Cultivating Inclusive Classrooms

An inclusive classroom environment starts with course and syllabus design, reaches through day-to-day interactions, and extends all the way to assessment practices for student work. Below is a range of resources that will assist you in fostering inclusivity at every step of the way.

We are grateful to our colleagues in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, the Program on Intergroup Relations, the Comprehensive Studies Program, and many others for generously sharing inclusive teaching materials they have developed over years of practice for use on this website.


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 inclusive classroom environment starts with course and syllabus design, reaches through the day-to-day interactions, and extends all the way to assessment practices for student work. Below is a range of resources that will assist you in fostering inclusivity at every step of the way. We are grateful to our colleagues in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, the Program on Intergroup Relations, the Comprehensive Studies Program, and many others for generously sharing inclusive teaching materials they have developed over years of practice for use on this website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.