Equity-Minded & Inclusive Practices

To promote the full participation of all students and provide every student with an equitable opportunity to succeed in their courses, we need to be intentional in the design of the learning environment to ensure it feels welcoming, accessible, and inclusive to each of our students.

Instructors who promote equity, culturally sustaining and inclusive learning environments use the following practices in their course design, their syllabi and their teaching.

Examples of how these practices may impact teaching and course design are illustrated in the Faculty Self-Reflection of Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP).

Practice Number 1: Welcoming students and creating a caring classroom culture

  • Use language and tone in syllabus, course materials and communications that makes students feel cared for and valued

  • Convey sensitivity to students’ entering skill level, notes that aspects of the course may be challenging, and suggests it is acceptable and beneficial for students to seek help, whether or not they are struggling

  • Convey a willingness to work individually with students who need extra help

  • Set ground rule for respectful class discussion

  • Include a class anti-discrimination policy in syllabus

  • Communicate commitment to talking through racist and discriminatory comments or behavior that arise in class or on campus in syllabus

  • Challenge stereotypes, prejudices, racism, sexism, and other forms of intolerance, injustice, and oppression that may manifest in the classroom

  • Create sense of connection and belonging among class participants

Practice Number 2: Demystifying college policies and practices

  • Include basic information about the course (e.g., description, objectives, instructor contact information and office hours, grading scheme)

  • Provide information on how and where additional support can be obtained, from the instructor and campus support centers

  • Demonstrate willingness to help by letting students know how instructor will support them if they have problems

  • Present course information in clear, plain language, with limited academic jargon

  • Provide clarity and emphasis on what students need to know to maximize their learning and success in the course

Practice Number 3: Creating Partnership in which faculty and students work together to ensure success

  • Communicate what is expected of students and learners, and what students can expect from the instructor

  • Articulate willingness to receive feedback from students about instructor’s teaching practice and provides opportunities for this feedback

  • Articulate willingness to use a variety of teaching approaches to foster learning and uses a variety of approaches

  • Articulate respect for students as autonomous, critical, and reflective learners

  • State how class and course objectives will help students succeed in future academic work, and advance career and life goals

  • Encourage open and inclusive communications on discussions/discussion boards and in collaborations among students and instructor

  • Intervene promptly if communication guidelines are not followed

Practice Number 4: Validating students’ ability to be successful

  • Obtain student input, choice, feedback solicited for assignments, discussion topics, etc.

  • Offer different types of assignments and forms of assessment that give students multiple ways to demonstrate their learning and strengths

  • Articulate that students, regardless of their stated intentions, are capable of obtaining their educational goals

  • Empower students to identify, learn about and address human bias

Practice Number 5: Representing a range of racial/ethnic experiences and backgrounds

  • Include readings, activities, and assignments that are culturally relevant and inclusive

  • Include assignments that ask students to draw on their experiential knowledge and/or knowledge from their communities

  • Include assignments that ask students to investigate real-world problems affecting the communities from which they come

  • Include readings, materials authored by people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives and uses as the basis for discussions and/or assignments

  • Integrate multiple perspectives on topics throughout the course, not as one add-on module/unit

  • Include images, websites and other course materials that represent multiple social, racial, ethnic group identities

  • Use the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them

Practice Number 6: Deconstructing and countering the presentation of ‘whiteness” as the norm

  • Provide readings, activities, discussions and assignments that ask students to critically examine their assumptions about different racial/ethnic groups, and the privileges or disadvantages they accrue by virtue of their race/ethnicity and connect this inquiry to course content

  • Provide readings, activities, discussions and assignments that ask students to examine the history and contemporary experiences of people and communities that face discrimination, racism, and marginalization and connect this inquiry to course content

  • Provide readings, activities, discussions and assignments that ask students to question dominant, racialized norms, as well as inequities in major social institutions (e.g., education, health, law) and connect this inquiry to course content

Practice Number 7: Tailoring instruction to students’ backgrounds, abilities, prior knowledge, experiences and strengths

  • Gather information about students’ prior knowledge, interests, strengths, language and assets and uses this information to tailor instruction and the learning experience

  • Gather information about students’ backgrounds and experiences and uses this information to tailor instruction and the learning experience

  • Identify prerequisite course content as necessary for positioning students for success in the course

  • Apply principles of Universal Design for Learning to course design and instruction

  • Make course materials, resources and design accessible to all learners

Practice Number 8: Transforming one’s own pedagogy, curriculum and practice

  • Examine own biases, explicit and implicit through readings, reflections and affinity group discussions

  • Develop a knowledge base around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Commit to use of culturally inclusive and sustaining pedagogy

  • Share own work with students and colleagues to address/manage own biases

  • Adopt anti-racist educational practices by paying attention to discriminatory practices in the curriculum, educational choices, power dynamics and relationships

Other Resources

Center for Urban Education. (2018). Equity-minded inquiry series: Syllabus Review. Los Angelos, CA: Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.

Equity-Minded Worksheet for Instructors of Online Courses. (Winterim 2015). Equity for Online Classes. University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.

Heitner, K L. & Jennings, M. (2016). Culturally responsive teaching knowledge and practices of online faculty. Online Learning (20), p. 54-78.

Del Carmen Salazar, M. (2018). Interrogating teacher evaluation: Unveiling whiteness as the normative center and moving the margins. Journal of Teacher Education, 69 (1): https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487118764347