Inclusive Pedagogy


Research and Resources

Inclusive Excellence

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: 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 and 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, 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 step 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).”  Inclusive pedagogy recognizes that instructors should also be learning from their students.

Implicit Bias

We live in a world that predisposes us to generating and holding biases. Creating an inclusive classroom requires examining your biases that can negatively impact students’ learning. It can take years to identify and mitigate our biases that shape our interactions inside (and outside) the classroom. But once you begin the process, you can examine your teaching and interactions with student through this new lens and begin to not only recognize and mitigate microagressions in your classroom, but create a cohesive community of learners where all students feel safe. 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 on how to promote success for English Language Learners (ELL) in your classroom or 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 inclusive considerations also begin in the planning phase: 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 consistently interact with 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 section 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 or 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). As noted in Quaye & Harper (2007), “Octavio Villalpando (2002) studied the effects of diversity on student learning among 15,600 undergraduate students from 365 post-secondary 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 pedagogy supports ALL learners.

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, and the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. You can do this by treating each student as an individual, getting to know students’ names and how to pronounce them, 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: allowing opportunities for productive risk and failure; connecting the content to the lived experiences of all students; modeling productive disagreement; and 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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Brown McNair, T., Albertine, S., Cooper, M. A., McDonald, N., Major Jr., T. (2016). Becoming a student-ready college: A new culture of leadership for student success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Gunawardena, C. N., Ortegano–Layne, L., Carabajal, K., Frechette, C., Lindemann, K., & Jennings, B. (2006). New Model, New Strategies: Instructional design for building online wisdom communities, Distance Education, 27(2).

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Towards a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), pp. 465-491.

Lee, A., Poch, R. O’Brien, M. K., Solheim, C. (2017). Teaching interculturally: A framework for integrating disciplinary knowledge and intercultural development. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Lieberman, M. (2018, April 11). What online teachers have learned from teaching online. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Meyer, A., Rose, D. H. & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST, Inc.

Milheim, K. (2017). A fundamental look at cultural diversity and the online classroom. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from

Quaye, S. J. & Harper, S. R. (2007). Faculty accountability for culturally inclusive pedagogy and curricula. Liberal Education, 93(3), AAC&U.

Rendón, L. I. (2014). Sentipensante pedagogy: Educating for wholeness, social justice and liberation. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.