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Inclusive, Socially Just Teaching: Framework for Teaching

Find resources to guide your approach to classroom approaches

What is inclusive, socially just framework for teaching? 

Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity as an asset to student learning and designing and teaching courses in ways that foster talent in all students. Adler University’s mandate to nurture socially responsible practitioners means that fostering talent in all students adds an orientation towards social justice. Inclusive, socially just teaching therefore builds on our understanding of inclusive teaching because it requires a recognition of socially oppressive barriers and a commitment to dismantling them.

An inclusive, socially just educator thus understands how learning works and the fundamentals of their discipline, embraces diversity, designs courses that address the needs of students who are historically and continuously marginalized in higher education, actively challenges the processes and structures of oppression that have shaped our institutions of learning, and prepares students to challenge these systems in the world. 

Educators aim to correct historical and contemporary inequality in educational practices by destabilizing power, bias, and privilege in the classroom. They intentionally create structures that integrate marginalized experiences and knowledge and interrogate inequality with students. Both educator and students act as equal agents of social change.

Why is this kind of teaching important?

Inclusive, socially just teaching responds to moral, civil, and learning imperatives.

It is morally justified to work to eradicate educational structures and processes that reified hierarchies of human value. Higher education normalizes white, cis-male, heterosexist, middle and upper class, ableist ways of being in its approaches to student engagement, assessment of learning, and evaluation of knowledge claims.  Inclusive teaching with a social justice lens works against this tendency.

Our civil society and classrooms are composed of various groups of people who once had no voice in our democracy or status in our schools. Current students are more racially, ethnically, and gender diverse and have more diagnosed disabilities than ever before, and they deserve adequate engagement and excellent opportunities to learn. Inclusive teaching embraces this diversity and uses it to help student thrive.

Intentional inclusion improves learning by improving students’ sense of belonging as well as increasing innovative thinking and cognitive complexity.

What does inclusive, socially just teaching look like?

This kind of educator cultivates a respectful classroom climate that engages student diversity, challenging problems, and dismantles known barriers to student learning. It requires the following:

  1. instructor's self-awareness, humility, ongoing reflection
  2. careful application of inclusive teaching tenets 
  3. active efforts toward understanding students with disabilities and increasing accessibility
  4. intentional interactions that are informed by the requirements of social justice pedagogy
  5. effective assessment of student learning and classroom climate


Select References

Curtis-Boles, H., Chupina, A. G., & Okubo, Y. (2020). Social justice challenges: Students of color and critical incidents in the graduate classroom. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 14(2), 100–108.