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Cultivating Inclusivity

Overview of what it means to teach inclusively.

This document series provides an overview of key teaching strategies (including links to additional resources) for cultivating inclusivity in an online course. While framing these strategies is targeted toward a fully asynchronous online course, they are also relevant for courses being offered in any modality.

[Note: The content you will explore here has been modified from its original version as an asynchronous micro-course offered to faculty in August 2022. Future offerings can be found at]

Overview of inclusive teaching

“Inclusive teaching” is an umbrella term for a complex network of pedagogical issues and strategies. Drawing from a large body of research, much of its foundational scholarship on teaching and learning, we can feel confident that learning outcomes are improved when teachers (excerpts from the University of Michigan website).

  • Deliberately cultivate a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel welcome, valued, and supported in their learning.
  • Attend to social identities and seek to change how systemic inequities shape dynamics in teaching-learning spaces and affect individuals’ experiences of those spaces.

Beneficial to all students, inclusive teaching practices will help you facilitate a more welcoming and productive learning environment. Doing so involves recognizing how our identities, experiences, and challenges shape our teaching approach and interactions with our students. While these resources focus on inclusive teaching and not course design, it is important to note that fostering inclusivity requires intentionality that starts at the design of a course and continues through the implementation of various teaching practices throughout the course.


What it means to teach inclusively

Sathy and Hogan (2022, pp. 4-5), authors of the book Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom, succinctly define three principal words that we discuss in this course relative to our students: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Diversity describes the ways students are similar and different from one another. A diverse population doesn’t mean the learning environment is automatically inclusive. Equity is the goal we strive to reach, in which all learners start by having access to the same opportunities. But access is not enough. Equity requires naming and dismantling the systems, structures, and oppressive forces that act as barriers for some students more than others. When we work to remove barriers, more individuals can succeed. This is an ongoing process.

Inclusion describes a culture in which all learners feel welcome, valued, and safe, and it requires intentional and deliberate strategies. Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity in all forms — race, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, ideology, and even personality traits like introversion — as an asset that can be leveraged and valued. It means designing and teaching courses that foster talent in all students, especially groups traditionally excluded from higher education because of historical and systemic barriers. Inclusion means helping all students feel part of the course's learning community.

Benefits of teaching inclusively

The benefits of inclusive teaching include:

  • Instructors can connect and engage with a variety of students.
  • Instructors are prepared for difficult conversations that may arise when controversial material is discussed.
  • Students feel comfortable voicing their ideas/questions.
  • Students are more likely to be successful through activities that support their learning modalities, abilities, and backgrounds.

Despite our best intentions, we may not be teaching inclusively. Inclusive learning environments don’t just happen; they are intentionally created by instructors who incorporate deliberate, inclusive teaching practices. This resource will share strategies to minimize inequities and help more students succeed.

Reference: Sathy, V., & Hogan, K. A. (2022). Inclusive teaching: Strategies for promoting equity in the college classroom.

Advice on inclusive teaching

Following is some advice from Sathy & Hogan (2022, pp 225-226) in their book Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom.


  • Make quick daily reflections through notes and voice memos.
  • Consider making a customized daily/weekly self-reflection form to encourage good habits.

Student feedback:

  • Collect informal micro-feedback through polls, thumbs up/thumbs down, questions within assignments, and continuously available anonymous surveys.
  • Design a mid-semester survey to collect more formal feedback.
  • Add questions to an end-of-course evaluation if possible.
  • Conduct focus groups with students facilitated by you or a colleague.
  • Curate unsolicited feedback.
  • Teach students how to give helpful feedback and explain why it’s valuable to you.
  • Use the end of the course to allow students to reflect on their growth, reinforce the growth mindset, invite students to be lifelong learners in your discipline, bridge their academic skills with professional skills, and write notes of advice to future students.

Peer feedback:

  • Identify colleagues who can provide formative feedback for learning instead of summative high-stakes feedback related to employment and career track.
  • Provide your peer reviewers access to course materials in addition to inviting them to your class.
  • Ask to meet with peers briefly before and after the review.
  • Provide a rubric or ask for specific kinds of feedback related to inclusive strategies such as your use of non-content instructor talk.

Informative data:

  • Collect data from students about their perceptions, behaviors, and knowledge-related diversity and inclusion; consider a pre- and post-survey or student work samples at the beginning and end of the term to measure change.
  • Request demographic data for students you have taught; reflect on the diversity of your students as well as disparities in performance for certain student groups.

Reference: Sathy, V., & Hogan, K. A. (2022). Inclusive teaching: Strategies for promoting equity in the college classroom.

Creating an inclusive classroom environment isn’t just a nice idea – its effect on student engagement, learning, and achievement is supported by substantial academic research (see research link below). Almost all of this research confirms that inclusive teaching practices are helpful for all students’ learning but especially beneficial to students who are members of groups underrepresented in their fields or traditionally underserved by higher education institutions. Therefore, it is important to strive to foster learning experiences that are inclusive of and welcoming for a variety of student social groups. This is also known as creating a supportive course climate.

References and resources for further learning

Keywordsonline, teaching, belonging, diversity, inclusionDoc ID122326
OwnerKaren S.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-11-06 23:36:17Updated2024-05-02 15:10:23
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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