and power of dominant narratives. Dominant narratives are generalized assumptions that dismiss others’ experiences and reference the experience of privileged groups to refer to everyone. Multipartial facilitators invite participants to analyze the limitations of their thinking and encourage the contribution of counternarratives.

Incorporating Language about Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Abuse into Your Course Syllabus

Students may experience sexual or gender-based violence before arriving at college or while they are on campus. In fact, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of male undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Moreover, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of male graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapcitation. Instructors should consider whether their course structure and content might create a difficult learning environment for students who have had these experiences. This page provides language that instructors can include in their course syllabus to let students know they are supported and welcomed into an inclusive learning community. For example, instructors can address faculty support, content notifications, and self-disclosure/personal sharing in their course syllabus.

Doing One’s Own Personal Work on Privilege and Oppression

This page is intended as a starting place for instructors to think about their own experience of privilege and oppression as a crucial part of the foundational work of inclusive pedagogy. It is important for instructors to learn about and reflect on topics like social identity, social relations, inequality, and social justice education because we expect our students to do the same. Instructors can share with students their own learning process, but only when such sharing is done appropriately and with educational benefit. This guide offers reflective questions for instructors to explore and suggestions for ways to work through the personal challenge of anti-oppressive work.

Gender Diversity and Pronouns

This page helps instructors better meet the needs of transgender and nonbinary students. Gendering, or the social assignment/designation of a person’s gender, usually on the basis of perceived sex, is often a key aspect of interactions inside and outside the classroom. The routine invalidation of trans people through misgendering contributes to a culture that punishes and dehumanizes trans people for existing. Because instructors have a responsibility to create a space in which students feel safe, welcomed, and respected, this resource provides instructors with information about correct pronoun use and trans-inclusive course policies to avoid misgendering.

Stereotype Threat

This page explains the stereotype threat, provides strategies for instructors to counteract the stereotype threat, and directs instructors to further resources. Stereotype threat is the risk that people who fall into identity groups that are often negatively stereotyped may underperform in evaluative settings like the classroom, as a result of feeling the pressure of the stereotype. Although stereotype threat can impact student performance in any course, it is particularly prevalent in STEM courses, so this page focuses primarily on the context of STEM courses. To overcome the stereotype threat, instructors should emphasize that course skills are learned rather than innate in addition to fostering an inclusive classroom environment.

Inclusive Syllabus Language

This page offers inclusive language that instructors may adopt and adapt for their own syllabi, such as sample syllabus sections and examples of discussion guidelines. Some sample syllabus sections that promote inclusivity include Religious/Cultural Observance and Student Mental Health and Well-being. Additionally, the discussion guidelines can be used to communicate expectations to students on how to approach material and one another in the classroom. This page demonstrates how inclusive pedagogical practices can be implemented in syllabus construction.

Hot Moments

This handout provides strategies for responding to “hot moments,” or the sudden eruption of tension and conflict in classroom discussion. Hot moments often occur when a well-intentioned student makes a comment that is politically charged and personally offensive to members of the class or the instructor. This resource equips instructors with skills to turn hot moments into teachable moments. Potential strategies include depersonalizing insensitive comments by critiquing the statement rather than the speaker and allowing students to write individually and anonymously about an insensitive comment.

Discussion Guidelines

This resource helps instructors develop inclusive discussion guidelines for general discussion-based classes as well as classes specifically geared towards diversity and justice. Clear discussion guidelines at the start of the term make it easier for instructors and students to navigate challenging material and interpersonal conflict. Guidelines also serve as a reminder later in the term should discussion conduct deteriorate. Instructors can use this resource to set up guidelines or cooperate with students to establish guidelines. Examples of guidelines include making an effort to get to know other students and being mindful of when you are taking up more space than others in the conversation.

Responding to Common Dialogue Blockers

This page helps instructors manage the way some students block or divert dialogue as a defensive response to perspectives they find uncomfortable or challenging. Common blockers and suggested responses for how to restore dialogue effectively, authored by Kelly Obear of the Social Justice Training Institute, are listed below. For instance, “Explain-Aways,” which appeal to the dominant narrative as a way to side-step critique without addressing the key issues in question, are one type of blocker. Further strategies for instructors to approach difficult classroom dialogue, such as turning it to the group and using “I statements,” are also available below.

Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Strategies

The Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Strategies has 50 concrete strategies to help instructors build an inclusive classroom. The Inventory has four course components: student-instructor interaction, student-student interaction, content, and instructional practices. Instructors can use this resource to reflect on their classroom practices and decide which strategies they would like to implement.

Setting the Tone for Inclusive Classrooms

This page details five general practices for building inclusivity in the classroom, from syllabus design to interpersonal interactions. The five general practices are: (1) Establish clear expectations and goals for classroom interactions, (2) Build rapport and community in your class, (3) Model inclusive language that acknowledges student difference, (4) Help students develop awareness of multiple visible and invisible identities in the classroom, and (5) Address tensions or problematic patterns of interaction. Each practice has specific steps outlined below.

Useful Questions for Dialogue Facilitation

These questions prompt students to engage more deeply with challenging topics and one another. The questions are set up to familiarize instructors with student-centered pedagogy and are appropriate for student-centered discussion facilitation. There are fourteen types of questions: Action, Analytical, Cause and Effect, Challenge, Diagnostic, Evaluative, Exploratory, Extension, Hypothetical, Open-Ended, Priority, Process, Relational, and Summary.