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Inclusive teaching

Inclusive teaching fosters learning environments in which students of all backgrounds can thrive. Instructors who pursue an inclusive teaching practice value the diverse strengths that they and their students bring to the classroom, and also acknowledge the systems of power and privilege that shape the learning environment. By teaching inclusively, we play a part in creating a more just society.

“This is our community — to truly fulfill our public promise of both access and excellence, we must make progress on diversity. Stereotypes and bias are in the air we breathe. They are part of our societal fabric. We’ve got to begin by not being part of the problem, or less a part of it. We can only do that by recognizing it and acknowledging that it resides in us. We can’t just will it or ignore it away — we have to become culturally aware and self-aware in order to make our campus community more inclusive and just.”

– Ana Mari Cauce, UW President, Leading Change in Public Higher Education

A number of persistent myths often crop up in discussions about inclusive teaching. Here are a few you may have heard in conversations with colleagues:

  • “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 name of STEM field here]. Why would I talk about [inclusion, race, gender, sexuality, religious preference] in my class? That’s humanities-type stuff.”

As President Cauce’s remarks suggest, inclusion requires campus-wide action. It isn’t something that emerges automatically, nor is it brought about by the efforts of a single office, division, department, or discipline. We contribute to building an inclusive and just community by adopting inclusive teaching practices in all of the classes we teach.

The process of developing an inclusive teaching practice starts with reflection. This reflection may reveal that we simply need to adapt our current practice or it may indicate a need to adopt entirely new ways of engaging students. Luckily, there is no shortage of strategies from which to choose!