Introduction to Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching Icon

What is Inclusive Teaching?

Inclusive teaching aims to create learning spaces where every student feels they belong and can achieve success. Inclusion is enacted through choices instructors make in their presentation of self, content, and through deliberate ways of drawing on assets each student brings to the classroom.

Inclusive Teaching includes:  

  1. Instruction designed to ensure every student can participate fully and that their presence and participation is valued. 

  1. The content of the course reflects the diversity of the field's practitioners, the contested and evolving status of knowledge, the value of academic questions beyond the academy and of lived experience as evidence, and/or other efforts to help students see themselves in the work of the course. 

Below, we invite you to explore definitions and the research basis of inclusive teaching practices, as well as strategies for implementing these practices, questions to reflect on, and resources to browse.

Reflecting on Inclusive Teaching Practices

Two key goals of inclusive teaching are to create learning spaces that “promote equitable and successful outcomes for every student” and to use methods that "embrace the diversity of our students' backgrounds" [Association of College and University Educators, 2020]. Towards this end, instructors can engage in careful reflection on course design and instructional approaches to identify opportunities to change practices that might limit student achievements or to enhance practices that promote student success. To facilitate reflection, we encourage instructors to reflect on five key factors of inclusive teaching, which include the following: course content, instructional methods, students, one's self as a teacher, and the various contexts informing teaching and learning in one's classes.

inclusive teaching includes reflection on content, methods, students, self, and context

Adapted from Marchesani and Adams, 1992. The authors cite an unpublished paper by B. W. Jackson as the source of this model.

Inclusive Teaching Practices

Using the key factors noted above, we have curated a variety of teaching practices, grounded in the scholarship of teaching and learning, that instructors can adopt or adapt to enhance their approach to inclusive teaching. We are happy to meet with instructors to discuss these ideas or help envision and design practices to meet specific challenges or particular contexts. 



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Explore the question of “who am I,” particularly where the answers may impact your teaching. 

First, use questions to engage in critical self-reflective practice such as:

1. Identifying core experiences, assumptions, and beliefs you have around learning, teaching, and success in your discipline.  

2. Examining how identity may have shaped your experiences, assumptions, and beliefs about learning, teaching, and your discipline.

3. Getting curious about the ways your assumptions and beliefs are impacted by bias, and how that bias might affect your teaching.  

Second, use self-reflection as a basis for action such as

1. Deepening your ongoing self-reflective practice

2. Adopting new strategies such as those indicated on the rest of this page.

Questions to identify experiences, assumptions, and beliefs:
  • What values are most important to me as a person, and how do those values drive my teaching decisions?  
  • What did I do that led to my success as a student?
  • What did I do that led to challenges I had as a student? 
  • What about my environment supported my success as a student?
  • What about my environment did not support or was an obstacle to my success? 
  • What do I notice about who does well and who struggles in my classes?  
  • Why do I think some students do well while others do not—both in general, and in my classes?  
  • What scholars in my discipline have been most influential to me? Why?  
  • What characteristics and behaviors do I see as essential to succeed in my discipline? 
Questions to examine identity:
  • How have my experiences, assumptions, and beliefs been shaped by uneven distributions of power?  
  • How might my own cultural norms—both ones that are visible to me, and ones that aren’t yet visible—show up in my teaching practices?  
  • What “stock” or dominant narratives might I believe about who successful learners are and who produces credible and meaningful knowledge in my field? 
  • Who benefits from my assumptions about learning, teaching, and/or my discipline? 
  • Who would be negatively impacted by my assumptions about learning, teaching, and my discipline? 
  • How can I increase my ability to offer authentic support for students from marginalized communities?  
  • Who is missing or unacknowledged, in terms of identity characteristics, from my discipline?
  • What questions do I have about why these scholars are missing or unacknowledged, and how can I center these scholars more as I continue my own scholarly work?
Questions to motivate curiosity about bias:

How might bias be impacting my teaching decisions? For example:  

  • Are biases and/or assumptions embedded in my course policies?  
  • Are biases and/or assumptions embedded in how I design assessments? 
  • Are biases and/or assumptions embedded in my definition or facilitation of course participation? 
  • What equity gaps exist in my courses? Is it possible I have biases that either actively perpetuate or align with these equity gaps? 
  • What biases are most prevalent in my discipline? Where might those biases be visible to students through the course materials I’ve chosen? 
How might bias impact the content and tone of my communications to students and conversations with them? For example:
  • What does the tone of my syllabus tell students I believe about them?
  • What does my “instructor talk” (the non-content language we use with students) say about my assumptions and beliefs about learning?  
What resources do I need to change how bias may show up in my teaching? For example: 
  • If I’m not sure about my biases and how they are showing up, who can I turn to for feedback?  
Practices to deepen self-reflection: 
  • Continue a practice of journaling or freewriting on questions like those above.  
  • Ask a trusted colleague or friend to exchange thoughts with you around questions that feel most salient. What additional ideas and questions do you raise together? If they are in the same department as you, can you ask these questions with your department in mind as well? 
  • Set a specific, manageable goal to learn more about a student perspective and/or identity that you don’t feel as familiar with (knowing that none of our identities are monolith). (Ex: I don’t know much about how being undocumented impacts students’ learning experiences; I’ll sign up for a future Dreamer Ally Training.) 
  • Look at your bookshelf or other lists of scholarship within your discipline you refer to. Identify some perspectives and/or identities that are not yet represented, and make a goal to add texts to that list to continue your learning. (Ex: nearly all of these authors are from North America; I want to expand my exposure to scholarship coming out of Global South) 
  • Become more familiar with the language and terms people use to articulate their identities (see, for example, the EDUCAUSE Inclusive Language Guide)



Get to know students and help them feel valued in a course by: 

1. Learning and using preferred names and pronouns

2. Learning student interests and concerns, including their goals, background knowledge or experience, and other pertinent information that might impact their success.  

3. Encouraging personal connection with you

Strategies for learning student names and pronouns:

Research across various fields indicates that using student names helps students feel more welcome and valued [Cooper et al., 2017; Murdoch et al., 2018; Smith and Malec, 1995; Townes O’Brien et al., 2014].  Using names builds connections, increases trust, fosters empathy, and reinforces positive, respectful communication. The University of Oregon has a preferred name policy that allows members of the university community to designate their preferred names, which then get used in platforms such as Canvas. However, instructors can use several strategies to learn and use names:

  • Access the course roster in Canvas or Duckweb – the latter includes an option to view student photos. 
  • Ask for preferred names in a course survey built in Canvas or Qualtrics.
  • In smaller classes, use icebreakers that include ways to learn names in the first class or two, or use a roll call and ask students to help with the correct pronunciation of their names. You can also have students use name tents with cardstock you provide. As much as possible, use students’ names when calling on them or referring to contributions they’ve made. 
  • In any size class, have students share their names when making contributions or asking questions aloud in class.  
  • Be aware that student names might change during the term

When not using names, we often refer to each other using pronouns. As with names, instructors also have to learn students’ pronouns and not assume someone’s pronouns or gender identity based on their name or appearance.  Both faculty and students can now indicate their pronouns in Canvas, and many do so in email signatures, too. However, it can be helpful to ask students for their pronouns as part of a class survey or during class introductions or icebreakers, albeit as an invitation not as a requirement (“Please share your preferred name and, if you want, the pronouns you use.”). Also be open to students changing their pronouns during the term. If you have not learned a student’s pronouns or name, you can use “they/them” or use alternative language (“What I hear you saying is…” or “What was just shared is…”). The Division of Student Life has a helpful resource on pronouns, including their uses, different types, how to engage in conversation about them, and what to do when making mistakes. 

Strategies for learning student interests and concerns:

Students bring a diverse range of experiences, identities, background knowledge, learning goals, study habits, career aspirations, and so on to a course.  The combination of these variables influences their learning significantly [Tanner, 2013].  It is helpful to know the reasons why students are taking a course, what they hope to accomplish in the course, and how it connects to their degree goals or career aspirations. In addition, it is useful to know how much relevant background knowledge, pertinent skills, or prior experience students bring to a course, what kinds of understanding or misconceptions they have about course content or themes, and the ways they envision being successful in the course. Having such information from students can help instructors identify pertinent examples and case studies to include, key points to emphasize, resources to highlight, study tips and strategies to encourage, and so on. Instructors can gain such valuable information by having students complete a survey or handouts that ask for the following:  

  • Learning goals, interests, and career aspirations. By asking students for these, instructors can make explicit connections between specific course content and skills and the things that matter to students. This is true not only for students who may be majors or minors but also those who are taking the course “only for credit” and may not otherwise perceive a direct connection with their particular goals or interests. Finding out students’ goals and interests can be as simple as asking, “What primary goal is this course going to help you accomplish: learning more about the subject, earning credit for your major/minor, earning elective or core education credit towards your degree, securing a job” and so on. TEP offers a host of strategies in its Career Readiness Toolkit that instructors can use to help students make connections between course content and work and their own interests and career aspirations. 
  • Background knowledge, skills, and experiences. It can be very helpful to know the range of students’ knowledge, skills and experiences with the course content and skills being developed in the course. In a preterm or first week survey, instructors can ask students to describe their familiarity with key course themes or skills being emphasized, use multiple choice questions to ascertain basic conceptual knowledge, and so forth.  It helps to frame such an assessment explicitly as a way for the instructor to learn more about which concepts, skills, etc. to prioritize in terms of class time and study resources, and which areas the instructor can potentially draw on students for pertinent examples and anecdotes. In addition, the results of such a survey can serve as a baseline that both the instructor and students can use to gauge learning progress throughout the course. 
  • Study habits. A key goal in asking students about their study habits centers on having them reflect explicitly about their preparation and strategies for success. Indeed, it can help students identify the specific strategies needed for success when engaging the particular content and work of the instructor’s course, which might require different ways to prepare and engage than in other courses. TEP offers a bevy of strategies in its Student Success Toolkit that instructors can use to help students focus on developing the particular knowledge and skills they need to be successful. 
  • Identities. Student identities influence their learning experiences, and when instructors recognize students’ diverse personal and social identities as assets, students tend to commit more favorably to achieving learning goals and persisting academically [Steele and Cohn-Vargas, 2013; Bowman and Felix, 2017]. Affirming that students’ unique perspectives are resources for collective class learning, and providing opportunities for students to self-identify, can therefore create a more welcoming, supportive environment that increases students’ sense of social belonging and agency as active contributors to the class [Addy et al., 2021].  In addition to affirming diverse identities as assets – in a welcome message, on the syllabus, at the first class meeting, as part of specific activities, etc. – instructors can invite students to disclose their personal or social identities, if they feel comfortable doing so, in a class survey, class activity, or individual meeting with the instructor. Such information can help an instructor and other students avoid misconceptions or stereotyping based on appearances and bring forward otherwise invisible identities that are central to students’ self-understanding and learning [Addy et al., 2021]. In addition, knowing more about student identities that matter to them can help an instructor gain insight about which resources might be helpful to support their teaching and to ensure students have access to the resources they need to support their learning and wellbeing. Finally, knowing more about students’ identities can inform an instructor’s choice of examples, case studies, etc. to include and highlight in the course. 
Strategies for building personal connections with students: 

Building personal relationships with students can help foster their sense of belonging in a course, elicit greater participation from them, and establish a basis for supporting them in the future, for instance through mentorship or providing a letter of recommendation [Addy et al, 2021].  Instructors can encourage personal connections with students in the following ways: 

  • Welcome message. Set the tone early by sharing a welcome message with students that includes information not only about the course – its purpose, value, themes, etc. – but also about you as a scholar, teacher, and person. It can help students make connections and know what to expect by learning pertinent information about your teaching approach, scholarly background, learning journey as a student, career trajectory, and other interests. Consider making your welcome message a video on Canvas, available before the first class session (for in-person classes) or as soon as you publish your Canvas site (for online courses). 
  • Communications. Emphasize multiple means of contacting you, such as use of Canvas messages, email, flexible office hours, and so on. Set clear expectations for communications, including use of course numbers in subject lines, students’ including their full names in messages, anticipated response times they can expect, etc.  
  • Office Hours. Name reasons students should consider coming to your office hours. These might include clarifying concepts and ideas from class; discussing course work, grades or feedback; learning how to improve in the course; getting help with or discussing tips and strategies for assignments; catching up on work that has been missed; discussing course topics in more depth or asking questions of interest; getting academic or career advice; etc.  To signal your interest in having students come to office hours, consider renaming them as “Learning Support Hours” or something similar. In addition, offer options for office hours, including the option to schedule a time outside of posted hours or use of online office hours. This can help promote equitable participation in office hours and ensure that as many students as possible have access to the benefits of office hours and the opportunity to build a relationship with a faculty member. Finally, consider requiring office hours (for smaller courses) or some way to incentivize office hours, such as participation credit or extra credit. Especially for asynchronous online courses, offering an end-of-day (5PM-6PM) Zoom session early in the semester can be a way to forge collegiality, model your accommodating approach, and/or invite students whose daily responsibilities make it difficult or impossible to reach you otherwise. Consider one to two more alternate times/days to meet students with complicated schedules during the term.




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Choose content that engages and supports student learning by:

1. Reflecting multiple perspectives and diverse social identities of scholars and practitioners in the field. 

2. Using a diversity of representations in course materials, such as featuring diverse social identity groups, experiences, and contexts in images, examples, case studies, etc.

3. Connecting to pertinent learning touchstones, such as students' prior knowledge or experience, prior class lessons or content, current events or real-world phenomena, etc.

4. Formatting course materials accessibly, such as proper text and image formatting, use of text-based files and alt-text descriptions for images, providing captions in videos, etc. 

Strategies for including multiple perspectives and identities:
  • Review your current content and identify opportunities to diversify it. Look over your current content choices, including textbooks, readings, case studies, examples, and so on, and consider which perspectives or topics are prioritized, which are given less significance, and which might be missing. Similarly, consider the range of social identities and positions represented by the scholars or practitioners whose work or ideas you have students engage. Are there reasons for why certain perspectives or social identities are more present, while others are less prominent or missing? Are there opportunities either to expand the range of perspectives and topics or balance them differently in terms of priority – and do so meaningfully to help you achieve your main course objectives? Are there opportunities to enrich the diversity of social identities represented among the scholars or practitioners featured in the course – and do so meaningfully to help you achieve your main course objectives?  Additionally, you can seek out ideas from professional societies and academic organizations, which often have sections on diversity with helpful resources. Likewise, you can glean ideas for more diverse content options by checking pertinent professional journals in your field, consulting with your subject librarian, or inquiring with colleagues in your field. Also consider university resources on cultural humilitybias, and intersectionality for support in self-reflection as part of the process of choosing content.
  • Spotlight scholars and practitioners featured in the course. Consider including photos of authors, practitioners, etc. on lecture slides, handouts, and other materials, as well as links to their professional or institutional profiles, when available, which can be put in Canvas or on a syllabus. You can also present more in-depth spotlights about those from under-represented communities or who have travelled non-traditional pathways to scholarship or practice, including information about their background, their learning journey and professional trajectory, and the key values and interests that inform their work. This can help students learn more about specific scholars or practitioners and also appreciate the range of values, ideas, identities, and backgrounds informing the course content. 
  • Have students contribute resources. As part of assignments with class presentations or online materials posted in Canvas, students can present different perspectives and profile scholarship or practice from diverse sources that tend to be under-represented in the discipline or field. Such work can also help students learn more about the history of the field or discipline and how and why certain perspectives or groups of people have been over- or under-represented in its development. This can empower students as researchers and content creators and can also contribute to an archive of resources and content for students in future classes to engage. Be sure to include specific guidelines and resources to help students identify  sources and present perspectives.
  • Highlight research methodologies and approaches that can help diversify the content in the discipline or field. Part of learning the content of a field or discipline involves learning about the various ways content is produced, that is, how scholarly or expert practice works. In many research contexts, generating content with more diverse perspectives and sources of knowledge production requires different methodologies, explicitly designed to be more inclusive or welcoming of multiple perspectives and diverse knowledge creators. Some instructors include opportunities for students to learn about such methods or learn to use them as part of projects, assignments, etc. For instance, instructors can include readings or resources on antriracist research methodologies, feminist research methodologies, or decolonizing research methodologies, among others [Dei and Johal, 2005; Hesse-Biber, 2007; Smith, 2012; Thambinathan and Kinsella, 2021].
  • Include information or discussion about how your field or discipline is addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Virtually every field of study and discipline engages DEI issues and challenges, and including information about this work can help students learn more about key issues and trends, and which strategies are being pursued to transform how research, teaching, and learning happen in the field. Such information can be particularly helpful in clarifying student understanding of fields or disciplines with limited diversity.
Strategies for using diverse representations:


  • Use images, videos, and examples that represent a diverse range of social identities, experiences, and contexts. Review your current content choices for photos, graphics, and other images, as well as videos, plus uses of names, places, and other contexts. Are there opportunities to diversify your selections to be more inclusive in an authentic way? Consider several factors, including gender, ethnicity, racial identity, ability, age, indigeneity, nationality, sexuality, political affiliation, socio-economic status, class position, religion, geographic origin, linguistic background, cultural heritage, among others. All UO faculty (and staff and students, too) have free access to Adobe Stock, a repository with millions of images available for use. UO Libraries also curates a helpful page with visual image resources and a page with links to video resources, which instructors can use in their courses. 
  • Have students contribute resources. Students bring an abundance of different identities, backgrounds, experiences, and ideas, and they regularly engage with a variety of media. Consider having students engage in activities or assignments that ask them to create representations, identify examples, craft case studies, etc. related to the topics, themes, and concepts they are learning. You can specify that the materials they include must meet certain parameters, such as inclusion of under-represented perspectives, groups, voices, and so on, although be sure to discuss the purpose for such work, how it connects to learning objectives, and guidelines for appropriate research – UO Libraries offers great research guides for the latter. 
Strategies for connecting to pertinent student touchstones:
  • Background Knowledge Probe. At the beginning of a course, unit, or module have students complete a short, ungraded questionnaire (though completion of it could count for participation) that poses basic questions about foundational knowledge they may already possess about the course, unit or module. This could include knowledge they are bringing to your course or bringing forward from an earlier part of your course. In addition, consider asking students to rate their confidence in their answers for each question on a simple scale from 1-5 (1= “I am not certain at all about the answer I chose”; 5= “I am certain my answer is correct”) and also for the questionnaire as a whole (1 = “I flunked this”; 5 = “I aced this”).  Analyze the results to identify any patterns of misconceptions, errors, gaps or, alternately, shared correct answers. Also note if there are any significant relationships between confidence levels and incorrect or correct answers. You can share results with students and use the findings to help you plan lessons and activities. Variation: For a given topic or issue, have students list relevant factors they think are pertinent for understanding the topic or issue (or summarizing a reading, etc.), perhaps choosing the most significant factor and describing in a sentence or two why it is pertinent. You can then report back which factors the students identified that are centrally relevant (“bulls eye”), somewhat related (“in the zone”), or not relevant (“off the mark”), possibly engaging them in a discussion about the results.   
  • Insights-Resources-Application (IRA). For a given reading, video, or activity students complete, have them submit a written response that describes 1-2 new perceptions or understandings they have based on the text or activity (insights); resources they have identified that enrich a key theme or information from the text or activity (resources),;and one example from their personal experience that relates to the text or activity (application). Include time in class or a discussion board for students to share results and learn from each other. You can assess their work for completeness, quality, or accuracy, which might rate insights for clarity, resources for quality, and application for appropriate connection.  
  • Entry and Exit Tickets. To help students get focused on class content or recall relevant background knowledge, such as from the previous class or lesson or from a reading, you can have them at the beginning of class complete an "entry ticket," that is answer a short prompt or two on a note card or a submission on Canvas, for instance, "What do you think was the most significant point in the reading for today?" or "What comes to mind when you think of [topic], our main focus today?"  Similarly, you can ask students at the end of class to complete an "exit ticket," for example summarize in a sentence or two a key concept or term learned in class, indicate the muddiest or most confusing point, share a question they have, etc. In online courses, moments for entry and exit tickets can be embedded in videos or posted in surveys as part of a module. Student responses can provide instructors with important insights about student learning and also be used to inform discussions during class, in discussion section, or as part of a discussion board.
  • Self-reflection and Learning Strategies. Students can enhance their learning of course content by developing important skills of self-regulation and useful time management and study habits. TEP has curated a variety of specific strategies in its Student Success Toolkit, especially the sections on “Learning Skills and Planning” and “Reflecting on Classes and University Life.”   

For many additional strategies, see Barkley and Major (2016) and Barkley and Major (2020).

Strategies for formatting course materials accessibly:
  • Provide information about course materials as early as possible: As early as you can, provide students with a list of course materials, especially textbooks or other readings that students may need to convert to accessible formats. Any materials that students need to purchase can be posted at the Duck Store using the Adopt Your Textbooks tool, which provides a link for students on the class schedule page for your course. You can also work with UO Libraries to place material on Course Reserves, including personal items you provide.  You can also post a link to course materials, for example a course syllabus or webpage, on the class schedule page for your course (login at Duckweb, go to Faculty Menu, then choose “View Class Schedule Information,” and find fields for posting links to a syllabus file or course website). Finally, have links to your readings – files, webpages, etc. – posted when you publish your Canvas course site, which allows students access to materials at the start of the course.   
  • Follow guidelines for making materials accessible: There are many good practices to follow for ensuring course materials are formatted properly for accessibility, including materials posted online. UO Online has prepared a helpful resource for preventing and fixing accessibility issues in your Canvas course site, including helpful tips for formatting online text and preparing images. The Digital Accessibility at UO site offers a plethora of helpful guidelines to help instructors prepare and offer accessible digital content, plus create accessible materials in many other formats, including Word, PowerPoint, PDF, etc.  One common practice that  
  • Use text-based files instead of image-based files: As much as possible, provide students with access to readings and other files that are text-based, not image-based. For instance, have UO Libraries help find a digitized version of a resource (such as an academic article) for your course, rather than simply scanning a reading and making it into a PDF. Scans or other images saved as PDF files are not accessible to screen readers unless you perform Optical Character Recognition to make them searchable. Text-based files are helpful for all students, as they allow students to search for terms, which is not possible with image-based files. 
  • Use closed captioning for video content and alt-text for images: For video content you prepare or make available for students, use Panopto to post it to Canvas, and be sure to import captions with your video upload.  Adding captions is necessary to make video content accessible for students who are deaf and hard of hearing, is helpful for students for whom English is a second language, and provides another way to access the content. For images you post online - such as pictures, icons, etc. as part of slides, Canvas pages, documents, webpages, and so on - include an alternative text-based description or "alt text" attribute that describes what is presented visually. For students who are unable to see images or use a screen reader, an alt text description is necessary if they are to access the image. 


Use approaches that support and foster student learning in a variety of ways, such as

1. Communicating clear expectations for the course and all course components (assignments, discussions, activities, group work, etc.). 

2. Engaging students through multiple modes of learning (lecture, discussion, group work, case studies, guest presenters, video, etc.). 

3. Providing structure in the overall course and design activities with clear tasks for completion, guidelines for participation, and criteria for success. 

4. Providing multiple options for students to demonstrate their learning, such as choice of assignments and formats (audio, video, text, etc.). 

Strategies to communicate expectations:

All students benefit when instructors clearly convey their goals for the course regarding what knowledge and skills students will learn, how students will interact with each other and with the instructor, and what the goals and expectations are for individual assignments. But clarity about these things is especially important for newer and first generation college students [Watts, 2022], who may have more difficulty decoding expectations when they are not stated explicitly, and might not yet have developed the agency to ask the necessary clarifying questions. 

  • Syllabus. Be sure to include the course learning objectives, schedule, the number and types of assignments students will complete, attendance expectations, and the grading scheme you will use. Consult TEP’s Syllabus “Starter” for recommended syllabus elements and sample language. Consider having an activity to facilitate students’ engagement with the syllabus: a small-group discussion, collaborative annotation with Hypothesis or Persuall, or a syllabus quiz. 
  • Canvas site. Organize your Canvas site so that students know where to find information, what work they need to do, when it is due, and how best to communicate with you. Find suggestions on TEP/UO Online’s page on Providing a Clear Path Through Your Course.  
  • During class or lesson. Communicate your plan for the day or the lesson orally and in writing at the beginning of each class session or video (if using for asynchronous courses) so students know what to expect in terms of topics and activities. It helps to put this in a location - such as on the board or on a slide posted in Canvas - where students can reference it throughout the class period or lesson. 
  • Assignments and activities. Have an explicit goal or work product for all activities you ask students to engage in, even brief in-class discussions or discussion board posts, and communicate that goal orally and in writing. Try following the transparent design framework: explicitly state (a) the purpose of the task and how it relates to the learning objectives for the course, (b) a clear description of the steps required to complete the assignment as well potential pitfalls, and (c) the criteria you will use to evaluate student work along with examples, if available. Prioritize student choice to construct assignments, activities, and learning materials so that your course invites students to draw connections between their daily life and academic experiences.  
  • Establish norms for behavior and participation early. Jump right in and have students do the same kinds of activities on the first day or first lesson as they’ll do for the rest of the term, introducing them to your expectations for behavior and participation as soon as possible. For example, if students will often work in small groups and share their work products with the class, have them do a substantive, content-related small-group activity on the first day or, for online courses, within the first week. 
  • Respectful and supportive environment. Work to establish a welcoming, supportive atmosphere in which students feel comfortable asking questions, sharing their thoughts, and making mistakes. 
    • Discuss the behaviors you expect from your students and that they can expect from you. Visit the Teaching in Turbulent Times Toolkit’s section on Facilitating Productive and Respectful Interaction for more suggestions and resources. It is helpful to provide students with a basic framework and then work together to create a final agreement. Refer back to the document when circumstances warrant.  
    • Build relationships with and between students. Making an effort to be friendly and personable can pay off by helping students feel welcome and giving them a sense of belonging in the class, leading to more confidence in participating. Talking to students before class begins or including appropriate personal information in a video, letting your personality and interests show, and using humor if it fits your personality can all be helpful. In addition, you can learn about students as individuals by using a pre-class survey to gather information about their interests, background knowledge, and any needs they might have in relation to your course.  When assessing student work, you can then draw connections between your expertise and student-expressed interests, which can be addressed in written, audio, or video feedback.
    • Build relationships between students. Create opportunities for students to get to know each other. Icebreakers and introductions are helpful early in the term. Visit the Teaching in Turbulent Times Toolkit’s section on Acknowledging Context and Building Community for more resources and ideas. 
Strategies to engage students through multiple modes:

All students learn better when they engage actively with material, but not all activities work equally well for all students, so it is helpful to use a variety of teaching strategies to reach as many students as possible. Consider trying:  

  • Whole-class discussion. Discussions are a great way for students to generate and explore ideas, practice criticism, Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning has very good resources for leading lively, respectful, and productive discussions. For large classes, consider having small groups discuss a prompt first, then asking a representative to share their group’s ideas. Technology can provide an avenue for quieter students to express their thoughts in larger classes or for students in online classes to interact together asynchronsouly. For example, the instructor can have a Padlet up on the screen during an in-person discussion and draw attention to salient comments posted there or, for online courses, provide a link to a Padlet for students to use. Brookfield and Preskill’s The Discussion Book: 50 Great Ways to Get People Talking is full of discussion techniques that go far beyond the standard class-in-a-circle strategy. 
  • Small-group activities. Increase the number of students actively engaging by dividing the class into groups of 3-5 and having them engage with a prompt. Post the prompt and an expected product on a slide or the board, or in a discussion forum, so groups are clear about their task. For in-person courses, circulate among the groups as they work; this allows you to strengthen relations with individuals and identify interesting points you can invite them to share with the whole group later on. for online courses, dip into different discussion threads and offer insights or clarifications, plus identify salient interesting points you can highlight in a lesson video or course announcement. Consider assigning inquiry roles to facilitate productive interaction. 
  • Worksheets. Students can work individually or in groups to complete worksheets that introduce, reinforce, or elaborate on concepts. Scaffold student learning by breaking problems into explicitly connected steps, including definitions of new terms, and making connections to previous content. Tables 1 and 2 in Lee and Orgill [Lee and Orgill, 2022] have good advice for writing problems in any discipline. 
  • Lecture. Students learn best when lectures are kept short and interactive, and when the lecturer pauses to incorporate opportunities for students to process and engage with the lecture material. Barkley’s Student Engagement Techniques contains a wealth of active learning strategies, and Babik and Luther [Babik, 2020] have good advice for planning class sessions that include lectures. Video lectures in online courses can also include interactive opportunities such as quizzes.
  • Case studies. Facilitating learning through analysis of a real or fictional case has a long history in many academic disciplines. Start with a Story: The Case Study Method of Teaching Science [Herreid, 2006] has helpful advice for implementing case study teaching in any discipline. Consider discussion boards in online classes as productive opportunities for incorporating case studies to generate targeted conversations; social annotation tools like Perusall and Hypothesis can further facilitate discussions around case studies. 
  • Video. Consider including videos during class as fodder for discussion, to illustrate concepts, or to present content. If you use videos, integrate them carefully into the class: let students know why you’re using the video and what to look for and think about while watching, periodically pause the video to discuss key points or let students reflect and write, and have an activity at the end that helps students analyze the video and integrate its content with the course as a whole. You can also add videos to a Panopto video you prepare for online courses.
Strategies to provide structure:

Research shows that all students benefit from consistent structure in their courses, but members of traditionally minoritized groups benefit even more than their non-minoritized peers. [Eddy, 2014; Theobald, 2020] 

  • Course overall. Establish routines that students can rely on so they know what to expect. For example, it’s easier for students to plan their time if homework assignments are due at the same time on the same day each week. Also, make a habit of being transparent with assignments and activities: explicitly state (a) the purpose of the task and how it relates to the learning objectives for the course, (b) a clear description of the steps required to complete the assignment as well potential pitfalls, and (c) the criteria you will use to evaluate student work along with examples, if available. 
  • Canvas. Make use of Canvas to help keep students on track by aligning expectations for students in the syllabus, within modules, and in instructions for learning activities and assessments. Try having a consistently-structured “roadmap” page at the beginning of each module that tells students about the learning objectives for the module, what assignments they’ll complete, and when they’re due. Visit the Providing a Clear Path Through Your Course page for more detail and examples. 
  • Inside the classroom. Strive to structure class meetings so that students are actively engaged with the content at least 15-40% of the time.  
    • Active engagement could include a wide variety of activities: participation in discussion, answering polling questions, working through problems individually or in small groups, etc. Barkley’s Student Engagement Techniques has many activity ideas to try.  
    • Make sure in-class activities have a specific end product, and give instructions in both oral and written form so students know what you expect them to do.  
    • Consider defining roles for students to assume during group activities. Possible roles and how to supports students in using them can be found in TEP’s resource on Critical Inquiry Roles in Groups
  • Outside the classroom. Have a graded preparatory or review activity at least once a week. This might mean asking students to follow prompts to collaboratively annotate course materials, answer questions about a pre-class video they watched, compile questions they want to pursue further during class, or something else. After class, you might ask students to work problems, decide on the main points of the class that week, identify the muddiest (least clear) point, create a problem for the exam, etc. 
Strategies to provide multiple options:

As instructors, we seek to help our students develop the knowledge and skills associated with the course in question. The methods we use to develop that knowledge are often independent of the content, and in fact might require skills otherwise unrelated to the course. For example, we frequently ask students to write in courses for which developing writing skills is not an explicit learning objective; some students in these courses might be able to demonstrate their learning better – and be more motivated – by giving an oral presentation, creating a video, or recording a podcast. Similarly, students who suffer from test anxiety may be better able to demonstrate their learning if they don’t have to sit down to a high-stakes exam but rather have more frequent, lower-stakes assessments.  

Different faculty design for multiple means of expression in different ways. Some create assignments that ask all students to use the same mode of expression in a given assignment, then vary the mode from assignment to assignment. Others offer a choice of modes of expression within a given assignment. 

Design universal rubrics. If students will submit work in a variety of modalities for a given assignment, you will need to develop a rubric that allows you to assess students’ progress toward the learning objectives, independent of a submission’s modality. The key is to strip away any evaluation criteria not associated with specific learning objectives. For more information, visit this University of Saskatchewan page on Designing Rubrics with Transparent Criteria, an excerpt from their OER resource, Universal Design for Learning: One Small Step. The page contains a link to a helpful example universal rubric. 

Resources for supporting students creating: 


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Consider ways that various contexts, events, and power dynamics shape the teaching and learning environment of your course [Brookfield, 2017], particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic and the significant ways it has altered the landscape of higher education [Liasidou, 2022; Marri et al., 2022].

Questions to explore context include:
  • How has the history of my field or this particular course shaped what is included in its content, how it is taught, and which kinds of learners are centered in it, and which might be marginalized or excluded? 
  • How has this course evolved over time, and in what ways – and for what reasons – has it been altered or adapted to its current form?
  • Which trends in my discipline, field of study, or other pertinent scholarly contexts should I be considering for how I organize and teach my course?
  • Are there any departmental or institutional expectations or initiatives that might be influencing the aims, structure, or curricular elements of the course?
  • What is happening socially, politically, economically, culturally, etc. in my community, region or the world that is related to the content of my course or might be affecting me or my students’ sense of wellbeing? How and to what extent should I bring such contexts into the class?




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