Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Inclusive Community Guide

Building an inclusive classroom community is vital no matter the course context. Explore resources related to inclusive pedagogies, decolonization, accessibility, Indigenous pedagogies, and social presence in face-to-face and remote teaching environments.


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Foundational Principles

Inclusive teaching

There are many possible definitions of inclusive teaching. One helpful summary comes from the University of British Columbia’s Inclusive Teaching website.         

Inclusive teaching refers to intentional approaches to curriculum, course design, teaching practice, and assessment that create a learning environment where all students feel that their differences are valued and respected, have equitable access to learning and other educational opportunities, and are supported to learn to their full potential. Rather than being a static checklist, inclusive teaching can change depending on context. It is a lens that guides instructors to consider and address the ways historical and systemic inequities continue to shape students’ learning experiences.

You’ll notice that this resource uses a variety of terms including equity, inclusivity, decolonization, and diversity. These terms are not interchangeable, and it’s important to understand the definitions for the terms you use. Many resources in the final section of this guide provide helpful starting places.

The importance of self-study

Discussions of inclusive pedagogy often begin with a consideration of our own individual understanding of who we are and how we fit in the world: our identities, positions, and privileges; the aspects of ourselves that are visible and hidden; the ways in which we view ourselves and the ways in which others view us. Knowing yourself is important if you wish to know others and make change. Queen’s University’s Human Rights and Equity Office offers a variety of workshops - including a series of online modules that can help you with this process of self-reflection.

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Strategies for Inclusive and Equitable Teaching in Remote Environments
Facilitated by Klodiana Kolomitro, Faculty of Health Sciences, and Lindsay Brant, Centre for Teaching and Learning

Watch the Webinar Here

Questions of decolonization and Indigenization are particularly dependent on an understanding of your own part in the story of colonization in the territory currently known as Canada. If you are considering decolonizing your teaching, one place to start is with considering what’s colonial about your teaching, and how you are likely an active participant in colonization. If you are considering adopting or adapting Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, believing, and being,  explore your own motivations and intentions in order to authentically engage in these practices.

In examining yourself, you will likely find that you start to re-examine what you’re teaching:

  • Whose knowledge are you privileging in your course, and whose knowledge are you omitting?
  • Who is included on your reading list, and who is left out?
  • What teaching methods do you use, and which ones do you overlook? And why are you making all of these choices?
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Accessible Teaching in Every Context
Facilitated by Robin Attas, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Heidi Penning and Andrew Ashby, Human Rights and Equity Office

Watch the Webinar Here

Accessibility Over Accommodation

Where possible, aim for an approach to teaching that allows all learners equal access. For instance, share a lecture in multiple ways—as a short narrated video presentation (including subtitles) and as lecture notes or static slides—so that learners can move through the content with a method and pace that works for them. The Queen’s Accessibility Hub has many tutorials to guide you through this process.

Principles of Universal Design for Learning  (sometimes called Universal Instructional Design) can help ensure that your teaching strategies reach learners in ways that are effective for them. Use an anonymous survey at the beginning of the course to ask students about their general needs or their ability to access specific technology (high-speed internet connection, webcam, printer, scanner, etc.). Provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression for learners. Above all, aim for as much flexibility as you can muster in all aspects of your teaching, to allow students to take control of their learning and engage with your course in the ways that work for them.

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Resource: University of Guelph Quick-Start Checklist for Universal Instructional Design (PDF, 112KB)


Connect to Tech: Survey your students using the Surveys Tool in OnQ, Microsoft Forms, or Qualtrics

Fostering Belonging

At a workshop, our former students spoke to one another about how it felt to be at our university. They talked about always being watched, but never seen. They talked about shedding expressions of their cultural identities – such as certain colloquialisms – to be safe. Their stories made real what US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor later described as the daily wounds inflicted by “the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here’.

David Asai, To learn inclusion skills, make it personal (2019)

This quote powerfully illustrates the ways in which students (and indeed, everyone) can feel excluded from particular environments—in other words, made to feel they don’t belong. Inclusive teaching means taking steps to help students feel like they belong in your class, whether it’s face to face or online. When you’re communicating with students, consider and refer to diverse life experiences and cultural backgrounds. Watch for and address microaggressions and inappropriate remarks in students’ communications with each other on discussion boards, peer feedback, or other public venues. Employ strategies to ensure that all students feel like they belong, and check in with students regularly to confirm that this is true.

Inclusive Teaching in specific course contexts

Inclusive teaching can and should be infused across all aspects of a course. You’ll notice that many of the Toolkit resources integrate principles of inclusivity, equity, diversity, and decolonization. However, it can also be helpful to consider some possibilities for your specific course environment.


Asynchronous (accessible at any time) methods of sharing content are generally more inclusive and accessible than synchronous (live) methods. However, opportunities for students to connect with their instructor(s) in real time are still helpful ways of building connection and community. Think flexibly—perhaps offer scheduled office hours alongside video chats (or other methods with which you and your students feel comfortable)

Connect to Tech:  Use the Chat tool in onQ to hold Virtual Office Hours or start a Chat in Microsoft Teams 

Seminars and Tutorials

Seminars and tutorials often rely heavily on discussions. Set clear group guidelines and expectations, perhaps as a full class, so that if a difficult topic emerges, you can refer back to the group’s agreed-upon modes of behaviour. If you use a discussion board, ask students to introduce themselves in order to build community, and give them sample posts so that they know your expectations. If teaching assistants typically lead discussions, make sure to share your own expectations and guidelines with them, and give them resources to develop their own classroom conduct guidelines with their students.

Connect to Tech: set up group conversations using the Discussions tool in OnQ

Formal Group Work

Set clear group guidelines and expectations for the course as a whole, and help students set their own guidelines and expectations among group members. Remember that working in groups is itself a skill that students need to learn, and make sure you take the time to teach it. And be forgiving of yourself and your students if things go wrong—this resource from the University of Waterloo provides some common pitfalls and steps for remediation.

Alternate Learning Environments

Especially in remote contexts, recognize that a particular learning task may require additional skills that students may or may not know, For instance, if a music student needs to share a video of their performance with their instructor, they will need to know how to record themselves (including having access to appropriate technology) and how to upload and share a large file. If a student is participating in an online lab, they might need to learn how to use the specific software the course is using. More than ever, it is important to make these “hidden expectations” a part of the skills and knowledge students learn in the course. Clearly explain all instructions and offer resources and flexibility for students with different backgrounds.

Connect to Tech: For student-generated video, recommend to students that they record using ZoomScreencast-o-matic, or Quicktime (available on Mac only). Students can upload their video to YouTube  and share a link with you (option to make posted videos unlisted or private rather than public)

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Resource: “The Hidden Curriculum in Health Care Education.” A resource from the Faculty of Health Sciences Faculty Development Office.


Resources and References

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Pedagogy and Practice

Five online modules covering various topics in equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization, developed with teams at Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia.

Power, Privilege & Bias
Conversations on Decolonization
Navigating Difficult Conversations
Inclusive & Responsive Teaching
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office

Advances a culture of human rights, equity and inclusion at Queen’s, uniting four services: human rights advisory services, equity services, sexual violence prevention and response, and the Accessibility Hub.

Queen’s Student Accessibility Services (QSAS)

QSAS works with other members of the Queen’s community to assess and support students with academic accommodations.

Decolonizing and Indigenizing Teaching and Learning

A CTL resource providing an overview of decolonization and Indigenization in the Queen’s context.

University of British Columbia - Inclusive Teaching

Discussion of inclusive teaching in both face to face and remote teaching contexts.

Indiana University - Accessibility Quick Tips

              A variety of remote teaching solutions, focused mostly on accessibility for students with disabilities.

Rice University - Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely

San Diego University - Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Teaching Environments

McGill University - e-learning Kit: Building Community

Strategies for building community in remote or online environments.

Creative Commons License
The Transforming Teaching Toolkit by the Centre for Teaching & Learning, Queen’s University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.