Developing instructional practices and content that are equitable and inclusive for all students.
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The importance of equitable and inclusive instruction and content
An equitable and inclusive classroom provides a variety of opportunities to learn and values student diversity. This is achieved through supporting:
Equity: Providing needs-based supports to ensure equitable learning opportunities for all students.
Inclusivity: Valuing the diversity of experiences, abilities, and perspectives of all students, and recognizing that the learning environment is richer because of this diversity.
For a course to be effective, it must promote and support achievement for all students.
Building equity and inclusion into your course
Creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment is part of developing effective teaching and learning practices. The following strategies and frameworks will help you create a more equitable and inclusive course.
Equitable and inclusive instructional strategies
Explore your teaching practices: Think about your teaching philosophy and determine who you are as an instructor and your role in student learning. Share this with your students through verbal and written communication. Also consider the situational factors that affect your understanding of your students such as assumptions and possible misconceptions. Finally, seek out resources and trainings related to inclusive excellence. Your students will appreciate the effort you make to observe and reflect on your own teaching practices to become a more inclusive and equitable instructor.
Build rapport with students: Get to know your students on a group and individual level. Instead of making assumptions or generalizations, create opportunities where you can listen and engage with your students. This can include activities such as interest surveys, group discussions and icebreaker activities. Getting to know your students helps build a trusting relationship and is likely to not only engage students with the instructor, but also their peers. Encourage community building to create a sense of belonging for everyone.
Collaborate with students: Creating course criteria and expectations can be a collaborative process. Ask students to help establish these for the course. Ask students to share what they expect of themselves, each other, and the instructor. Guide students to share openly about what is important to them such as preferred communication, classroom environments, learning preferences, feedback and support.
Be a role model: Criteria and expectations are not just for the students. If a class expectation is to use inclusive language, model this for students. If students want to have multiple ways to participate in class discussions, respect this choice. Be open to feedback from students and be flexible when possible. If necessary, make changes to your teaching approach or course elements to ensure that students are receiving what they need to succeed. Modeling these inclusive practices will support your students and encourage them to behave in a similar manner.
Monitor learning: Monitor your students’ progress. Incorporate checks for understanding using formative assessment techniques. Identify what’s working and what barriers may be impeding students’ learning. Integrate additional methods and strategies to support and accommodate students (See Equitable and Inclusive Teaching and Learning). Help students develop self-regulation strategies by monitoring and tracking their own progress by reviewing assessment results and feedback.
Evaluate your course: Review and evaluate your course using a cyclical and continuous process including before, during and after its implementation. One objective is to analyze equitable and inclusive practices and strategies needed to support all your students. This includes implementing diverse content and examples, multiple perspectives and voices, fair and equitable practices, flexibility and accommodations. Creating a checklist will help you review and evaluate your course (see below). It is an ongoing process to create an equitable and inclusive course which will likely require small and manageable changes made over time.
The most important consideration in deciding which equitable and inclusive strategies to build into your course is your students. Your students must guide your decisions – investigate intentionally, observe carefully and identify purposefully. Below are some suggested strategies to help build an equitable and inclusive course.
Build accessible and varied content: Include multiple delivery modes and modalities in your course. Creating content that is accessible for every student is an important and necessary step in course building.
Create an inclusive climate: Establish a classroom climate that identifies and examines microaggressions and biases; encourages critical thinking; values multiple perspectives and opinions; and supports learning through varied and differentiated instruction. The goal is to create a culture and climate that is inclusive to your students’ diversity and makes your students feel valued and comfortable.
Use interest surveys: Get to know your students to teach them more effectively. Surveys are a great tool to learn about your students so that you can integrate strategies that will best meet their needs. Taking the time to get to know your students also supports a strong instructor presence.
Encourage small group work: Groups are an important component to any course and build valuable skills such as collaboration and communication. Establishing positive group dynamics comes with integrating activities that challenge students to actively listen to, and engage with, different perspectives and opinions. Most importantly these activities help students practice, refine and acquire the skills to navigate challenging situations (e.g., conversations, conflict resolution).
Write an inclusive syllabus: Include a diversity and inclusion statement in your syllabus. Taking this simple step shows students you appreciate them for who they are and the perspectives and experiences each of them bring to the course. For UB faculty you can include the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s policies to help you create your own statement.