Inclusive Teaching

Definition and Recommendations

Inclusive teaching involves creating a learning environment in which all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel valued and supported in their learning. Its goal is to engage, include, and challenge all students, addressing the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds and abilities. Inclusive teaching is intentional about using strategies that foster a productive learning environment that serves the needs of all students and ensure that all students can succeed in a course.

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, Drs. Vijay Sathy and Kelly A. Hogan, provided advice on “How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive.” They differentiated between teaching content matter that is related to diversity and using inclusive methods of teaching that apply to all courses. They stated that the goal of inclusive teaching is to level the playing field for all students, so that none are left behind. How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive

Thus, inclusive principles can guide all aspects of teaching. Some recommendations have to do with content, others have to do with effective pedagogical strategies. Drawing from a variety of sources, here are some recommendations of ways to make a course inclusive:

Course content:

  • Present multiple perspectives on each topic
  • Integrate considerations of diversity into all presentations/discussions/assessments
  • Assign readings by authors of different backgrounds and perspectives
  • Include materials that address underrepresented groups’ experiences in ways that do not trivialize or marginalize them
  • Include examples, images, vignettes, and case studies involving people from diverse groups

Course syllabus:

  • Use a warm, welcoming tone and language: describe what students will do in the course, not what they must not do
  • Include a syllabus statement about commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Offer office hours at varied times and in varied locations/modalities and explain why and how they can be used
  • Set clear expectations: Provide students with
    • Course goals and learning objectives
    • Descriptions of all evaluations
    • Assignment due dates
    • Rubrics for grading assignments
    • Class participation guidelines
    • Information on how to communicate with instructor
    • Course and school policies
  • Make the document clear and easy to read (e.g., use bullet points, lists, or tables)
  • Include information on resources that provide student support


  • Consider cost of required course materials
  • Do not require use of technology that students may not be able to afford to access
  • Make materials available in advance
  • Make materials accessible for screen reader technology

Instructional strategies:

  • Apply the principles of universal design for learning
    • Multiple means of representation: present information and content in several different ways.
    • Multiple means of action and expression: provide flexible and multiple ways for students to express their knowledge or show their skills.
    • Multiple means of engagement: stimulating interest and motivation for learning in all students by providing multiple ways to engage in course activities.
  • Employ active learning techniques
  • Talk less and encourage students to participate more
    • If class participation is required, give alternative ways to participate (not just oral)
    • Allow students silent time to think and organize their ideas
  • Add structure to small group assignments
    • Assign and rotate roles
    • Teach students explicitly about how to participate
    • Provide clear written instructions
    • Assign tasks to make groups accountable
    • Make groups are small enough to make sure everyone participates
    • Assign participants so underrepresented students are not alone in groups of all majority students
  • Relate material to students’ personal and professional backgrounds/experiences
  • Relate material to real world situations
  • Teach students how to learn and how to evaluate their own learning strategies


  • Design multimodal (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic) assessments students to demonstrate learning
  • Make instructions for all assignments clear and easily understood
  • Make assessments of free of jargon or culture specific references
  • Relate all assessments to student learning outcomes for the course
  • Explicitly communicate the evaluation criteria for each graded assignment (e.g., rubric)
  • Provide grading policies for the course
  • Provide timely constructive feedback so students can gauge their progress
  • Provide practice with typical test questions, so students can become familiar with the types of questions they will likely encounter in assessments
  • Provide examples of excellent student work
  • Provide step-by-step guidelines for each assignment and require students to hand in abstracts, outlines, drafts, bibliographies, etc. as they progress
  • Allow some flexibility regarding assignment grades, for example
    • Allow students to drop their worst score
    • Let students replace an earlier score with a cumulative final grade
  • Replace a few high stakes assessment with more frequent low stakes assessments
  • Provide students with opportunities to practice the skills they need for high-stakes assessments in quizzes or short papers
  • Use authentic assessment opportunities involving real world tasks
  • Ensure that exams are accessible to all students
  • Ensure that examples used represent a range of social identities
  • If possible, grade assessments anonymously
  • Consider allowing students to have input into rubrics and grading criteria
  • If grading class participation or engagement, allow different options

Class climate/ environment:

  • Introduce yourself and state your pronouns
  • Ask students to introduce themselves and state their pronouns
  • Establish guidelines for class behavior
    • Acknowledge that there are multiple perspectives
    • Seek shared understanding
    • Listen politely and respectfully
    • Use respectful language
    • Critique ideas, not people
    • No name calling
    • Offer evidence to back up opinions
    • Pay attention to the flow of the conversation and build on previous points
    • Speak about your own experience; do not generalize to “everyone”
    • Do not monopolize discussion
    • Do not interrupt
  • Encourage a growth mindset that indicates that people can change, and performance can improve
    • Communicate high expectations and confidence that students can attain them
    • Communicate explicitly that all students belong in the course/program/school
    • Stress that struggle is normal and expected
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate
    • Teach peer review and how to critique and provide feedback
    • Set norms for accountability, communication, and equitable work distribution during teamwork
  • Connect with students personally
    • Use students’ names
    • Model sharing pronouns
    • Praise good work
    • Meet individually with students at some point during the course
    • Reach out to students who appear to be struggling
    • Share some of who you are as a person with related anecdotes
  • Facilitate difficult conversations as they arise
  • Be cognizant of the possibility of stereotyped threat, implicit bias, and microaggressions
    • Stereotype threat creates underperformance in some students when they feel that the instructor believes that they cannot do well because of stereotyped qualities assumed to belong to their group.
    • Implicit biases are unconscious assumptions about others, often based on stereotypes.
    • Microaggressions are small, often subtle and unintentional, comments and actions that marginalize particular groups or individuals, creating an unwelcome classroom environment.


Elon University Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning provides a list of practices to avoid in creating an inclusive class:

  • Don’t assume diversity, equity, and inclusion are only issues that faculty in some disciplines need to be concerned about.
  • Don’t ignore it if a student makes a comment that insults or hurts another student or a whole group of people.
  • Don’t repeat or use offensive language and consider carefully how you frame and discuss course materials that may use or evoke such language.
  • Don’t assume that individual students can or want to speak for a whole identity group.
  • Don’t make assumptions about any type of student – such as X are going to need extra help or Y are going to excel.
  • Don’t make jokes about groups of people. Don’t laugh or be silent when other people do.
  • Don’t deny the impact of a person’s cultural identity or lived experiences.
  • Avoid favoritism or openly and consistently calling on a particular student, or students who share a similar identity.
  • Don’t assume everyone in class __________________ (fill in the blank).
  • Don’t assume everybody understands the same cultural references to television shows, music, etc.
  • Don’t interrupt students.
  • Don’t appear annoyed that you’re forced to make accommodations for students with disabilities.
  • Don’t assume that students who don’t own the books are slackers. They might not have much money and be waiting to see if they really need to purchase them.
  • Don’t make anonymous snide remarks about any individual student’s work.
  • Don’t assume that a student who is not performing well is lazy or doesn’t care.
  • Don’t lower standards for any individual student.


Elon University Center for Advancement of Teaching & Learning
Practices to Avoid

University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Inclusive Teaching Resources & Strategies

Brown University Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning
Inclusive Teaching

Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning
Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia

Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning
Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Teach with a Heterogenous Audience in Mind

Case, Kim
Integrating Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into Course Content and Assessments

Office of the Stanford University Vice President for Teaching and Learning
Stereotype threat handout

Sathay, V. and Hogan, K.A., Chronicle of Higher Education
How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive

University of Massachusetts/Amherst Center for Teaching & Learning
How Do I Write an Inclusive Syllabus?

Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation
Incorporating Diversity

Stanford University
Overview of Inclusive Teaching Practices

University of Utah Martha Bradley Evans Center for Teaching Excellence
Developing an Inclusive Syllabus

University of Pennsylvania Center for Teaching and Learning
Inclusive Teaching – Evidence Based Practices

Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
Navigating Difficult Moments in the Classroom

Supiano, B. Chronicle of Higher Education (2003)
Diversity Statements

Examples of Diversity Statements

Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation
Diversity Statement on a Syllabus

Brown University Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning
Diversity & Inclusion Syllabus Statements

Oregon State University Office of Academic Affairs
Guidance for Creating a Diversity, Inclusivity, and Respect Syllabus Statement

Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning
Diversity Statements

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Developing and Writing a Diversity Statement

Harvard Division of Continuing Education
Sample Diversity and Inclusion Statements


Additional Resources

Stereotype threat hand out
This handout on stereotype threat was developed by the Office of the Stanford University Vice President for Teaching and Learning. It defines stereotype threat, explains who is likely to be affected, and lists strategies for reducing stereotype threat. It also provides references to related research as well as a list of sample course introduction assignments aimed at reducing stereotype threat.

Awareness of Implicit Bias
This section of the Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning site defines implicit bias, gives examples, and provides recommendations for strategies to prevent and mitigate its effects.

Addressing Microaggressions in the Classroom
The Teaching@UW page from the University of Washington describes types of microaggressions, provides videos of examples, and suggests ways to prevent them. It also lists “What to avoid when facing microaggressions”.

8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching
This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education lists strategies for inclusive Zoom teaching. The goal is to design courses that reach all students, and the author proposes ways of creating structure that will help to reach that goal.

Establishing your Virtual Culture
This University of California/Berkeley Diversity site has ideas for establishing the virtual culture and norms of a course. It provides general principles that can be helpful in establishing an environment that is inclusive and welcoming for all.

Ground Rules
This guide from the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University provides examples of ground rules as well as describing a method for helping students create their own ground rules.