Designing the learning environment to be meaningful, relevant, and accessible for every student in your course/program is inclusive pedagogy. It’s also consistent with Georgetown values such as Educating the Whole Person and Cura Personalis. And it’s supported by a growing body of research. First of all, a sense of belonging to an academic community has been shown to be an important predictor of academic success (Moallem, 2013; Rendón Linares and Muñoz, 2011; Hurtado and Carter, 1997). Meanwhile, many students—particularly those from groups traditionally marginalized in our society on the basis of their identities—do feel excluded from learning spaces (see, for example, Tanner, 2013; adapted Tanner for zoom). This ongoing truth has been voiced increasingly in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement, underscoring the importance of inclusion and anti-racist efforts to support all students’ learning (Batty, 2020; Sangaramoorthy and Richardson, 2020). Furthermore, the problem is not limited to in-person courses (Baker et al., 2018), but important to consider across modalities. This experience of exclusion can hamper academic performance (APA, 2006) in a process that can spiral out of control, through a “negative recursive cycle...where psychological threat and poor performance feed off one another, leading to ever-worsening performance” (Cohen et al., 2006). Beyond the purely academic, a sense of alienation or exclusion can even lead to negative health effects (Blascovich et al., 2001, Eisenberger et al., 2003).
Fortunately, it’s also been found that efforts to increase marginalized students’ sense of social belonging lead to increases in both academic success and well-being among those students (Walton and Cohen, 2011), and these benefits can last years (Cohen et al., 2009). Furthermore, techniques that help improve the academic performance of students in marginalized groups (e.g., active learning, regular opportunities to practice new skills, etc.) tend to benefit all students in the course (Eddy and Hogan, 2014, Haak et al., 2011).
In this toolkit, we offer concrete suggestions for designing inclusive, antiracist learning environments through five key interconnected aspects of teaching and learning relevant to all courses. Explore each of these below.
The content of the course
The pedagogy you use to teach the course
The kind of assessment you do to make sure students are learning