Inclusive Syllabus Language

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This Inclusive Teaching resource offers sample language written in an inclusive manner that instructors may adopt and adapt for your own syllabus. Particular attention is paid to discussion guidelines that can be used to communicate to students your expectations on how they approach material and one another in the classroom. The examples demonstrate how inclusive pedagogical practices can be implemented in syllabus construction.

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Hot Moments

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This resource provides strategies for responding to “hot moments”: the sudden eruption of tension and conflict in classroom discussion. Hot moments often occur when a well-intentioned student says something that is politically charged and personally offensive to some members of the class, or even upsetting to the instructor. These moments can derail the conversation, make the classroom environment toxic, and can be harmful to students if not handled appropriately. This handout gives concrete strategies that instructors have found to be successful in transforming hot moments into opportunities for learning.

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Discussion Guidelines

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This resource offers samples of inclusive discussion guidelines. Setting up expectations for discussion with your students at the beginning of the term can be useful in creating an environment conducive to inclusivity, lively discussion, and classroom community building. Clear guidelines for discussion help establish norms in the classroom for how to handle difficult or “hot moments”, making it easier for facilitators and students to navigate socially challenging material and interpersonal conflict. Later in the term, if discussion conduct begins to deteriorate, a guidelines document can serve to remind the class or individual students of what specific guidelines are not being followed and why it is important that the class recommit to respecting the agreed upon guidelines. The instructor can cut-and-paste from some of the sample guidelines to disseminate to their students, or they can co-write the guidelines with their students as a community-building icebreaker. This resource includes guidelines appropriate to most discussion-based classes and guidelines that are specifically geared toward classes and workshops in which diversity and justice will be prominent themes of discussion.

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Facilitating Through “Perfectly Logical Explanations”

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This short document from the Commission for Social Justice Educators gives a concise description of strategies of multipartiality in discussion facilitation as a way to challenge dominant narratives that students have internalized and tend to reproduce in the classroom. Unlike impartial facilitation in which the instructor aims to be neutral towards all narratives, multipartial facilitation takes into account how dominant narratives already have significant weight and power in the classroom as the students have internalized the logic and assumptions of these narratives. A multipartial facilitator’s responsibility is to address the weight and power of dominant narratives by inviting participants to analyze the assumptions and limitations of their thinking and encourage the contribution of counternarratives. This is not to be confused with a partial approach where an instructor would advocate for particular perspectives.

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Responding to Common Dialogue Blockers

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This resource is designed to help instructors manage the challenges of difficult classroom dialogue, specifically the way some students block or divert dialogue as a defensive response to perspectives they find uncomfortable or challenging. The “common blockers,” authored by Kelly Obear of the Social Justice Training Institute, are listed below with explanations of how they act to block dialogue and suggested responses that you or your students can use to respond and restore dialogue effectively. The section on “Facilitator Considerations” gives further strategies for instructors to approach difficult classroom conversations.

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Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Strategies

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This resource is an inventory of 50 concrete strategies for building an inclusive class. The Inventory focuses on four course components: student-instructor interaction, student-student interaction, content, and instructional practices. Instructors can use the list to consider what strategies they may already be taking toward an inclusive pedagogy, what strategies they may like to implement, what strategies they would like to investigate further, and what strategies may not work for them or their classroom. This resource is best used during the planning stage of a course or while reflecting on the successes and failures of a completed course, but many of the strategies could be implemented at any point of the semester.

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Setting the Tone for Inclusive Classrooms

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This resource details five general practices for building inclusivity in the classroom: (1) Establish clear expectations and goals for classroom interactions; (2) Build rapport and community in your class; (3) Model inclusive language that acknowledges student differences; (4) Help students develop awareness of multiple visible and invisible identities in the classroom; and (5) Address tensions or problematic patterns of interaction. For each practice, several concrete and specific actions are proposed.

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