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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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 rather than treated as an isolated add-on. 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.
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.
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.
“The Hidden Curriculum in Health Care Education.” A resource from the Faculty of Health Sciences Faculty Development Office.
University of British Columbia - Inclusive Teaching
Discussion of inclusive teaching in both face to face and remote teaching contexts.
McGill University - e-learning Kit: Building Community
Strategies for building community in remote or online environments.
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.