Resources for Building an Inclusive Classroom

Over the years, our students have become more and more diverse. As we work to incorporate new classroom technologies and strategies for engagement, we need to become mindful of the ways our pedagogical choices lead students to feel included or excluded. In addition, for faculty teaching controversial topics, enhanced diversity in student perspectives is both productive and potentially conflict-producing. Managing conflict successfully becomes vital for ensuring inclusiveness and effective learning. Ultimately, attending to inclusiveness means building practices that benefit all students.

In June 2014, Faculty Development offered a seminar exploring the multiple dimensions of diversity among UST students (e.g., race/ethnicity, international students, GLBTQ students, students with physical or learning disabilities, first generation students) and present ideas and strategies for re-thinking your courses with inclusion in mind. Seminar topics included material on:

  • The principles of Universal Design applied to instruction; how you can apply them
  • Effective group and team work strategies
  • Designing writing assignments for diverse classes
  • Building self-awareness of personal values that can help or hinder inclusive teaching
  • Assessing student perceptions of inclusion
  • Mediating and resolving conflict in the classroom

Seminar materials and supplementary resources from the seminar are included below to help you build inclusiveness into your classroom. 


Setting the stage: Ideas for your syllabus and classroom

Include a "commitment to inclusive excellence" statement in your syllabus. 

TerriVandercook Dr. Terri Vandercook, Chair of the Department of Special Education and Associate Professor (CELC), developed a commitment to inclusive excellence statement for her syllabus and a Community Expectations Activity for the first day of class. 

"Let’s all work to operate as both teachers and learners in this classroom community.  It is important to recognize that our individual differences can be a source of strength and learning for each of us individually and collectively.  In this class, people of all ethnicities, genders and gender identities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities are encouraged to share the rich and varied perspectives and experiences that make you who you are today.  We want to create an environment that facilitates a robust exchange of ideas, assisting each of us to learn and grow based upon the content we grapple with together.  We want each person in this classroom community to experience an authentic sense of belonging and feel supported to actively engage in and contribute to both the teaching and learning that occurs."

Examples of inclusive excellence statements from other institutions:

  • Winona State University: "WSU recognizes that our individual differences can deepen our understanding of one another and the world around us, rather than divide us. In this class, people of all ethnicities, genders and gender identities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities are strongly encouraged to share their rich array of perspectives and experiences.  If you feel your differences may in some way isolate you from WSU’s community or if you have a need of any specific accommodations, please speak with the instructor early in the semester about your concerns and what we can do together to help you become an active and engaged member of our class and community."
  • "In order to learn, we must be open to the views of people different from ourselves. Each and every voice in the classroom is important and brings with it a wealth of experiences, values and beliefs. In this time we share together over the semester, please honor the uniqueness of your fellow classmates, and appreciate the opportunity we have to learn from each other. Please respect your fellow students' opinions and refrain from personal attacks or demeaning comments of any kind." --sample diversity statement from University of Central Florida.
  • Respect:  Students in this class are encouraged to speak up and participate during class meetings. Because the class will represent a diversity of individual beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences, every member of this class must show respect for every other member of this class. (California State University - Chico)
  • University of Oregon Affirmation of Community Standards

Connect with students and examine students' perceptions of inclusion/exclusion

StephenBrookfield For checking in on learning and learning climate consider using Critical Incidents / Insights Questionnaire from Dr. Stephen Brookfield (CELC). 

The critical incident questionnaire (C.I.Q.) is a single page form that is handed out to students once a week at the end of the last class you have with them that week.  It comprises five questions, each of which asks students to write down some details about events that happened in the class that week.  Its purpose is not to ask students what they liked or didn't like about the class.  Instead it gets them to focus on specific, concrete happenings.  

  1. At what moment in class today did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  2. At what moment in class today did you feel most distanced from what was happening?
  3. What action that anyone (teacher or student) took in class today (or comment) did you find most affirming and helpful?
  4. What action that anyone (teacher or student) took in class today (or comment) did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  5. What about this class surprised you the most? (This could be something about your own reactions to what went on, or something that someone did, or anything else that occurs to you.)

AnnJohnsonSome ways to connect with your students and build rapport include a beginning of the semester survey to get to know students. These eight questions were adapted from the Building an Inclusive Classroom seminar for faculty to use with students. Take a look at Cornell's Center for Teaching Excellence for techniques to gauge classroom climate as well as inclusive teaching strategies

‌ A technique recommended by Dr. Ann Johnson (Faculty Development/CAS) is to use the questions below at the end of a class session to gather anonymous student responses about their perception of inclusion. 

  • There have been moments in class when I feel included (circle one): Agree/Somewhat agree/Somewhat disagree/Disagree
    If you agree, please provide an example or comment:
  • There have been moments in class when I feel excluded circle one: Agree/Somewhat agree/Somewhat disagree/Disagree
    If you agree, please provide an example or comment:

Integrate resources and activities to create inclusive teams and groups and manage conflict

CareyWinkler Ms. Carey Winkler (School of Social Work) developed a Member Roles Inventory Exercise (PDF) which can be used in the way it suggests, as a self-assessment, but can also be used as a way to provide feedback to other group/team/class members. Ms. Carey Winkler writes, "As someone who used to dislike even thinking about conflict and now kind of likes it, I found the book Crucial Conversations really valuable. I also like adding to the conflict language by using terms like crucial or courageous conversations. This approach includes an element of examining/assessing our communication styles under stress – there is even a self-assessment to look at our tendencies and to then consider areas to attend to in the process of communicating under stress." This document summarizes some of the points brought to life in the book: Reframing Conflict as an Opportunity for Crucial & Courageous Conversations . Ms. Winkler also shared her learning space notes (PDF) which were introduced to her by a mentor. The notes "...remain a part of my approach because the word “safe” doesn’t always fit for me."

TerriVandercook Dr. Terri Vandercook developed the ‌ activity that faculty can use to help teams to gain effective collaboration skills. Students are asked to rate themselves on team skills in four broad areas (trust building, communication and shared leadership, decision making and problem solving, and conflict management) and then teams are asked to identify skills the team has jointly agreed to improve upon. 


Examine personal bias, stereotype threat and cultural taxation

The Dangers of a Single Story

"Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."

Implicit Association Test

The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) "...measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science. The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy)."

Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity is a university-wide, interdisciplinary research institute of The Ohio State University and "...works to deepen understanding of the causes of—and solutions to—racial and ethnic disparities worldwide and to bring about a society that is fair and just for all people. Kirwan Institute research is designed to be actively used to solve problems in society. Its research and staff expertise are shared through an extensive network of colleagues and partners—ranging from other researchers, grassroots social justice advocates, policymakers, and community leaders nationally and globally, who can quickly put ideas into action."

Are 'color-blind' millennials ignoring racism?

Can "colorblindness" and racism coexist? It's a question that challenges a common stance among the millennial generation, getting to the heart of arguments over race and class. Audio broadcast and news article from The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio.


Universal Design

"Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs." The National Center for Universal Design for Learning has a wealth of resources on UDL including guidelines and examples

Ilene Alexander and Tim Kamenar from the University of Minnesota presented a session on Universal Design and their materials from the presentation are available here

Integrated Aligned Course Design Framework

The Center for Teaching and Learning at the U of MN uses the Integrated Aligned Course Design Framework as a way to map the teaching/learning Environment to provide a context for the course you’re developing or re-designing.  The design cycle then moves into development of Student Learning Outcomes to ground the course Curriculum.  From this base, teachers move onto (1) developing SMART assessments (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and targeted), and (2) selecing teaching/learning presentaions, classroom aciviies, out-of-Bclass assignments, and supporing resources.

Their online tutorial divides the process of course design into distinct parts; the process is iterative with taking time to analyze the distinct segments heightening overall awareness and reflection in the design process:

  1. Introduction & Noting the Environmental Factors (Environment)
  2. Establishing Student Learning Outcomes (Curriculum)
  3. Assessing Student Learning Outcomes (Assessment)
  4. Class Session Planning for Enhanced Learning and Effective Teaching (Instruction)
  5. Reviewing Your Course Design (a return to Environment with new information)

What is Multicultural Learning?

What is Multicultural Learning is learning that integrates and explores the rich tapestry of perspectives reflected in our diverse world. It occurs when differences among learners are both valued and explored. Multicultural Learning recognizes and reaches across boundaries of ability, age, class, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation and other personal, social and cultural identities so that learners will more thoroughly understand the multifaceted dimensions of knowledge.

On Learning – and Are They Students, or Learners?

Students or Learners.


Socioeconomic Diversity and First Generation Students

First Generation Students. Two blog posts by Dr. Tori Svoboda on how educators and administrators can positively impact low-income and first-generation college student experiences and what we can do to improve the experiences of first-generation students.

Faculty Tips for First-Gen Students - Inside Higher Education

Who Gets to Graduate? New York Times article May 15, 2014

Heritage University Institute for Student Identity and Success video series

Teaching Tips on Diversity and Social Justice from Western Washington University


Working with English Language Learners

Links to U of MN resources on Responding and Grading (paradigms for effectively and efficiently responding to student writing, as well as multiple approaches to grading and evaluation); responding to non-native speakers of English and quick suggestions for helping non-native writers

Understanding Language Use in the Classroom: A Linguistic Guide for College Educators is available for faculty to check out from the Faculty Development library.


Students with Disabilities

Indifference Toward Disabled Scholars, Especially at Conferences, Troubles a Disabilities Scholar. By the Chronicle of Highed Education. This article highlights the importance of planning enviroments for individuals with disabilities. Are you planning a conference or workshop? Keep in mind that invited faculty or presenters might require accommodations. 

ADHD in the Classroom from Worcester State University.

Guide to teaching chemistry to students with disabilities

Teaching tips from Columbia College based on class-room practices that both faculty and students have reported to be successful.

Autism Society website contains resources related to autism spectrum disorder.

Penn Autism Network at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania hosted two "Autism Goes to College" forums for professionals in higher education and autism advocates.

"A College Education for Individuals with Autism" (a personal experience), written from a parent's point of view.

The Inclusive University: Autism/Asperger's Syndrome resources at Syracuse University.

TED Talk (Youtube video)Autism activist Temple Grandin talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures."

Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor's Guide (Youtube video): 3-part video intended for use by college students with Asperger Syndrome to educate their professors and teaching assistants about what it means to be a college student on the autism spectrum and how they can help promote success.

Supporting College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Youtube video)presents strategies and methods that have proved successful in supporting students with ASD, in the OASIS program at Pace University in NYC.

Students with Psychological Disabilities

From the UST Counseling and Psychological Services - Faculty and Staff as Helping Resources Guide

Yale's guide to teaching students with psychlogical disabilities. The guide highlights ways in which instructors can provide necessary supports for their students with psychological diagnoses.

Additional Resources

UST Disabilities Syllabus Statement

Note to Faculty: The purpose of a disability statement is to help students feel more comfortable in approaching the disability resources office about their disability and to facilitate arranging accommodations in a timely manner. Please add the disability statement below to your syllabus.

Classroom accommodations will be provided for qualified students with documented disabilities.  Students are invited to contact the Disability Resources office about accommodations early in the semester. Telephone appointments are available to students as needed. Appointments can be made by calling 651-962-6315 or 800-328-6819, extension 6315. You may also make an appointment in person in Murray Herrick, room 110. For further information, you can locate the Disability Resources office on the web at http://www.stthomas.edu/enhancementprog/