Active Teaching Lab Recap: Inclusive Teaching — 10 Ways

Wed February 10, 2021

Theme of February 10, 2021 Lab

Teach inclusively — 10 ways: Research-supported practices to promote the success of more students.


Cultivate environments where all students are able to ask, listen, take risks, make mistakes, and recover with grace & humility. 

Why: Inclusive Teaching lets us be authentic and responsive. Students come hungry to help make the world better, and the world is constantly showing its problems:

  • The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other examples of police violence, like the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, continue to mark racially-inequitable violent responses to Black women and men nationally and locally. 
  • Black, Indigenous, and Latino/Latina/Latinx groups are disparately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to structural racism and inequitable access to healthcare, water, and housing.
  • Asian and Asian-descended groups face racist hostility due to the virus’s identification with China. 
  • Remote learning amplifies technology and learning space inequities — especially for rural and low-income students, as well as barriers for students with disabilities.

Inclusive teaching cannot solve the structural problems. But mindful practice lessens impacts of broader social inequities and addresses education’s histories of exclusion and marginalization to promote positive experiences for students.

Why: Inclusive Teaching works. Evidence-based practices improve learning for historically underserved and minoritized students; and the practices work across multiple disciplines. As a result:

  • Students who feel welcomed can focus more on course content, and more easily trust and collaborate with fellow learners.
  • Like curb-cuts and video captions — everyday design elements which originated for people with disabilities — simple inclusive teaching practices can benefit multiple population groups.
  • Inclusive teaching practices promote students’ sense of belonging and persistence in the discipline.
  • Instructors’ use of inclusive teaching practices reduces the academic achievement gap experienced by students from underrepresented groups (e.g., Haak et al., 2011; Eddy et al., 2014; Winkelmes et al. 2016).

How: You’ve already started. Rather than think of Inclusive Teaching as one more thing for your already full and stressful to-do list, recognize that you’re already practicing inclusive teaching in many ways. For example, The Wisconsin Experience highlights four dimensions from institutional values that probably already align with traits that your field wants in new colleagues — traits you’re already fostering: 

Empathy and Humility (EH)

  • Develop and demonstrate cultural understanding of self and others
  • Engage locally, nationally, and globally in respectful and civil manner
  • Appreciate and celebrate one another’s abilities, views, and accomplishments

Relentless Curiosity (RC)

  • Actively learn with expert teachers, scholars, and peers
  • Engage in creative inquiry, scholarship, and research
  • Develop resilience and foster courage in life and learning

Intellectual Confidence (IC)

  • Develop competence, depth and expertise in a field of study
  • Integrate ideas and synthesize knowledge across multiple contexts
  • Exercise critical thinking and effective communication

Purposeful Action (PA)

  • Apply knowledge and skills to solve problems
  • Engage in public service, partner with others, and contribute to community
  • Lead for positive change

The fact that you’re here shows that you already feel driven (purposeful action) to reassess your current practices (empathy & humility) and seek out possible improvements (relentless curiosity) in order to try them out (intellectual confidence) to benefit your students. These four dimensions are at the heart of all the practices you’ll see here — practices that are starting points for you to adapt, adopt, develop, and build on to fit your course, regardless of discipline.

What: Inclusive teaching is intentional. While defined in many ways, all definitions share an investment in critically reflecting on and addressing: 

  • How is instruction a space of exclusion? Do we intentionally or unintentionally convey to students that they don’t belong —  in the course, discipline, or university? Do we create or reinforce barriers to their capacity to learn, to seek assistance, or to delve into complex material and problems?
  • How can we make it more inclusive? How do we assure students that they are welcome and supported? How can we change materials like the syllabus and assignments, as well as interactions with and among students to cultivate transparency about the knowledge, skills, and processes needed in the course?

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.