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 (Booker, 2006; Hurtado and Carter, 1997; MacLeod et al., 2019; Moallem, 2013; Rendón Linares and Muñoz, 2011). 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; Baumeister et al., 2002) 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 (Dewsbury et al., 2022; 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. That said, these may apply differently to different situations and may work differently for teachers depending on their experiences and identities. These ideas are by no means exhaustive, but they’re intended to contribute to your development as an inclusive educator—to get you started or to add to your existing pedagogical practices. This is a process that is by its nature always ongoing. Explore further below.