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Inclusive teaching

Inclusion is core to our work at the University of Washington and foundational to effective teaching. Students who feel they can contribute or succeed in a class are more likely to learn and thrive. Despite its importance to teaching and learning, myths persist about what inclusion means and looks like. These myths often take the form of statements like the following:

  • “My classroom is inclusive because I always treat all students the same.”
  • “I have lots of [insert name of marginalized group here] in my course. It’s so inclusive!”
  • “I teach [insert STEM field here]. Why would I talk about [inclusion, race, gender, sexuality, religious preference] in my class? That’s humanities-type stuff.”

These statements wrongly imply that creating inclusive learning environments requires little forethought or intentionality, or that inclusive teaching is the domain of a certain subset of UW faculty.

The reality is that inclusion doesn’t just happen. It isn’t something that emerges automatically, nor is it brought about by the efforts of a single office, division, department, or discipline. We all contribute to building inclusive classrooms by adopting inclusive teaching practices across our teaching.

What is inclusive teaching?

Inclusive teaching refers to practices that foster learning environments in which students of all identities and backgrounds can thrive. Instructors who pursue an inclusive teaching practice value the diverse strengths that they and their students bring to the classroom, acknowledge the systems of power and privilege that shape the learning environment, and adopt an accessibility-oriented mindset. Instructors who teach inclusively make learning more likely. Students who do not feel safe, who cannot access learning spaces or materials, or who feel that their voices and experiences don’t matter are forced to spend more energy than other students to simply meet their basic physical and emotional needs. This is energy that might otherwise be spent focusing on course concepts.

Inclusive teaching strategies

The process of developing an inclusive teaching practice starts with reflection. This reflection may reveal that we simply need to refine our current practice or it may indicate a need to adopt entirely new ways of engaging students. As the resources below indicate, there are lots of strategies that can help us make our teaching more inclusive.

Reflect on your teaching

Examining and reflecting on how your own identities shape your pedagogical values, biases, and relationships with students can help you build a more effective, engaging classroom. Learn more about developing a reflective teaching practice.

Making course content inclusive

The decisions you make when choosing course content can contribute to the development of a more inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of discipline. Learn more about how to make your course content more inclusive.

Universal Design for Learning

Using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, you can build course structures and experiences that help make learners feel welcome, safe, and valued.
Learn more about Universal Design for Learning.

Adopt accessible teaching strategies

Designing accessible, inclusive learning environments is essential for meeting the needs of students with disabilities, but also ultimately helps all UW students learn and succeed. Learn more about adopting accessible teaching strategies.

Creating an inclusive classroom culture

While developing disciplinary knowledge and skills are important, higher education also prepares students to contribute and collaborate in complex, diverse settings. Learn more about creating inclusive classroom cultures.

Addressing microaggressions in the classroom

The term microaggressions refers to everyday comments and/or actions that express a prejudiced attitude or bias toward a member of a marginalized group. These expressions of bias can be intentional or unintentional and can impact instructors, staff members, students, and/or peers.
Learn more about addressing microaggressions in the classroom.

Strategies for engaging particular groups of students

All students face challenges as they pursue their educational aspirations. The links below provide strategies that support learners from particular backgrounds. Intentionally infusing your teaching practice with strategies to support the needs of a particular group of students often improves the learning environment for all students.