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Inclusive, Socially Just Teaching: Inclusive Pedagogy

Find resources to guide your approach to classroom approaches



"Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity in all forms -- race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, ideology, even personality traits like introversion -- as an asset. It means designing and teaching courses in ways that foster talent in all students, but especially those who come from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education."

(Sathy & Hogan, 2019)


Understand Diversity

In various ways, student backgrounds impact the way they learn and interact in the classroom. Investigate and understand the range of diversity in your classroom.

  • Course content can send a message about who creates knowledge, whose perspectives count, and who is considered an expert.
  • Not all disabilities are visible or disclosed.
  • Students bring different kinds of prior knowledge, based on where, with whom, and how they have been educated and live.
  • Students have different assumptions about power, academic interaction, trust, and disclosure based on who they are.

Learn about your students and make space for them to bring their whole selves to class

  • Administer a pre-class survey (see below)
  • Ask students to bring in an object to introduce themselves
  • Provide space and prompts on Canvas

Pre-Class Survey Example Questions

  • What is your interest in taking this course? Or Why are you enrolled in this course?  

  • What is your experience with this subject matter/discipline/these specific concepts:______ ? 

  • What do you hope to learn about in this course? What is one question about ____ that you would like to answer this quarter? 

  • Please tell me anything I should know that can help your engagement and learning. For example, what name and pronouns do you use? Do you need to sit in toward the front of the classroom to hear/see better? Do you thrive in small groups but in not making formal presentations? Do your religious practices make it difficult to have study sessions on particular days? …

Acknowledge Diversity

- 1 in 4 adults in the US have a disability (CDC)

- at least 5.6% adults identify as LGBTQ+ (The Williams Institute)

- In the US (2019 Census estimate data):

18.5% is Latino/a or Hispanic, 13.4% is Black, 5.9% Asian, 13.6% foreign born, 10.5% live in poverty...

- In Canada (2016 Census)

27.2% is considered 'visible minority', of this, 5.4% is South Asian, 4.6% is Chinese, 3% is Black, 10.1% are low income....

4.9% are indigenous peoples

Account for and Acknowledge Diversity

  • Follow Universal Design for Learning principles and increase accessibility
  • Ask (do not demand) and use names and pronouns
  • Choose content from a range of scholars and share this with students (see some considerations below)
  • Refer to library guides like this guide for Black focused Mental Health texts  and work with librarians to locate appropriate content.
  • Include welcoming policies and language on your syllabus.
  • Use rubrics and explain them to students

Consider these questions to create a strategy for diversifying your content:

  1. Do I want to add diverse scholars and explore with students why they have traditionally be excluded? (Additive)

  2. Do I want to show the contributions marginalized scholars have made to the central ideas of my discipline? (Contributory)

  3. Do I want to transform my course, centering the perspectives of those who have been marginalized? (Transformative)

Activate Diversity

Placing diverse students in the same environment will not necessarily reap the benefits of inclusion or promote equity.

Intentionally activate diversity 

Create classroom norms to create a space in which most students will take risks. (see example below)

Vary interactions and intentionally provide opportunities for new ideas and perspectives.

Whole class interaction

  • Silent reflection and written response before whole class discussion 
  • Role play
  • Simulation
  • Distinguish dialogue from debate. Debate assumes a competition for the 'best' response. Dialogue involves listening and achieving greater understanding.

Student to Student interaction

  • Work in groups
  • Work in pairs to simply check notes and understanding

Various kinds of input

  • Polls
  • Canvas-based discussion prompts (in face-to-face and online classes)
  • Student led discussions

Discussion Norms Example

1. stay engaged

2. speak your truth

3. listen for understanding

4. experience discomfort

5. honor confidentiality

6. expect/accept non-closure

(Adapted from Singleton, 2015)

Remain Aware

It is essential to understand one's own positionality, biases, and limitations as well as the social, political, and historical placement of the classroom. Any and all of these elements impact the way we all enter the classroom and prepare ourselves to teach or learn.

Awareness of Self

  • consider your background, biases among 'people like you,' and your own biases
  • gauge and define your limitations and boundaries
  • understand your social positionality:

What are your privileges and how are you oppressed?

How does your self-identification differ from how others perceive you?

Awareness of the impact of inequality on learning

  • Stereotype threat
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Intelligence-based biases

Awareness of the socio-political context of this moment

  • Current policies, laws, elections impacting rights and freedoms of particular groups
  • Natural disasters, pandemics, and other extreme events
  • Social resistance and demonstrations
  • Local events