Incorporating Inclusive Elements for Our Courses, Classrooms, and Labs

As teachers, we need to be intentional about our course design and activities because they impact how we engage students and recognize their diverse identities and experiences. While it can be challenging to identify ways to show a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, checking in with colleagues and discussing their approaches is helpful. The Teaching Center’s workshop, Incorporating Inclusive Elements for Our Courses, Classrooms, and Labs, featured our colleagues Dr. Paula Roberts, Dr. Gideon Park, and Dr. Jimmy Davis who offered insights we can all use in our courses, classrooms, and labs.

Learn students’ names – A student’s name can be the first part of their identity and individuality that we encounter. By investing time in learning our students’ names, we signal that we see them and are committed to creating a community where all students are valued and recognized. If you find learning names challenging, consider the following:

  • Use name tents and have students place them in front of them for the first few class meetings or until no longer needed.
  • Have students complete profiles that include more specific information about them and their interests.
  • With their permission, have students upload a photo on Blackboard.

Acknowledge your personal identity – Ignoring our own identities may signal to our students that we do not have a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. By acknowledging that you are part of, for example, majority and historically valued groups, you can help contextualize and acknowledge certain perspectives and ideologies in honest and transparent ways that can help both teachers and students navigate the emotions and reactions that come with learning.

Incorporate relevant readings/studies/assignments connected to your field of study – While this is often seen as the low-hanging fruit of DEI strategies, it is one not to be underestimated. Every field has opportunities to explore diverse scholarship, studies, and conversations. Some students may not see the impact their biases and limited knowledge can have on their field, but through assignments, readings, and activities, they can have the opportunity to engage with the possibilities of understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in their field.

Syllabus statement – Students often encounter our syllabi before they even begin the course, so it is an important opportunity to include a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to establish your commitment to it for the course. There are plenty of options for how to incorporate this, but here is an example from my syllabus:

In this class, people of all abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders and gender identities, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, nationalities, and other categories of difference have a space to learn and share their perspectives. If you do not feel included, please speak with me as soon as possible to discuss this and important resources.

Influence our professional organizations – The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies stems from larger systemic concerns likely found in the professional organizations that set standards and practices that influence our campus cultures and courses. The trickle-down effect easily finds itself in how we design and implement learning practices. Our involvement in these organizations can help shift the professional standards. Whether publishing in the field’s journals or working in leadership positions, we can help our professional organizations grow to reflect a more dedicated mission to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Our conversation during this workshop included other ways to incorporate inclusive elements, so continue to explore ways that work best for your course and students. If you have inclusive elements you would like to share on the blog, contact me, and it may be featured soon.

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