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 …
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.
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.
Previous research has shown that socio-psychological interventions are effective at mitigating some of the negative factors, such as stereotype threat, that result in racial, gender, and first generation achievement gaps in STEM classrooms. Growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed through strategic efforts and hard work and are not simply innate or fixed. Growth mindset is especially important for members of social groups that are negatively stereotyped by harmful and inaccurate messages about the innate intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. This activity has STEM students write or discuss the science behind intelligence and its development to instill a growth mindset in students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This activity has students read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to familiarize themselves with examples of oppression that they do not experience based on skin color. Students form small groups based on six types of privilege: ability, Christian in the U.S., cisgender, man, socioeconomic status, and U.S. citizenship. Students are asked to join a small group based on a privilege that they hold. This discussion-based activity guides students in understanding privilege as a concept and helps students recognize how their own privileges benefit them and impact daily life.
In this activity, students analyze the dialogue blockers present in “Post Mortem: A Conversation Gone Wrong.” The instructor can use this discussion of dialogue blockers to guide students in constructing classroom norms and ground rules that will support an inclusive learning environment. This activity helps students recognize common dialogue blockers, consider why people use them, and become more aware of how they inhibit important conversations.
This page provides a collection of vetted activities that will assist instructors and students in developing group cohesion, thoughtful engagement, and reflective responses to challenging material. The activities are divided into four types: Icebreakers, Group Maintenance, Dialogue Starters, and Reflection. The activities are designed to help instructors and students build an inclusive classroom.
This page provides a discussion-based lesson plan on dominant narratives. A dominant narrative is an explanation or story that is told in service of the dominant social group’s interest and ideologies. Dominant narratives usually achieve dominance through repetition, the apparent authority of the speaker, and the silencing of alternative accounts. In this activity, instructors ask students to analyze distant or contemporary dominant narratives as a class. Once students understand what a dominant narrative is and how it functions, they share additional examples of dominant narratives. This discussion guide helps students recognize dominant narratives, how they are perpetuated, and how and whom they benefit/harm.
This discussion guide shows instructors how to engage with dominant narratives and “perfectly logical explanations” (PLEs). Dominant narratives are well-known and widely accepted explanations or narratives that are typically in service of the interests and ideologies of dominant social groups. Those who use dominant narratives employ PLEs to provide context and justify their perspective in order to avoid being judged. The guide below is focused on a discussion about video games, but it is designed to exemplify the types of questions that could be raised to critically interrogate any dominant narrative. This activity helps students recognize the weight and power of dominant narratives and teaches students how to rigorously interrogate dominant narratives.
This activity asks students to create a timeline of their lives, noting particular lessons they have learned about some aspect of their social identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). When completing this activity, students can refer to the Cycle of Socialization handout, which offers a diagram to represent the socio-cultural construction of social identities. Both the timeline and handout allow students to reflect on the ways in which students reinforce or challenge the socio-cultural construction of identities.
This activity asks students to create an imaginary school designed to maintain oppressive norms. Students will consider what institutional oppression looks like and how it is perpetuated in subtle ways. A debriefing discussion will take place after the activity, encouraging students to compare their imaginary school to their own institution. Students will also brainstorm ways in which they can resist and challenge the oppressive norms they’ve identified.
In this activity, students share the name they will go by in class and any history or story the name has for them. They might share the meaning of their name, who they were named for, why their parents gave them that name, or why they chose that name for themselves. Instructors should give students time to write down their thoughts alone, and then students will share their name story with the class. This activity helps students learn each other’s names and recognize the diverse group of students that make up their learning environment.
This page provides a collection of icebreakers, which are quick, low-stakes activities that encourage students to become more familiar with their peers. Frequent use of icebreakers on a daily or weekly basis can assist in building community among students. Additionally, having all students participate at the beginning of each class can positively impact overall participation in classroom discussion. Some icebreakers include Blanket Barrier, Sun & Moon, and Zip Zap Zoom.
In this activity, the class sits in a circle while the facilitator poses a discussion question. A ball of yarn, twine, or string is passed to each person who speaks. After a participant speaks, they hold on to part of the string and pass the ball to the next speaker. By the end of the discussion, the string will form a web between the students. This can be used as an icebreaker activity with a low-stakes question like “what is your favorite hobby?” or to track the discussion of more course-centric topics. The web in this activity represents the students’ collective understanding of the topic that is derived through the sharing of everyone’s perspectives.
In this activity, students spend five minutes writing a brief four-stanza poem about where they are from. Poems can then be shared in a large group, in pairs or small groups, or posted to a class website. This activity can serve as a starting ground for students to reflect on how where they come from impacts their learning experience in the classroom.
The Spectrum Activity uses the Questions of Identity to engage students in discussion or reflective writing. The Questions of Identity prompt students to critically consider their identities and the relationship between identity and context. Example questions include “What part of your identity are you most proud of?” and “What part of your identity did you struggle with most growing up?”. This activity can be done in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel and Personal Identity Wheel to encourage students to think about their identity and the identities of their peers.
The Social Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to identify and reflect on the various ways they identify socially, how those identities become visible or more keenly felt in different contexts, and how those identities impact the ways others perceive or treat them. This worksheet asks students to fill in various social identities, including race, gender, sex, ability/diasbility, and sexual orientation. Students then categorize their identities based on which matter most in their self-perception and which matter most in others’ perception of them. The Social Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Personal Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Social Identity Wheel and the Personal Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.
The Personal Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to reflect on how they identify outside of social identifiers, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. The worksheet asks students to list adjectives they would use to describe themselves, skills they have, favorite books, hobbies, etc. Unlike the Social Identity Wheel, the Personal Identity Wheel does not emphasize perception or context. The Personal Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Personal Identity Wheel and the Social Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.
“Who Owns the Zebra?” is an activity involving a logic puzzle and a debrief discussion. For the logic puzzle, students are divided into groups, and the groups have to determine which of the fictional characters in the puzzle owns a zebra and which of them drinks water. Each student in the group is given a vital clue that is needed to solve the logic puzzle, necessitating everyone’s participation. During the debrief discussion, students reflect on the impact of individual behavior on group learning, thinking critically about participation and barriers to participation.
In the Core Values Exercise, students will rank a list of values, such as self-acceptance, authority, health, stability, service, and belonging, from “always valued” to “least valued.” They will then translate their “always valued” category into a chart of their own core values. Students will share their core values with the rest of the group and generate a list of shared values together. This activity is designed to engage students in self-reflection and evaluation.