1.3. Inclusion & Equity

We already mentioned the importance of creating equitable learning experiences for students attending in-person and those attending via Zoom. We also recommend considering your teaching practices to ensure that the learning experience overall is equitable regardless of student background. 

With the addition of technology and digital materials in many courses, this is a great time to think about Universal Design for Learning. We suggest you read over Sara Bea Accessibility Services’ document on creating accessible digital materials. By incorporating their suggestions as you develop resources, you will make your materials more accessible and effective for all students. 

Students with different backgrounds and levels of preparation can often struggle to succeed because of lack of familiarity with the hidden curriculum of higher education

Some relatively simple ways to create a more inclusive and equitable learning experience for your students were highlighted in How to Make your Teaching More Inclusive (Sathy and Hogan, 2019).  

  • Build clear, overt structure into your syllabus, assignments, tests, and pedagogy. Doing so is beneficial to all students.
  • Find a way to be comfortable with silence. One way is to provide structured time for thinking, as outlined in the Write-Pair-Share activity.
  • Connect with your students on a personal level by sharing appropriate information about yourself and using their names (ask them - don’t assume the one on your roster is what they would like to be called). 

Another way you can provide structure is to adopt the Transparent Assignment Design methodology and clearly communicate the purpose, task, and criteria for success for your assignments. Such structure and transparency have been shown to be helpful for all students while closing the achievement gap and persistence gap for first-generation, low socioeconomic status, and non-white students.

Since you are engaged in rethinking your course design, you also have an opportunity to, as Fr. Jenkins invited us, create “an ever more inclusive community committed to combating racism.” One concrete step you can take is to evaluate your course readings and other materials to see if they are representative of the breadth of the identities of scholars in the field. This is often a challenging task since it may require eliminating some material that is a long standing part of your course. That said, it is one way to make your course more inclusive, since it provides an opportunity for a broader range of students to see their identities represented in the course material, while helping all students see the value of contributions of a broader array of scholars.

Finally, the course design and teaching strategies described throughout this playbook (from adding multiple milestones to assessments, to intentional use of active learning elements, to thoughtful use of media) are meant to improve the course experience for all students, but many are especially helpful for students from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have historically been marginalized in higher education settings.