Inclusive Pedagogical Practices
“The first question is: Can learning take place if in fact it silences the voices of the people it is supposed to teach? And the answer is: Yes. People learn that they don’t count.”
--Henry Giroux, Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education
Every student that attends Salisbury University brings with them to campus a unique experience based on their race, culture, socioeconomic status, abilities, gender identity, sexual preference, religion, previous education, and lived experiences. It is important to provide the best learning environment for each student by fostering a safe, inclusive, and positive community, in the classroom and campus-wide. As educators, we can strive to meet these needs by implementing inclusive pedagogical classroom practices. While this is not a comprehensive list, the resources below are guides for providing classroom equity.
One of the first steps you can take toward creating a more inclusive classroom space is self-awareness. Inclusive pedagogy invites us to consider our choices around both the content we teach and the means through which we deliver it. As you develop course content and determine how you want to run your classroom, it's important to ask yourself what types of diversity you might encounter with your students, as well as what types of preconceived notions you or other students may have about diverse groups. Then ask yourself what steps you can take to promote inclusion and negate bias.
- Gather data through anonymous surveys and by getting to know your students. Understanding the individual interests and motives of your students helps you address their needs and keeps you from making assumptions about a student.
- Avoid unintentional exclusion. By including words, symbols, and actions in your syllabus and course delivery that include groups you avoid marginalizing groups through exclusion. This may be in the form of a departmental policy of inclusion in your classroom, providing the opportunity for students to decide what pronoun you use to address them, and through the course content you elect to use in your classroom.
- Recognize that different cultures and communities communicate in different ways. Consider various forms of communication and instructional content in order to inspire engagement for all students.
- Keep a growth mindset about your students. Believing that a student’s abilities, interests, and capacities can change reinforces empathy and encourages responsive strategies to meet the needs of your student when they are having a difficult time connecting with course content.
The classroom, whether face-to-face or virtual, is a social environment, resulting in learning as a social act. Identity and emotions are directly tied to social engagement and the "climate" of a classroom is driven by the comfort and acceptance levels they feel in their learning space. When students believe that their contributions to the class are valued, they are more likely to engage with the course content and in course activities, such as volunteering to share their thoughts and opinions during discussions and attending office hours. Emotion directly affects intrinsic motivation. Below are some considerations for addressing your classroom climate:
- If your course will include difficult or sensitive conversations due, either due to course content or to world events, take care to prepare your students for the conversation. Set ground rules that focus on respectful communication and diffusion strategies if tension rises in the room. Also, remember to model the behavior you expect of your students.
- Empathy, sensitivity, and respect are key ingredients in handling difficult moments in the classroom.
- Providing encouraging feedback and inviting one-on-one conversations to address concerns are strategies you can utilize to foster self-confidence and mitigate self-doubt.
Georgetown University's Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship has compiled more information about strategies for difficult classroom conversations.
Authentic assessments are "engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performance effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field" (Wiggins, 1998). When we ask students to use the knowledge or skills they have learned in our class to perform a task that they might actually encounter in their careers, our assessment is authentic. Wiggins (1998) describes an authentic assessment as:
- Representation Matters. Understanding the intent behind the author and publications you choose for your course is important. Are there areas where you can include diverse authors and viewpoints that are relevant to your course content?
- Equity Matters. Be mindful of the course materials you require students to purchase and use for your course. If students need to use a type of software for the course, is there a free, open-source software that can be used instead? Are there alternative textbook choices at a lower price, or is your textbook part of the Inclusive Access program offered by the bookstore? Are there Open Educational Materials (OER) that can be used for your course instead of a textbook?
- Assessment Matters.
- When considering the types of assessment you will deliver in your course, be sure to include low-stakes activities where students can practice your assessment requirements so that they can learn from your feedback before investing in a larger-stakes assessment.
- When creating quiz/test/exam questions, utilize best practices, such as using equitable language, avoiding "tricking" the students, and providing meaningful distracters. Dr. Vincent Genareo led a presentation on The Art and Science of Crafting Traditional-Style Assessments that discusses effective strategies for developing assessments that support learning outcomes.
- Include students in the assessment process by having them generate assessment questions.
Authentic assessments are "engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performance effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems face by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field" (Wiggins, 1998). When we ask students to use the knowledge or skills they have learned in our class to perform a task that they might actually encounter in their careers, our assessment is authentic. Wiggins (1998) describes an authentic assessment as:
- requires judgment, creativity, innovation, and/or problem-solving;
- asks the student to "do" the subject;
- replicates or simulates activities adults encounter in the workplace, civic, or personal life;
- allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and receive feedback to refine performances and products;
- assesses students' ability to use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to negotiate a complex task.
When developing content for students to access online, it's important to remember that your audience is diverse and so may their needs be. Universal Design is the design and composition of content so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, including those with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics.
These principles are extended into the classroom and in the online learning environment and are often referred to as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development to serve all learners, regardless of ability, disability, age, gender or cultural and linguistic background. Providing accessible course content aligns with the principles of Universal Design. When discussing accessibility in relation to course material, accessibility refers not just to if a student can access resources, but also if they can use those resources. To address accessibility in your course, it's important to ask questions such as:
- Can my documents be read by a screen reader?
- Are users easily able to tab through my course content using headings?
- Are my videos accurately closed captioned?
- Do I have transcripts available for audio files?
The Accessibility article provides more information about creating and verifying that your course content is accessible.
- The office of Diversity and Inclusion provides information and resources for inclusive practices, as well as information about committees and initiatives at SU.
- The library maintains a guide with information about Open Educational Resources (OER), and another with resources about how to diversify your classroom. The video below talks about this LibGuide in more detail: [Embed video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UNTxmeOF_s]
- The Disability Resource Center can answer questions and help you prepare for creating accessible content for your course, particularly if you have a student with a documented disability enrolled in your course.
- Review the articles about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Accessibility for information about creating and locating quality course content, including how to add closed captions to Panopto videos.
Wiggins, Grant. (1998). Ensuring authentic performance. Chapter 2 in Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 21-42.