Inclusive Pedagogy Toolkit: Pedagogy

 

Pedagogy

Creating accessible and equitable learning experiences, experiences in which all of our students feel empowered to participate and learn, is inclusive pedagogy. In order to create inclusive environments, we need to be mindful of various situational factors at play in our design choices: implicit biases, institutional norms, curricular design. Our course design choices should encompass explicit learning goals, transparent assignments and criteria, and engaging active learning activities that stimulate and challenge students to bring their strengths to the table.


Offer multiple, diverse, and active ways to know, engage, and contribute

Why does this matter?

All of us want our students to build on the assets they bring with them and to succeed in our classes (Yosso, 2008). Specifically designing our assignments and activities in order to allow them to apply those assets and bring in their diverse experiences and ways of knowing not only sets them up to succeed, but fosters a rich learning environment (Ladson-Billings, 2014). Part of this includes Universal Design for Learning, which involves intentionally offering multiple means for students to access and demonstrate mastery of course content, as well as multiple means for them to engage in and contribute to our classes. New forms of expression invite new kinds of learning (Pedelty, 2001). Another aspect of this includes creating a wide range of opportunities for students to connect their prior knowledge and experiences to new learning (Ladson-Billings, 2014). And it has been found that students respond positively to the opportunity to express their knowledge in diverse ways; among other things, they feel “more in control of their own learning process and empowered to make personal choices,” including an experience of lowered stress and increased success (Wideman and Kumar, 2014).

How might I do this?

  • Developing Awareness
    • Survey students before the semester to ask them about any circumstances that might shape or challenge their ability to succeed in the course.
    • Create opportunities for students to share and demonstrate their prior knowledge and experiences to you and peers so these can be an explicitly-valued addition to class discussions, and assignments
    • Include a statement about accessibility in your syllabus, and consider inviting students to speak with you about undocumented disabilities and other relevant circumstances.
    • Learn about how our Academic Resource Center handles disability accommodations in order to be ready for the full range of students and their needs. The ARC has “an online hub where faculty can access accommodation information in one convenient place just by logging in with their NetID and password.”
  • For course materials:
    • Make sure any course sites are screen reader friendly (e.g. no text in images). (UIS has great resources on this and other digital accessibility issues here, or you can consult with them.)
    • Provide transcriptions for audio content and make sure any videos assigned have captioning. If you’re using specialized terminology in your course, you may want to check the accuracy of the transcription (either yourself, or asking a TA/ITA to do it); transcripts can be edited in Zoom and Panopto, for example. More generally, if a presentation happens in one sensory medium (e.g., an image in a slide deck), perhaps make the content available in another medium (e.g., through out-loud description) for students who will not otherwise be able to access the materials.
  • For class:
    • Alternate between modes of teaching/learning (e.g., group work, project-based or problem-based learning, presentations, audio-visual materials, photovoice, lectures).
    • Offer varied avenues for contributing to class: written responses, class discussions, small group discussions, video blogs, domains.
    • Design assignments with varied formats: written, oral, tests, papers, podcasts, prototyping/making (or let students choose the format).
    • Plan ahead if any course activities might require a certain degree of physical ability, e.g. standing, vision, or fine motor skills.
    • Encourage note sharing and have a plan ready for students who need note-taking accommodations.
    • Make notetaking a common practice to foster a sense of shared responsibility within your course. Encourage sharing notes with each other or providing moments of collective note-taking in a google doc.

Be explicit about pedagogical decisions

Why does this matter?

You’ve put a lot of thought into your course, and there are reasons behind the choices you’ve made. But those reasons may not be evident to anyone but you (McNair, 2016). For students new to the material, a course can seem quite opaque—particularly if that student comes to the class without a built-in sense of approaches to pedagogy in higher education. That opacity is a potential barrier to learning. Meanwhile, students who are given more transparent assignments (in terms of purpose, the nature of the task, and what will be considered a success) show increased levels of confidence and feelings of belonging, as well as better work in the class—and these effects are particularly strong for traditionally underrepresented groups of students (Ambrose et al, 2010; Winkelmes et al., 2016).

How might I do this?

  • Include learning goals for each of your assignments, possibly along with a rubric that gives students a sense of what they are shooting for.
  • Use the syllabus as a place not just to lay out policies and pedagogical decisions but to explain them.
  • Use class time to discuss your choices.
  • When you’re able to involve students in co-creating aspects of the course (e.g., class conversation guidelines, assignments, assessments, etc.), be explicit about why and how that’s going to happen (see more on this in the Power section of this toolkit).

Prepare for challenging moments by establishing classroom expectations and guidelines

Why does this matter?

Establishing classroom guidelines with students creates an opportunity to develop shared expectations and collective buy-in to norms of participation and engagement in the classroom in ways that will contribute to student learning and support students if conflict arises (Verschelden, 2017). Guidelines can be important for helping students to develop skills for constructively engaging in challenging conversations and turning challenging moments in a class into teachable moments (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2014; Cavanagh, 2016). Ongoing maintenance of expectations and norms then allows these to function as guardrails when challenges arise. Such guidelines are also an opportunity for faculty to express and model for students the value of constructive disagreement and the potential for academic dialogue to tackle challenging issues (Brookfield and Preskill, 2005).

How might I do this?

  • Emphasize your core values around classroom participation and student well-being in your syllabus.
  • Be explicit about your expectations for interactions in the classroom—the way you want people to participate, respond to each other, etc.—and why. Because of the neurodiversity of our students, some of the establishment and explanation of guidelines may need to happen in one-on-one conversations between you and individual students so that each student can find a way to enter the conversation productively for themselves and others.
  • Allow students to work together at the beginning of the course to generate class guidelines themselves.
  • Refer back to collectively established guidelines at key moments as a means of helping students constructively tackle difficult issues or to help them see scholarly norms in the literature.
  • See our tipsheet for difficult discussions for resources.

Develop strategies in order to address challenging classroom moments directly

Why does this matter?

One of the hardest things about “challenging moments” is the unanticipated nature of their timing or content or both. The pressure of the moment can impair our ability to spontaneously elect the most constructive approach. Having a pocketful of proven strategies for handling such moments keeps us from being caught (too) off-guard. They can also help us to harness such moments and avoid the unfortunate extremes of either suppressing or exacerbating tensions and vexing questions (Verschelden, 2017)—both of which can frustrate students and miss the opportunity to turn challenging moments into teaching moments (Cavanagh, 2016).

How might I do this?

  • Plan ahead for how you want to respond during challenging moments, including brainstorming about what might push your buttons and your own strategies for how to handle that kind of tension.
  • We developed a tipsheet for difficult discussions that includes ideas such as taking breaks, making time for short writing reflections, and inviting anonymous feedback through polls.
  • Have conversations with students in advance about how to engage constructively on difficult topics, including the importance of not ignoring difficulties.

Examine your own biases—we all have them—so that they won’t unconsciously influence your approach or reaction to students

Why does this matter?

Unconscious biases are a natural result of our cognitive hardware—in order to function efficiently in everyday life, we take mental shortcuts, utilize unconscious cognitive processing, and are vulnerable to unreflective socialization (Banaji and Greenwald, 2013). Some biases can become a problem when teaching, especially when these are linked to categories of student identity (Baker et al, 2018; Moss-Racusin et al., 2012; Tenenbaum and Ruck, 2007). Recognizing the inevitability of bias (in order to allow you to take active steps to commit to fairness) is crucial. In fact, one key study shows that the people who are the most convinced of their objectivity are most likely to deploy un-objective, biased thinking (Uhlmann and Cohen, 2007), precisely because they do not make efforts to examine and disrupt their thinking. Much of the evidence with regard to interrupting automaticity in our thinking (and hence implicit bias) emphasizes ways to slow down our judgment making and preemptively implement commitments to and techniques for fairness (Stewart and Payne, 2008). This element of discernment and reflection can be seen in Ignatian values as a crucial part of the learning process (Kolvenbach, 1986).

How might I do this?

  • Ask yourself: when you picture an ideal student, what do you see? What about a challenging student? What do those images reveal about your preconceived notions?
  • Ask yourself which dimensions of identity are most likely to be associated, for you, with different expectations for different students.
  • Invite a colleague or CNDLS to review your syllabus in order to identify elements in which bias might interfere.
  • Similarly, talk to others specifically about their methods for avoiding unintentional biases in teaching.
  • When making decisions regarding students—about grades, about feedback, about who to call on in class:
    • Teaching is demanding work. As much as possible, do your best to care for your physical and emotional wellbeing by avoiding states such as exhaustion and hunger when you teach, interact with students, and grade.
    • Take your time with these decisions; make them slowly.
    • Make the decision ahead of time—create a sheet that helps you track all the students you call on, and work to be as even as possible in choosing who to call on.
    • Make decisions regarding students (grades, feedback, classroom interactions) deliberately, and, if possible, ahead of time. Be aware of grading practices (e.g., the order you tend to want to grade students in, etc.), in-class interactions (which students you tend to call on, or favor with eye contact, etc.). Intentionally engage different students, and look for patterns in your feedback (amount, tone, etc.) and classroom interactions with students.
    • Deliberately create a system for ensuring that you give all students equally thorough and attentive feedback.
    • Use anonymized grading mechanisms when appropriate.

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