Planning for a Diverse and Inclusive Classroom
As Cathy Day recently observed in her post about planning environmental pedagogy, university classroom instructors are often trained in subject matter expertise, but not in teaching methods.
Planning for both the what and how of teaching should also include planning for the who. In other words, the best classes create spaces that allow a diverse group of students to learn and flourish. Planning for an inclusive classroom is critical, and as this resource page from Vanderbilt points out:
When instructors attempt to create safe, inclusive classrooms, they should consider multiple factors, including the syllabus, course content, class preparation, their own classroom behavior, and their knowledge of students’ backgrounds and skills.
That’s a lot to consider in course design and implementation! But don’t worry, improving pedagogy is a career-long practice, and there are lots of resources on- and off-campus to help plan for diverse and inclusive classrooms. Here are three ideas to get you started, featuring both UW-Madison and online-based resources. The suggestions below are flexibly scheduled, so try one or two out when you have a chance. You can then start incorporating new ideas into your teaching as soon as this semester.
1. Join an online learning community
The advantage of an online learning community is peer-to-peer learning. You can ask questions and share resources with other instructors in real time. The Delta Program at UW-Madison is devoted to improving teaching techniques in graduate instructors and faculty. Delta offers four online learning communities, including one called Learning Through Diversity.
2. Take a webinar
Webinars can be a great way to access current or even yet unpublished expertise remotely. The nationwide Center for Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning Network (of which UW-Madison is a part) offers a webinar series called the CIRTLCast Series every academic year. This year’s topic list and schedule can be found here. The April and May 2016 sessions are about planning for inclusive research and teaching environments. While nominally focused on science fields, the techniques can be applied to classrooms focused on any topic.
3. Read up
There is a wide range of articles, ranging from peer-reviewed literature to blog posts, available on inclusion and diversity in teaching and learning. The advantage of articles is you can read them whenever you have a few minutes—on the bus, before a seminar starts, etc. CITRL has a huge online resource library, including entire sections focused on diversity and inclusion, sourced from universities around the country.
At UW-Madison, the McBurney Disability Resource Center also has a resource library, full of resources for instructors on planning for inclusive classrooms for students with disabilities. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator office has a campus resource library and beyond-campus resource library.
Share your experience
This post is certainly not exhaustive. My goal is to provide some launching-off points and links for graduate student and early career instructors. So if you have other suggestions, tried-and-true techniques, or ideas, please share them in the comments section below.
Featured image: a picture of students from Texas A & M University and Prairieview A & M University participating in a classroom roundtable, entitled “20151007-OSEC-AK-6304” by flickr user United States Department of Agriculture. Used under Creative Commons license CC-BY-2.0.
Kaitlin Stack Whitney is a CHE Graduate Affiliate, a PhD candidate in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and currently serves as Editor-at-Large for Edge Effects. Contact.