How does inclusive teaching impact student learning?
The research supporting inclusive classroom practices is varied and includes topics like growth mindset, stereotype threat, culturally responsive teaching, classroom climate, sense of belonging, transparency, Universal Design for Learning, and more. We have selected 3 articles that provide evidence and recommendations for classrooms across disciplines below. In addition, we have compiled a supplemental reading list with more discipline- and population-specific articles. To learn more, choose one or more articles to read and consider.
Twenty Inclusive Teaching Practices
Moreu, G., & Brauer, M. (2021). Inclusive Teaching Practices in Post-Secondary Education: What Instructors Can Do to Reduce the Achievement Gaps at U.S. Colleges [Preprint]. PsyArXiv.
Summary: This article synthesizes research to present 20 recommendations instructors can implement to reduce disparities in grades between students from non-marginalized and marginalized backgrounds in higher education classrooms of any discipline. The recommended practices vary in depth, and focus on both facilitation and course design. Examples include low stakes testing, flexible policies, learning and using student names, and more. Some recommended practices focus on changing the behavior of instructors while others focus on supporting student behaviors, all with the goal of a more inclusive and equitable classroom environment.
Advice on Teaching from Minoritized Students
Covarrubias, R., Laiduc, G., & Valle, I. (2022). What Institutions Can Learn From the Navigational Capital of Minoritized Students. Journal of First-Generation Student Success, 2(1), 36–53.
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Summary: Navigational capital includes skills and knowledge that minoritized students develop and exercise when navigating higher education systems marked by structural challenges, like racism. In this article, minoritized students (identified here as low-income first-generation students of color) share specific recommendations for faculty and staff in their own words, including decentering Whiteness, challenging assumptions about students, and normalizing asking for help. The authors then connect these student-authored suggestions to other resources and elaborate on specific classroom practices for instructors to incorporate.
Teaching Practices for Social Identity Concerns
Smith, E. N., Yeager, D. S., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2022). An Organizing Framework for Teaching Practices that Can “Expand” the Self and Address Social Identity Concerns. Educational Psychology Review, 34(4), 2197–2219.
Summary: This article offers concrete guidance on creating motivational and equitable classrooms. Through a meta-analysis, the authors have identified two large areas of concern for students from marginalized groups in higher education: instructors’ perception of their academic potential as limited, and instructors’ narrow identification of students based on academic achievement. Thus two suggestions can be applied to how you communicate with students and how you design assignments: communicating positive expectations and valuing students as complete individuals beyond academic performance.
What instructor choices are more inclusive?
Overall, making choices in your classroom that center your students and treat each student as a complex and valuable individual will be more inclusive.
- Define Office Hours
- Incorporate Student Interests
- Use Student Input for Course Pacing
- Create Flexible Deadlines
- Use Assessments without Time Constraints
- Provide Multiple Means of Representation
What do you do? One thing I utilize in my teaching is defining what office hours are used for and describing how students can benefit from them. I prefer to reframe them as “student hours” and tell students that this is time dedicated to them rather than time dedicated to grading or planning for the next class. I reiterate this point throughout the semester and emphasize that they don’t need to have a problem or wait until there is a crisis to visit me, but rather it is an open invitation to discuss their experience in the course.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? This is inclusive because it helps demystify the “hidden curriculum” for students unfamiliar with the norms and culture of a college classroom. Through these interactions I learn more about the other responsibilities and obligations students have that impact their progress in the course. It is also my hope that this helps students get more comfortable speaking with their instructors and feeling like they have a say in their education.
How does it contribute to learning? I’ve noticed students are more willing to come to office hours when reframed this way. Students that come to office hours learn more because it gives us the opportunity to have a conversation about course materials and assignments, which in turn helps me offer advice or clarification on the work they are doing. Otherwise, they may only get the feedback once I am done grading their assignment. This also helps me to counter any misinformation that may arise when students seek help from each other instead of asking me. Having these interactions with students provides insight on what is working well in the course and what could be done better.
Shared by Luis Loya, PhD candidate in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication
What do you do? In my large economics lectures with discussion sections, I assign a weekly graded Discussion in Canvas that requires students to build on something we’ve done that week in class (e.g., add to a model, share a different piece of data or a citation that might either support or contradict something seen in class, etc.) The grading rubric specifies they must both find evidence and explain the relevance of the evidence. Students are grouped with their discussion section peers, so they can all look at the same thing together in their weekly in-person section meetings.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? Students take pride in their posts, and it creates an opportunity for people with different interests, backgrounds, and perspectives to connect with the material from class. It also includes students who are less comfortable speaking in public.
How does it contribute to learning? As discussion section facilitators, Teaching Assistants quickly review each Discussion and use the posts to review course material and briefly talk about the kind of economic work being done in the area. The goal is for students with particular interests or points of view to contribute to content and broaden their perspective about what economists do and think about, while also encouraging higher-level analysis of course material for greater retention.
Shared by Gwen Eudey, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics
What do you do? In order to provide the best possible learning experience, we have tracked the amount of time students spend on weekly learning activities – for example through weekly pulse surveys, TopHat questions, and e-text analytics. These data sources include data that is automatically collected about students plus students’ own impressions of their workload. From this, we have gained insights and adjusted the pace of the material in the course to be more consistent week-to-week.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? By providing a consistent workload, we aim to create a learning environment that is structured, supportive, and predictable. This is more accessible and equitable for all students, regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.
How does it contribute to learning? Students can better plan their time and balance their other obligations, such as work or family responsibilities. This can reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier for students to engage with the material and succeed.
Shared by Jim Williams, Teaching Faculty, Computer Sciences
What do you do? I operationalize deadline flexibility as the opportunity to turn in every assignment up to two weeks in advance and up to one week after the due date.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? Flexible deadlines aid everyone: students with disabilities, students with chronic health conditions, students with religious conflicts, students with care-giving responsibilities and unpredictable work schedules, student athletes. Moreover, a deadline flexibility policy that does not depend on students having to disclose their trauma to instructors; that does not depend on students having to request extensions, which can be driven by a sense of entitlement and can be culturally driven (Calarco, 2014; Jack, 2016; Yee, 2016); and that does not depend on students being registered with disability services, which is more likely for more privileged students (California State Auditor, 2000; Griggins, 2005; Lerner, 2004; McGregor et al., 2016; Weis & Bittner, 2022), is not only more inclusive but also more equitable.
How does it contribute to student learning? Flexible deadlines contribute to students’ learning by accommodating their varied circumstances and challenges and enabling them to prioritize their well-being and personal responsibilities without sacrificing their academic progress. A course-wide, universal deadline flexibility policy fosters an inclusive and equitable environment that supports students’ diverse needs, regardless of their disabilities, health conditions, religious conflicts, care-giving responsibilities, work schedules, or athletic commitments.
Shared by Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, Vilas Research Professor & Sir Frederic Bartlett Professor of Psychology
What do you do? I do not use timed quizzes or exams in my course.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? Timed assessment adds unnecessary stress to already stressful situations.
How does it contribute to learning? Students with accommodations related to testing do not have to reach out to me or TAs to schedule their extra time which makes one less thing they have to do. Overall, it reduces the burden of testing.
Shared by an instructor in the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies
What do you do? My course is fully online, and I provide multiple ways to access content to make the content easily accessible. I color-code my modules and syllabus to make them easy to follow. I create welcome videos that are closed-captioned to accompany the written instructions to course, modules, and assignments. I provide feedback on assignments in writing and via video. I use interactive learning tools to and offer options for different submission formats for assignments, such as via video or an infographic. I represent a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities in my images and examples.
Why is it inclusive? How do students experience it? I want the course to flow elegantly so students can focus on growth and learning rather than on trying to decipher my expectations. The course provides the students with different formats for receiving content and for completing assignments. It is representative of different abilities and backgrounds, and I strive to support my students as a group as well as individuals.
How does it contribute to learning? My course is the final class that Doctor of Audiology students take in their four-year graduate program. Over the years, I have adapted my content to focus on areas that students have identified they would like more focus on before graduation. For instance, I created online interactive clinical case scenarios to give more experience in specific clinical practices, and I update those each year based on student feedback. I also have adjusted the schedule of the course to be self-paced due to the students’ busy clinical schedules. I provide video and written feedback at regular intervals. I have students reflect on their projects and on those of their classmates.
Shared by Melanie Buhr-Lawler, Clinical Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Reflection helps us grasp new concepts, appreciate our personal values, and understand our professional context. Our reflection questions aim to guide individuals through active inquiry and response to help you integrate new ideas and formulate your own perspectives that will guide future action.
Review the questions below, or make a personal copy of the questions for your own reflective writing.
- How could the recommendations from the article(s) you reviewed or the instructor examples above apply in your classroom?
- Do the recommendations from the article(s) or examples align with your discipline’s beliefs about teaching and learning? Why or why not?
- What is your main takeaway from the article(s) or examples ?
- What is missing or what questions do you have?
- How do these ways of teaching compare with how you were taught?
Think of a colleague, mentor, or past teacher who has made an impression on you. Is there an inclusive practice that has helped you learn? Or are there inclusive practices you’ve observed that have helped others learn?
What’s one inclusive classroom practice that has made an impact on your teaching or learning?
Use the button below to post a shout out and review others’ posts. Posts are anonymous and will be approved by a moderator before they become visible. Unpolished ideas and thinking via writing are welcome!
If your group hasn’t yet, please sign up so we can help facilitate your process. If you are participating in the Teaching Network with a group, your facilitator will choose and adapt one or more of the discussion guides below and provide you with any preparatory instructions.
Our discussion guides aim to help existing groups of instructors have productive conversations about inclusive teaching. Instead of trying to gather a group of disparate individuals together in a new space, we want to provide a catalyst for groups that already exist to have transformative exchanges about teaching and learning in their own familiar settings. We know that your group will have a unique combination of motivations, prior experience, and purpose for engaging in a discussion. Our discussion guides are intentionally flexible so that the discussions can meet the needs of each group.
- Audience: Facilitators, Participants
- Time Required: 30 minutes per case, plus preparation
- Materials Needed: Instructions for participants and pre-readings (electronic or paper)
- Structure: Open (low-structure)
A case study provides a concrete example from the “real world” that can help ground a discussion about a complex conceptual or theoretical topic. Case studies are useful tools for discussion because they keep the conversation focused and relevant, while also allowing for differences of opinion and the application of an idea to new contexts. In this discussion, participants will consider inclusive teaching through the lens of a specific teaching practice and discuss what choices they might make as an instructor to implement such a practice.
How can you start to take action to be more inclusive in your teaching? Evolving your teaching practice takes time, patience, and intention. Each new semester provides an opportunity to make small changes toward your goals. Teaching more inclusively is no different, whether you are just getting started or building on what you are already doing well. Making a small change can have a big impact.
Review the practices below that can help you evaluate your inclusive teaching strategies. Reflecting on your own teaching and collecting feedback from students can help you identify targets to revise in future semesters.
Teaching Practices Reflection
Review a series of questions to help you Reflect on Your Practice to Apply Equity-Focused Teaching Principles from the University of Michigan’s CRLT.
References & Further Reading
- See our supplemental reading list with more discipline- and population-specific articles.
- Ambrose, S. A., Lovett, M., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Norman, M. K., & Mayer, R. E. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. Jossey-Bass. https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/9912654357602121
- California State Auditor. (2000). Standardized tests: Although some students may receive extra time on standardized tests that is not deserved, others may not be getting the assistance they need (pp. 2000–2108). California Bureau of State Audits.
- Calarco, J. M. (2014). Coached for the classroom: Parents’ cultural transmission and children’s reproduction of educational inequalities. American Sociological Review, 79(5), 1015–1037. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122414546931
- Griggins, C. (2005). Dosing dilemmas: Are you rich and white or poor and black? The American Journal of Bioethics, 5, 55-57. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265160591002782
- Jack, A. A. (2016). (No) harm in asking: Class, acquired cultural capital, and academic engagement at an elite university. Sociology of Education, 89(1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040715614913
- Lerner, C. S. (2004). “Accommodations” for the learning disabled: A level playing field or affirmative action for elites? Vanderbilt Law Review, 57, 1043-1124.
- McGregor, K. K., Langenfeld, N., Van Horne, S., Oleson, J., Anson, M., & Jacobson, W. (2016). The university experiences of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 31, 90-102. https://doi.org/10.1111/ldrp.12102
- Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. Jossey-Bass. https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/9910135532402121
- Weis, R., & Bittner, S. A. (2022). College students’ access to academic accommodations over time: Evidence of a Matthew Effect in higher education. Psychological Injury and Law, 15, 236-252. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12207-021-09429-7
- Yee, A. (2016). The unwritten rules of engagement: Social class differences in undergraduates’ academic strategies. The Journal of Higher Education, 87(6), 831-858. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2016.11780889