Five Dimension of Inclusive Excellence
Below is an exercise with a list of inclusive practices to reflect upon, which is adapted from Salazar, Norton, & Tuitt (2009) Weaving Promising Practices for Inclusive Excellence into the Higher Education Classroom. This is NOT intended to be a comprehensive check-list, but rather provides ideas on how inclusive practices could be made visible and/or relevant in the context of teaching and learning in higher-education.
Consider each strategy in the following way:
- I already do this in my class
- I sort of do this, but I could make it more explicit/visible
- I’d like to try this
- I’m not sure how this would be appropriate for my course(s)
1. Intrapersonal Awareness: Adopting a cultural humility approach that constantly examines how my ideas, assumptions and values influence my teaching approach and relationships
- Increase personal awareness of your own worldview.
- Recognize when you are acting out of alignment with your core values
- Recognize and change in the moment when you are operating out of stereotypes, privilege, and/or dominant cultural beliefs
- Critically examine your own ideas, cultures, assumptions, and values, and how those beliefs impact your pedagogy and interaction with others.
- Continue to deepen your awareness about privilege and dominant cultures, and how these operate in you, others, and in the classroom
- Constantly read, educate yourself, and/or immerse yourself in diverse contexts to expand your knowledge of the other so that you avoid expecting individuals of those groups to teach you.
- Cultivate relationships with other members of privileged groups who actively work to dismantle oppression and create inclusive classrooms. Talk honestly about where you get stuck and ask for feedback and coaching
- When others point out your biased actions, thoughts, or behaviors you respond with humility and a growth-mindset to learn: avoid focusing on what you intended and instead listen deeply; seek to understand the impact by narrowing in on the feelings and perspectives of others; acknowledge there has been an impact, even if you don’t understand it; make amends (e.g., offer a genuine apology once without making it all about your guilt feelings); change future interactions.
- Ask questions to seek to understand BEFORE disagreeing or defending your position
- Maintain awareness of your “early warning signals” when you begin to feel personally triggered during discussions related to inclusion
- Actively work to positively navigate your triggers in the moment. This can include exploring the roots of your triggers, feeling your feelings, releasing negative emotions (e.g., shame, guilt, resentment, anger, fear), shifting unproductive thoughts, attitudes, and intentions
- Share your own background and experiences with students.
- Invite students to provide feedback on the instructor’s facilitation of discussions. #
2. Interpersonal Awareness: Connecting with students by understanding their perspective and amplifying their viewpoint to build authentic caring relationships
- Create opportunities in each class meeting for interpersonal dialogue where multiple perspectives are honored. #
- Assist students in identifying the differences and similarities in shared opinions then point out the importance of diversity.
- Early in the start of the course, invite and engage students to co-construct class norms (i.e., ground rules) using principles of inclusive environments. #
- Use your co-constructed class norms (i.e., ground rules) to facilitate dialogue and revisit and/or revise norms as needed throughout the semester.#
- Validate students’ experiences by engaging in empathetic listening and asking questions openly and constructively.
- Be aware of nonverbal communication (e.g., eye contact, space, facial expressions) and respond to those cues to foster positive relationships.
- Provide ample opportunities for students to learn about each other and from each other.#
- Build opportunities to connect with students (e.g., identify commonalities, understand aspects of their personal life, professional/academic goals).#
- Ask about students’ experiences with and concerns about the subject matter.
- Convince students that you care about not only their academic success but also their well-being.#
- Foster opportunities for group work.#
- Academic conflict is fostered or even embraced by anticipating disagreements, demanding respect during the exchange of disagreement, and acknowledging the value of learning through crisis.
- Recognize both overt and covert forms of conflict then practice and model effective conflict resolution skills.
- Discuss how the course will help students function more effectively in diverse settings.#
- Invite students to share cultural experiences with each other.
- Use personal anecdotes to create interest among students.
3. Curricular Transformation: Selecting course content and teaching in a way that is relevant to all my students
- Use visuals that signal diversity but do not reinforce stereotypes.
- Consider the impact of your reading list; choose readings that consciously reflect the diversity of contributors to your field including local history.
- Use varied names, symbols, markers and socio-cultural contexts in test questions, assignments, and case studies.
- When you invite guest speakers, ensure that they have varied backgrounds and experiences.
- Recognize how your choices of materials, readings, examples, analogies, and content organization reflect your perspectives, interests, and possible biases and may exclude others.
- Teach the conflicts of your field to incorporate diverse perspectives.
- Review curriculum for hidden forms of oppression and make appropriate changes.
- Relate specific topics within a course to previous and future topics.
- Provide students opportunities to make connections inside and outside of the course.
4. Inclusive Pedagogy: Organizing course work that is meaningful, transparent, and invites collaboration, while monitoring student progress so you can provide timely support.
- Engage students using frequent active-learning techniques (e.g., think-pair-share, debate, student-led discussions, group-work, experiential learning).
- Use a variety of teaching methods; do not rely solely on one-way communication (e.g., lectures and didactic questions).
- Provide brief intervals during class for students to reflect upon what they have just learned (e.g., break up class meetings into mini-modules).
- Use visual tools to convey course material (e.g., graphic organizers, concept maps, pictures, schematics, graphs, simple sketches, films, and demonstrations).
- Provide opportunities for students to use or apply the course material/content.
- Balance material that emphasizes practical problem-solving methods (applied) with that emphasizing fundamental understanding (theoretical memorization).
- Invite students to share their knowledge in multiple ways.
- Recognize students’ personal experiences as worthy knowledge.
- Elicit and build on students’ funds of knowledge (i.e., find out what their prior knowledge is and build upon it).
- Allow students, as much as possible, to collaborate/cooperate on homework and class assignments.
- Offer a variety of ways to recognize student participation (e.g., express their engagement) other than speaking aloud during class.
- Foster student choice and control (e.g., selecting topics to study, helping to decide class dynamics, weighing different aspects of the course).
- Allow students to accumulate grade points in a variety of ways (e.g., avoids high-stakes evaluation-only assessments like 2 midterms & final exam).
- Incorporate formative assessments (with at least one within the first 2-3 weeks) so students can discover their knowledge and skill gaps with time to adjust and persist (e.g., low-stakes quizzes, mini-papers, quick writes, homework).
- Create transparently designed assignments that explicitly states (a) the purpose of doing the assignment including what skills/knowledge will be gained; (b) the exact steps students should follow; and (c) explicit information about what grading criteria will be used (e.g., matrices or rubrics) with annotated examples of successful work.
- Include authentic assignments such as life history interviews, personal stories of survival, and autobiographical writing/journaling, portfolios that will diversify and personalize learning.
- Allow students to work on projects that explore their own social identities.
- Incorporate noncompetitive, collaborative assignments such as group work.
- For group assignments, assign group membership randomly or strategically to create diverse groupings. Avoid allowing students to choose their own groups.
- Interventions and/or outreach occur for all students who show signs of struggle or disengagement.
- High percentages of student failure (or extreme struggle) for a single assessment or overall course performance is seen as an opportunity to examine and possibly modify instructor delivery and/or curriculum structure.
5. Inclusive Environment: Promoting a sense of belonging by cultivating a shared-power, growth-mindset climate
- Set high standards and communicate your confidence that each student is capable of achieving them.
- Legitimize student voice and visibility by sharing that you believe each has important contributions to make.
- Identify students’ passions/interests and use them as motivational hooks.
- Applaud creative solutions and sincere efforts to learn.
- Help students understand that intelligence (e.g., how smart you are; how good of a student you are) is not a fixed ability, not all academic challenges are a result of personal inadequacies, and that academic challenges can be overcome.
- Talk to students about how they learn best and compensatory strategies to optimize success.
- Create a culture of shared-purpose by periodically collecting feedback to learn how students are experiencing your course; make adjustments as a result of what you discover. #
- Constructive feedback is provided using characteristics that will empower students not shame them (e.g., prompt, uses standards/rubrics, frequent, positive/expresses confidence about improvement, informational not controlling). Correct answers should be bragged about in large groups; incorrect work should be discussed privately to avoid humiliation.
- Demonstrate pride in student achievement.
- Avoid assuming that a student needs assistance or expressing surprise when students do well, which can convey that you initially had low expectations of them.
- Use a variety of strategies to encourage multiple perspectives and reduce over-participation by verbally assertive students.
- Avoid actions that promote tokenism either with eye contact or by request (e.g., inviting a student to represent an entire group.
- Do not ignore or change the subject when students voice negative comments about a group; challenge non-inclusive/ prejudicial remarks.
- Early in the course, discuss diversity and demonstrate that your course environment will foster a free-exchange of ideas.
- Encourage students to meet with you outside of class (e.g., make office hours inviting/non-threatening; show up to class a few minutes early to build rapport).
- Correctly pronounce student names and practice if needed until you get it right; do not discuss how difficult it is for you to pronounce names.
- Ensure that course materials are accessible for all students (e.g., pictures have alternative text ; videos are CORRECTLY captioned ~ youtube often has errors)
- Confirm that the physical classroom space is inclusive for all students; re-arrange if needed.
- Do not ask individuals with hidden disabilities to identify themselves in class (e.g., “is anyone here registered with DRES?”); offer students with a DRES accommodation to talk privately vs. after class with an open audience. Also, do not complain to students about completing the online steps to schedule accommodations.
- Avoid assuming the gender of any student.
- When interacting with deaf or hard of hearing students with an interpreter, always give eye contact to the student, not the interpreter.
- Avoid religious holidays when scheduling assessments, especially high-stakes ones (e.g., tests that can’t be taken at a different time).
- Demonstrate a caring demeanor to everyone.
- Learn about your students (e.g., backgrounds, social identities, learning habits).
Compiled from the following sources:
Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.) To improve the academy. (pp. 208-226). Jossey-Bass.
Kathy O'Bear (2017) www.drkathyobear.com (Navigating Difficult Situations Self-Assessment; Suggested Competencies for Whites)