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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Inclusive teaching fosters access, support, and engagement for all learners. Its thread extends from Chickering and Gamson's (1987) articulation of respecting diverse talents and ways of learning as a foundational principle of good undergraduate teaching through more elaborate contemporary models such as Universal Design for Learning. Inclusive teaching is relevant to all course levels and modalities. An inclusive approach can help foster equity in learning experiences by giving all learners the tools and resources they need to be successful. These tools and ​resources commonly differ among learners. 

You can gauge the role of inclusive teaching in a course by completing the Inclusion by Design​ self-assessment worksheet

​Rising TIDE Grant Program 

CAFE's Rising TIDE Grant Application​​ supports Queens faculty in engaging in course design and course development activities to foster equitable and inclusive learning experiences for diverse groups of learners at the undergraduate and graduate levels. ​Both individual faculty and faculty teams are strongly encouraged to apply.

Points of Entry

​This page provides three points of entry for faculty seeking to expand their skills in inclusive teaching. Each entry point corresponds with a typical phase in constructing and implementing a course. To get the most out of this page, click on the phase below that you are currently in and focus on the tips in that phase. Then revisit the other phases in the future. As you read, a glossary of culturally relevant teaching and glossary of equity, diversity, and inclusion terminology​ may help you understand the linked resources.


​Typical Activities​​​

​When We Carry Them Out

Design phase​

  • ​Intentionally designing or redesigning an entire course or course unit

  • Articulating course learning outcomes

  • Conceptualizing major assessments of learning

  • Envisioning primary types of learning activities

  • Drafting your schedule and syllabus

​Weeks or months prior to the semester

Development phase​

  • Selecting and developing instructional materials

  • Fleshing out assessments of learning and primary learning activities

  • Refining the schedule and syllabus

​Typically prior to the semester, but also during the semester

Delivery phase​

  • Preparing individual class meetings

  • Providing online announcements

  • Assessing and providing feedback on student work 

  • Structuring and moderating discussions 

  • Adjusting previously planned activities in response to student performance, interest, input, and feedback

​During the semester

De​sign Ph​​ase​​

Who Are Your Lear​ners?

​T​​h​​is is an ideal time to learn and reflect more on who your students are. You can jot down observations based on your past experiences in teaching the course, ask colleagues what they have found, or record observations about students in the most similar course you have taught at the same institution. An excellent worksheet for this step is page 2 of Course Design Techniques for General Education Learning Community Courses.

Learn More about Your Learners and How​​ to Support Them​

What Perspectives Are Often Foregrounded and Omitted in This Course?  

Reflect on how you and/or others in your discipline have approached this type of course in the past. Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • Is this type of course often structured in ways that distort or omit particular perspectives, ideas, or groups? Critically reflect on canons, master narratives, and ideologies passed on through key texts. Asking a series of questions about your syllabus​ can highlight opportunities to incorporate new perspectives.​ Consider how you might draw on one or more Teaching Frameworks for Social Justice Education to foreground a wider range of narratives. 

  • Could you adopt a different thematic, topical, or organizational approach to better foster a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and contributions?

  • How does a deficit mindset shape this course? Learn how an equity mindset​ can shape the design of your course.​

  • Are there particular types of assessments of learning or learning activities that some students often struggle with? What assumptions about students are those assessments based on? For example, are they based on a cultural paradigm that prioritizes individual accomplishment? Or one that prioritizes cooperation and contribution to a group's accomplishment and flourishing? Learn more about ideas for teaching across such cultural strengths​.

  • How rooted is this course in students' real-world experiences? How relevant does it seem to be for students? ​Optimizing relevance, value, and ​​authenticity is part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines on engagement.

When Envisioning Major Assessments and Learning Activities 

  • ​Consider logistics and scheduling from various students' perspectives. Think of ways to ensure students have flexibility in when, where, and how they complete major assessments and learning activities. Distance learners, working students, caregivers, student athletes, and military personnel​, for example, may have other responsibilities that significantly impact when, where, and how they can do service learning, concert reports, research, group assignments, etc. Providing choices and/or a longer time window to all students can assist in such cases.

  • Consider how students may have choice in how they demonstrate their learning on major assessments through writing, oral communication, or multimedia communication. ​Giving learners options for expressing and communicating their learning is part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines on expression and communication.​

When Drafting Your Schedule and Syllabus 

  • Begin to think about how you can incorporate diverse perspectives and voices in your syllabus and major instructional materials.

  • How can you integrate these perspectives and voices into the fabric of your course, rather than simply tacking them on as additions to a master narrative or canon? ​

  • Identify ways you can emphasize social justice in your syllabus​ through language, assessments, and discussion of power and privilege

When Selecting and Developing Instructional Materials

  • Consider how the materials feature, marginalize, or omit contributors of diverse backgrounds. Take feasible steps to help your learners see diverse role models in your instructional materials. 

  • Consider how you might draw on one or more Teaching Frameworks for Social Justice Education to develop more inclusive instructional materials. 

  • Consider ways of reducing the cost of course materials (such as providing links to articles and readings available in the library, using Open Educational Resources such as OpenStax textbooks, Open Textbook Library and LibreTexts, encouraging students to rent or obtain ebooks rather than print books)

  • Select and create instructional materials that are accessible. For example, choose videos that include captions and/or a transcript. For further details, see Providing Accessible Materials.  

  • Consider how you can represent information in multiple ways to facilitate learning by all, as articulated in Universal Design for Learning guidelines on representation​

Wh​​en Fleshing out Assessments of Learning and Learning Activities

  • Identify a feasible way of incorporating choice in assignments (e.g., among topics, discussion prompts, media used for submitting work or learning about course concepts)​. Review how optimizing individual choice and autonomy​ forms part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines on engagement.

  • Identify an opportunity to provide varied ways of demonstrating progress on learning objectives ​(e.g., written, oral, visual, or multimedia communication; through large-group discussion, small-group discussion, and/or individual reflection)

  • Consider how you can incorporate reflective activities​ to assist students in processing new perspectives or concepts that challenge their previous understanding, such as when addressing race or racism in a course.

  • ​​Consider logistics and scheduling from various students' perspectives. Think of ways to ensure students have flexibility in when, where, and how they complete major assessments and learning activities. Distance learners, working students, caregivers, student athletes, and military personnel, for example, may have other responsibilities that significantly​ impact when, where, and how they can do service learning, concert reports, research, group assignments, etc. Providing choices and/or a longer time window to all students can assist in such cases.​

  • Consider how you can vary the level of challenge presented in assessments to support and motivate a diverse group of learners. Review how varying the demands and resources available to learners​ forms part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines for engagement.

​​When Refining Your Schedule and Syllabus 

  • How can you incorporate syllabus language that models and elaborates expectations for contributing to a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful learning environment? Such language can be anchored in Queens Honor Code, for example. Additional techniques include inviting students to share preferred names and/or gender pronouns, reiterating your willingness to assist students individually through multiple forms of communication, and incorporating a diversity statement. An example is "I am happy to address you by a preferred alternate name or gender pronoun. Please let me know of your preference ​at the beginning of the semester." Review examples of diversity statements and other techniques for fostering racial awareness.

  • Consider equitable and sustainable ways of addressing late work, mitigating ​student anxiety, and foregrounding students' best work. While some students may readily request extensions, others may not, due in part to cultural differences. As alternatives to addressing situations on a case-by-case basis, consider giving all students a universal number of "extension days" that students can use without explanation and/or dropping 1 or more lowest scores on low-stakes assessments for all students (such as dropping the lowest quiz score, problem set, and/or response paper). See how to drop one or more lowest scores in an Assignment Group in Canvas​

    • How can you be more transparent in your syllabus about how to succeed in your course? Consider including explicit guidance on topics such as:

    • how to prepare for each class session

    • how to approach readings or other instructional materials

    • note-taking, organizing, and engaging with in-class materials​

    • ​on what assignments and in what ways working with other students is acceptable, and when/how it is not

    • expectations for participation

    • how to prepare for major assessments of learning

  • If you want to provide ample guidance but avoid an overly long syllabus, you can also provide a separate "How to Succeed in This Course" guide, such as a .docx or .pptx file at the outset of the semester.

D​​e​livery Phase​​

​Be Transparent about the Course  

In your syllabus, class discussions, and other class documents be explicit and transparent about what you are looking for students to do and why. Don't assume they all know what to do. 

Be explicit about how to succeed in the course.

  • How should students prepare for exams?

  • How can students best reach you?

  • Gather and share tips from past students

Be transparent about the purpose and expectations for assignments.

  • Share and discuss rubrics in advance

  • Share sample work (may be anonymized, composite, etc.)

  • Give students a chance to use the rubrics to evaluate sample work or drafts. Discuss and clarify their reasoning and how it relates to yours.

  • Say how an assignment relates to learning outcomes or objectives. Why are you asking them to do it? Review how heightening the salience of goals and objectives​ forms part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines for engagement.

Be transparent about participation and foster inclusive participation.

  • Say what counts as participation. Provide examples, such as posing questions, providing additional evidence in support of a classmate's point, refocusing a heated discussion on evidence, etc.

  • Provide and recognize multiple ways of participating, such as speaking in class, writing in class, writing in the learning management system, posting video discussion comments online

  • Prompt students to write down ideas first before asking them to share ideas orally. Incorporate Think-Pair-Share.

  • Give periodic feedback on students' participation

Foster a Positive, Respectful, and Inclusive Climate for Learning through Discussion

  • Use students' names

  • Don't ask individual students to speak for a whole group of people (e.g., women, Muslims)

  • Model respect for different points of view  

  • Establish ground rules for discussion. Collaborate with students in establishing these at the beginning of the semester. The 4Cs of curiosity, candor, courage, and courtesy​ are one framework for establishing class norms that you can invoke later as difficult conversations unfold.

  • Review how minimizing threat and distractions​ forms part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines for engagement.

  • Allow students to disagree with another person, but within the guidelines or ground rules you established for or with the class.

  • Ensure that one group does not dominate discussion. Actively solicit contributions from all students.

  • Don't let hurtful statements pass without addressing them. 

  • ​Be prepared to recognize microaggressions​ and respond to microaggressions in a class. Learn more about recognizing and responding to racial microaggressions in an online environment​.

  • Takes steps to depersonalize controversial topics  

Provide Accessible Materials

Foster an inclusive learning environment by enhancing the accessibility of your instructional materials, such as online announcements and course documents. For example, provide captions or a transcript if you post online announcements as audio or video. For further details, see Providing Accessible Materials.  ​

Support Students in Self-Regulation

​​Students can become frustrated and upset, which in turn impacts their motivation. Review how self-regulation is part of the Universal Design for Learning guidelines for engagement. Consider how you can incorporate regular moments and short resources to support students in self-reflection, goal setting, and self-assessment. How can you model self-regulation for them?​

Incorporate Peer Support and Supportive Instructor Feedbac​​k 

​Both peer support and supportive instructor feedback​ can assist in sustaining learners' effort and persistence. Learn how peer support and supportive instructor feedback​​ form part of the Universal Design for Learning guideilnes for engagement.

Difficu​​​lt Moments​

Discussions on controversial topics can create challenging moments in class. Here are some tips as you approach and handle those moments:

  • Did you set ground rules with the class? Remind everyone of those ground rules as you approach a class session dedicated to a controversial topic. See examples of language for doing this with the 4Cs of curiosity, candor, courage, and courtesy​.

  • As you set up the discussion, structure it around how arguments are articulated and supported. As discussion unfolds and different viewpoints are expressed, guide students to make comments about the arguments being made rather than the people who are articulating them.

  • Be aware of how you are responding and what it models for students.

  • Create time for yourself and students to pause as needed in a heated discussion rather than allowing it to escalate. Asking students to write down reactions and thoughts can pause the discussion and convey respect for multiple viewpoints. As they write, think through what you will ask them to do next – speak from their notes, view their notes through a specific framework (e.g., evidence, emotion), listen quietly to others, and/or turn in their writing so you can understand the range of reactions, reflect on what happened, and provide an appropriate structured activity in the next class meeting and/or reach to individual students.

  • Seek clarification in the event that a misunderstanding about something that was said was at the heart of the challenging moment.

  • For more detailed guidance, watch this recorded workshop on Handling Difficult Conversations in Teaching. 

Keep Learning

In addition to CAFE's sessions and consultations, you can continue learning more about inclusive teaching through freely available, self-paced online courses designed for instructors. Two are:

  • Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom from Cornell University

    • Module 1: Instructors: Reflect on your social identities and lived experiences, and consider how these shape who you are as a teacher and your approach to the classroom or other learning environments.

    • Module 2: Students: Explore students’ social identities, what the research says about how social identity may become salient in the classroom, and selected, key strategies for supporting student learning, including ameliorating implicit bias and stereotype threat, and fostering a disability-inclusive learning environment.

    • Module 3: Pedagogy: Examine how to create and sustain an inclusive learning climate, with a focus on strategies useful in facilitating dialogue when unexpected challenges come up and how to prepare in advance for such moments.

    • Module 4: Curriculum: Evaluate your curriculum—what you teach—at both course and disciplinary levels, from a diversity perspective.

    • Module 5: Action and Change: Plan for future actions you may take to affect the broader context of inclusion in teaching and learning.​

  • Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom​ from Columbia University​

    • Overview of Inclusive Teaching

    • Module 1: Establishing and Supporting an Inclusive Course Climate

    • Module 2: Setting Explicit Expectations

    • Module 3: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Through Course Content

    • Module 4: Designing All Course Elements for Accessibility

    • Module 5: Cultivating Critical Self-Reflection​


Laura Lohman, PhD, SHRM-SCP, CAAP, PMP

Director, Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence

Professor of Music

(704) 337-2547​