Inclusive Pedagogy

a classroom with a very focused, eyes-forward, diverse group of students

Inclusive pedagogy is grounded in Inclusive Excellence: The intentional work of transforming oppressive systems and structures in higher education. This stance starts with an asset-based perspective of our students. Identifying and building on the assets students bring supports individuals' knowledge building and promotes collaborative learning that deepens the understanding gained by the group as a whole. Yosso's (2006) cultural wealth model provides a framework for taking this approach by highlighting six domains in which students of color often bring assets that support their and their peers' learning, namely aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital. Recognizing and building on students' strengths can help us to identify how "student-ready" our institution is and what steps are needed for us to become a fully "student ready college" (Brown McNair et. al., 2016).

Inclusive Pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching that nurtures a community within the classroom, values the unique contributions of all students, and takes into consideration their backgrounds, experiences, and learning needs. It is foundational to CSU classrooms, teaching, and Student Success Initiatives goals. Inclusive Pedagogy starts with instructor commitment and actions that purposefully create a learning environment for all, including the instructor. Inclusive practices are fundamentally linked to the commitment to identify and dismantle systems and practices that impede student success. Inclusive practices create conditions that support learning for all students. Thus, Inclusive Pedagogy benefits all students but particularly supports students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. Inclusive classrooms create a climate of inclusion, safety, support, and challenge, high expectations, and mutual respect in order to promote student engagement and robust learning.

Implicit Bias

Creating an inclusive classroom requires examining your worldview because we all carry implicit biases that can negatively impact students' learning. Once we recognize these biases, we can correct them. How does one examine perspectives with intent to develop a more inclusive classroom? We live in a world that predisposes us to generating and holding biases, so it's necessary to work towards identifying and mitigating our biases, as well as recognizing that these biases also shape our interactions outside the classroom. Below are steps to recognize and mitigate bias:

  • Reflect on how you interact with others in all types of settings including office hours, informal interactions in hallways, on the plaza, or elsewhere.
  • Consider how your positional power impacts students. Reflect on how your biases combined with your positional power can impact your students. Consider what steps you can take to mitigate negative impacts and use your positional power to positively impact students from historically marginalized groups.
  • You may want to take the Implicit Association Test, which is designed to help users identify unconscious biases.
  • You can educate yourself on the science of bias and steps to address and mitigate biases.
  • Consider increasing your social and professional network to include people who have a background that is dissimilar from yours.
  • CSU has a variety of initiatives, training opportunities, and programs that you can engage with to gain perspective and skills in working with students whose identities and background may be dissimilar from yours.

Inclusive Communication

Initially, inclusivity begins with each of us. What steps can we take to create a welcoming, respectful environment? Here are some steps other CSU faculty have found helpful: Before the semester begins, think about how you will personally welcome as many students as possible. Prepare so that you know students' pronoun preferences (if they care to share) and how to pronounce names. You might find this resource on personal pronouns helpful and you might consider sharing it with your students. Think about how you will support students whose first language is not English. Engage students with opportunities to create classroom norms and culture. The language you use in class materials and in your syllabus signals to your students how welcoming your classroom environment will be.

  • Consider sharing about yourself and your intentions for inclusivity. Acknowledge that we all have work to do in this area.
  • Appropriate self disclosure lets your students connect to you personally, and these connections can build rapport.
  • Do you allow some students to dominate the conversation? Do your responses imply that their viewpoints are more valuable or perceived to carry more weight than other students' comments?
  • What does your set of nonverbal communication strategies say to students? Consider having a class video recorded and then watch the recording with the sound off.
  • Does your written communication sound inclusive? Have students or colleagues give you feedback on that issue.
  • Intentionally plan your teaching so that a variety of viewpoints can be heard and examined in the spirit of advancing knowledge.
  • Structure your teaching so that students get to interact with (and, possibly, get to know) other students.
  • Support your students' ability to perceive the content in a variety of communication modalities.
  • Pay attention to your language and symbolic representations.
  • Consult resources for inclusive approaches to communications about gender.

Inclusive Pedagogical Practices

First, examine your beliefs about how students learn and achieve. Consider your beliefs about the purpose of your instruction and what students can/do contribute to the life of the classroom. Inclusive pedagogy is contrary to the banking model (Freire, 1970) of education, in which instructors deposit information into students while students passively accept what is said and then regurgitate it. Instead, inclusive pedagogy draws on Freire's (1970) view of knowledge as co-constructed by students, in active exchanges with peers and instructors. In such exchanges, learning deepens for everyone, including the instructor, who may gain insights into a range of topics, from barriers to students' understanding of the subject matter to systemic inequities that affect students' learning. Inclusivity in your pedagogy is grounded in culturally responsive teaching. It honors and respects all individuals in the classroom and recognizes we all can learn from each other (including you, the instructor, who can learn from your students). Inclusive pedagogy embraces cultural differences, constructs welcoming environments for sharing cultural perspectives, and assigns writing that challenge students to think critically about diversity and equity issues. Inclusive pedagogy supports ALL learners. To create an inclusive classroom, take the following steps:

  • Recognize that you, as the instructor, inherently have systemic privilege and positional power. Examine your power in relation to biases you have and how you interact with your students.
  • Be aware that instructors have the potential to perpetuate deficit thinking at either a conscious or unconscious level. Because instructors' explicit or tacit expectations significantly influence students' engagement, conscious or unconscious beliefs that some students are less capable can materially diminish their learning and academic achievement. Examine your thinking and your practices to surface any unconscious biases and consciously correct any biases you recognize in your thinking.
  • Examine your course materials/texts. Consider whether a diversity of voices is represented.
  • Examine the practices and policies of your course to find ways to support more students with different life circumstances.
  • Ask students if your classroom, your teaching, and your course seem inclusive. Tell students you are working on being as inclusive as possible and that all of us have blind spots. Emphasize that they can contribute to success for everyone in the class by helping you to identify blind spots.
  • Work to become aware of negative or oppressive experiences of marginalized students. Seek and implement approaches that make you an ally for them.
  • Provide clear expectations and grading criteria (in writing) for the course and all assignments.
  • Provide opportunities for a wide range of voices to be heard. First Amendment Resource Guide
  • Use a variety of teaching methods and modalities (verbal, interactive, didactic, etc.); provide students with choice in approaches to demonstrating their progress.
  • Honor the value of a diversity of perspectives.
  • Take time to learn about your students' prior knowledge.
  • Use the Universal Design for Learning approach, which provides a framework and perspective on the use of supports.
  • Consider reviewing this checklist on inclusive teaching strategies.
  • Review the CIRTL core competencies of the inclusive pedagogy framework.
  • Enroll in the CSU Vice President for Diversity Office programs including the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence.

Inclusive Teaching Practices for the Online Classroom

While your primary teaching focus here at Colorado State University (CSU) may be in residential-instruction (RI) classrooms, there is a growing number of us who teach online, as well, or who will be expected to teach online at some point during our careers. While most of the information on teaching effectiveness pertains to both RI and online classrooms, following are a few key points for online courses.

An important inclusive teaching practice to exercise in your online courses is building a community of learners. Following are a few ways you can do this:

  • Participate in the discussion forums, and let students know what type of participation to expect from you. For example, will you respond throughout a module? Will you post only a summary at the end of each module?
  • Share ideas, life experiences, critical reflections and personal perspectives to connect to real-world examples. Encourage students to do the same.
  • Provide feedback that will help your students improve.
  • Ask students to discuss concepts or complete assignments in groups.
  • Create an emotionally and intellectually safe classroom environment.
    • The nature of the online classroom makes it easy for participants to misread comments or take them out of context. It's the instructor's responsibility to set up students for success by defining clear guidelines and modeling the communication style and etiquette expected for communications and discussion forums.
    • Be clear about the consequences for failure to show respect for classmates and you, the instructor.
    • Ask your students to participate in creating class norms to increase their "buy in."
    • Remember that cultural norms can influence how students interact with one another.
  • Consider adapting an awareness activity from the Critical Multicultural Pavilion for your online classroom.

Inclusive Curriculum Design

As you review or create content for your course(s), it's important to intentionally represent contributions of those in your field who represent the broader diversity of members within society.

  • Reflect on who is included or excluded among the authors, researchers, and artists you honor in the curriculum.
  • Feature a diversity of people and perspectives to ensure inclusivity.
  • Help students see the relevance of your content to their lives. HIghlight the full range of heroes in your field to honor diverse contributors.
  • When choosing and using visuals, examples, analogies, and humor, take care to avoid reinforcing stereotypes.
  • Plan for access to your curriculum through the CSU Assistive Technology Resource Center. Assistive Technology includes a broad range of devices, services, and strategies that enhance learning, working, and daily living for individuals with disabilities.
  • As a part of inclusive curriculum, it is also important to know about the CSU Free Speech & Campus Rights policy.

Inclusive Curriculum Design for the Online Classroom

While your primary teaching focus here at Colorado State University (CSU) may be in residential-instruction (RI) classrooms, there is a growing number of us who teach online, as well, or who will be expected to teach online at some point during our careers. While most of the information on teaching effectiveness pertains to both RI and online classrooms, following are a few key points for online courses.

  • In an online course, a significant part of inclusive pedagogy involves accessibility. For example:
    • Images and text must be accessible.
    • Alternative means of accessing multimedia content must be provided in the form of closed captions or transcripts.
    • Course multimedia should be easy to use (play on different devices, contain clear audio, break long videos into segments that are 10 minutes or less in length, ensure that videos stream smoothly, etc.).
  • Alternative means of accessing multimedia content must be provided in the form of closed captions or transcripts.
  • Course multimedia should be easy to use (play on different devices, contain clear audio, break long videos into segments that are 10 minutes or less in length, ensure that videos stream smoothly, etc.).
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a strategy for creating course materials that are accessible to all diverse students and technologies, whether students are using a mobile device to access course materials, are sight or hearing-impaired, or have a learning disability. Simply put, you should consider UDL as you develop your online course because it is the right thing to do; for everyone.
  • Luckily, CSU provides a number of resources to assist you in creating a universally designed online course. See Canvas and Accessibility by Design.
  • Another aspect to keep in mind is that in online courses, much of the material is delivered in writing (versus oral lecture, as in a traditional classroom). This written delivery may present certain challenges for students whose first language isn't English, especially in regard to how they interpret instructor feedback. Additionally, be aware that culture can impact how a student interprets the overall design of a course and the images used within. Ask students to summarize to your their understanding of your feedback so that you can identify and address any miscommunications.

Principles of Community

The Principles of Community have been established to generate and support community within and across our campus. Each classroom develops its own community; with that in mind, as a leader in the classroom who wants to engage students, you can purposefully develop a positive community that supports the needs of all students including international students, students with disabilities, students who identify as gender non-binary, veterans, adult learners, and other minoritized identities. To use the Principles of Community in your classroom, use these practices:

  • Treat each student as an individual.
  • Learn students' names and how to pronounce them.
  • Develop a classroom community with classroom norms, community standards, and/or ground rules for class discussion and interaction.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to get to know their peers.
  • Allow opportunities for productive risk and failure.
  • Connect the content to the lived experiences of all students.
  • Model productive disagreement, showing how to critique a statement or idea rather than the speaker. In preparing your classroom, consider how to Prevent and Address Incivility in the Classroom.

Research and Resources

Inclusive pedagogy is grounded in Inclusive Excellence, the intentional work of transforming oppressive systems and structures in higher education. This stance starts with an asset-based perspective of our students. Identifying and building on the assets students bring supports individuals' knowledge building and promotes collaborative learning that deepens the understanding gained by the group as a whole. Yosso's (2006) cultural wealth model provides a framework for taking this approach by highlighting six domains in which students of color often bring assets valuable to themselves and their peers as learners, namely aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital. Recognizing and building on students' strengths can help us to identify how "student-ready" our institution is and what steps are needed for us to become a fully "student ready college" (Brown McNair et. al., 2016)".

Inclusive Pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching that nurtures a community within the classroom, values the unique contributions of all students, and takes into consideration their backgrounds, experiences, and learning needs. It is foundational to CSU classrooms, teaching, and Student Success Initiatives goals. Inclusive Pedagogy starts with instructor commitment and actions that purposefully create a learning environment for all, including the instructor. Inclusive practices are fundamentally linked to the commitment to identify and dismantle systems and practices that impede student success. Inclusive practices create conditions that support learning for all students. Thus, Inclusive Pedagogy benefits all students but particularly supports students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. Inclusive classrooms create a climate of inclusion, safety, support, and challenge, high expectations, and mutual respect in order to promote student engagement and robust learning.

Inclusive pedagogy is an intentional frame of mind and skill set that begins before each of us steps foot inside of a classroom or logs on to our learning management system; it is grounded in the commitment to uphold equitable opportunities for all learners. Rendón (2014) also recommends that we have a need to "recognize the flaws of the Old Vision" which includes "privileging intellectualism at the expense of inner knowing, disconnecting faculty from students, privileging competition over collaboration, leaving little room for error and imperfection, privileging Western structures of knowledge, engaging in "busyness" to the point of burnout, and discouraging self-reflexivity and time for renewal (p. 112)."

Implicit Bias

Creating an inclusive classroom requires examining your worldview because we all carry implicit biases that can negatively impact students' learning. Once we recognize these biases, we can correct them. How does one examine perspectives with intent to develop a more inclusive classroom? We live in a world that predisposes us to generating and holding biases, so it's necessary to work towards identifying and mitigating our biases, as well as recognizing that these biases also shape our interactions outside the classroom. Biases transcend classrooms and online courses and extend to how we interact with others in all types of settings including office hours, informal interactions in hallways, on the plaza, or elsewhere. There are steps you can take to identify and minimize your biases. You may want to take the Implicit Association Test which is designed to help users identify unconscious biases. You can educate yourself on the science of bias and steps to address and mitigate biases. On your own, you might consider increasing your social and professional network to include people who have a background that is dissimilar from yours. CSU has a variety of initiatives, training opportunities, and programs that you can engage with to gain perspective and skills in working with students whose identities and background may be dissimilar from yours.

Inclusive Communication

Initially, inclusivity begins with each of us. What steps can we take to create a welcoming, respectful environment? Here are some steps other CSU faculty have found helpful: Before the semester begins, think about how you will personally welcome as many students as possible. Prepare so that you know students' pronoun preferences (if they care to share) and how to pronounce student names. You might find this resource on personal pronouns helpful and you might consider sharing it with your students. Think about how you will support students whose first language is not English. You might consult resources how to promote success for English Language Learners (ELL) in your classroom. Further, CSU provides resources to assist international students. Engage students with opportunities to create classroom norms and culture. The language you use in class materials and in your syllabus signals to your students how welcoming your classroom environment will be.

Other aspects of inclusive communication include: for discussion courses, intentional planning so that a variety of viewpoints can be heard and examined in the spirit of advancing knowledge; structuring your teaching so that students get to interact with (and possibly know) other students; supporting your students' ability to perceive the content in a variety of communication modalities; and paying attention to your language and symbolic representations. You can check out the tab on Principles of Community for more resources and the Teaching Effectiveness Classroom Climate Domain for additional ideas.

Inclusive Pedagogical Practices

First, examine your beliefs about how students learn and achieve. Consider your beliefs about the purpose of your instruction and what students can/do contribute to the life of the classroom. Inclusive pedagogy is contrary to the banking model (Freire, 1970) of education in which instructors deposit information into students, while students passively accept what is said and then regurgitate it. Inclusivity in your pedagogy is grounded in culturally responsive teaching (Billings, 1995), a set of instructional strategies and a perspective that acknowledges "when students learn that their own experiences and viewpoints are valuable, perspective-taking, appreciation of differences, and self-confidence are likely outcomes" (Quaye & Harper, 2007). Inclusive pedagogy recognizes that instructors should also be learning from their students. Inclusive pedagogy is inclusive of cultural differences, constructs welcoming environments for sharing cultural perspectives, and requires writing assignments that challenge students to think critically about diversity and equity issues. Inclusive pedagogy supports ALL learners.

As noted in Quaye & Harper (2007), "Octavio Villalpando (2002) studied the effects of diversity on student learning among 15,600 undergraduate students from 365 postsecondary institutions. He found that after four years of college, students were most satisfied with faculty who employed methodologies that respected and were inclusive of cultural differences; constructed welcoming environments for sharing cultural perspectives; and required writing assignments that challenged students to think critically about diversity and equity issues. Villalpando's findings do not apply only to minority students; white students reported the same outcomes."

Inclusive practices are fundamentally linked to your beliefs that you will look for and, to the best of your ability, dismantle systems and practices that impede student success. In your learning setting, include: providing clear expectations and grading criteria (in writing) for the course and all assignments; providing a visual map of the course, including alignment of objectives to assessments; providing opportunities for a wide range of voices to be heard; creating activities where all students ask questions and provide answers; providing appropriate opportunities for non-competitive, collaborative assignments and group work; using a variety of teaching methods and modalities (verbal, interactive, didactic, etc.); providing students with choice in demonstrating their progress; and allowing students to see the value of a diversity of perspectives. Inclusive pedagogical practices include taking time to understand your students' prior knowledge then explicitly showing how their conceptions link to the course material. Taking time to learn about your students' prior knowledge, course/unit goals and motivations will let students know that you are intentionally developing the course with them in mind.

As a leader in your setting, you will want to ensure that all students have opportunities to learn. Students may particularly benefit from additional supports for learning. Universal Design for Learning provides a framework and perspective on the use of "scaffolds [that are] temporary supports, usually provided by an expert or teacher in a domain, that enable novices in that domain to build knowledge or skills efficiently and enthusiastically" (Meyer and Rose, 2014). Further, as you are planning your semester or reflecting throughout, you might also consider reviewing this checklist on inclusive teaching strategies and the CIRTL core competencies of the inclusive pedagogy framework.

For further study, we encourage you to learn more about the CSU Vice President for Diversity Office programs, including the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence. You might also consider reviewing the information on the Teaching Effectiveness Domain of Motivation as well as this recent news story, 'How to Fix Education's Racial Inequities, One Tweak at a Time,' which describes successes in improving academic achievement for Latinx students at Pasadena Community College, with specific classroom approaches particularly in the final quarter of the article."

Inclusive Curriculum Design

As you review or create content for your course(s), it's important to intentionally represent contributions of those in your field who represent the broader diversity of members within society. Reflect on who is included or excluded among the authors, researchers, and artists you honor in the curriculum. Include a diversity of people and perspectives to ensure inclusivity. When choosing and using visuals, examples, analogies, and humor, take care to avoid reinforcing stereotypes. Plan for access to your curriculum by taking advantage of the myriad resources available on and off campus through the CSU Assistive Technology Resource Center. Assistive Technology includes a broad range of devices, services, and strategies that enhance learning, working, and daily living for individuals with disabilities. As a part of inclusive curriculum, it is also important to know about the CSU Free Speech – Campus Rights policy.

Principles of Community

The Principles of Community have been established to generate and support community within and across our campus. Each classroom develops its own community; with that in mind, as a leader in the classroom who wants to engage students, you can purposefully develop a positive community that supports the needs of all students, including international students, students with disabilities, students who do not identify as gender binary, veterans, adult learners, and other minoritized identities. CSU explicitly supports gender non-binary students and offers resources through the Pride Center, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, and the Women & Gender Collaborative. You can do this by treating each student as an individual, getting to know students' names and how to pronounce them, and creating classroom norms, community standards, and/or ground rules for class discussion and interaction, and giving multiple opportunities for students to get to know their peers. Other strategies include: allow opportunities for productive risk and failure; connect the content to the lived experiences of all students; and model productive disagreement, showing how to critique a statement or idea rather than the speaker. In preparing your classroom, consider how to Prevent and Address Incivility in the Classroom.


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