Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Diverse BirdsI recently attended a workshop on diversity and inclusiveness in the classroom that included the following advice:

  • Attend to room logistics. We exist in physical space, and the organization of that space can produce a welcoming or unwelcoming environment. The arrangement of tables and chairs might facilitate student self-segregation according to gender, ethnicity, or physical ability.
  • Be explicit about equal participation in discussion and group activities. Often this means deliberately calling on the students who otherwise don’t talk.
  • Be aware of student non-verbals. Does student A produce negative facial expressions whenever student B speaks? Does student C appear mentally disengaged?
  • Use multiple outlets for students to voice their thoughts. Students who might be reluctant to express themselves verbally in class might be quite willing to do so in writing online.
  • Maximize diversity when forming groups. Create teams composed of students who have different genders, ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Otherwise they will tend to group with people most like themselves.
  • Create and reinforce rules for discussions. This can include the use of a talking stick, tokens, or other devices to ensure that everyone in class has the opportunity to speak and be heard.
  • Model validating behavior in response to student words and actions — nod when someone else is speaking, use phrases like “thank you for that,” and be encouraging rather than sternly critical.