Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost at The University of Texas at Austin, shares her perspective on what inclusivity means to her, and why inclusive teaching and learning is an important, ongoing mission for all instructors at UT.
How Can I Do This?
Research shows that educational contexts frequently reinforce inequities, which can hinder cognitive development and student well-being (Roksa, Kilgo, Trolian, Pascarella, Blaich, and Wise, 2017). There is no one way to implement inclusive teaching and learning. Consider some of these strategies to promote an equitable teaching and learning environment.
How can you increase representation of and access and support for your students? Being proactive before the semester begins can reduce your time spent later making accommodations and resolving conflicts, and enhances your teaching effectiveness.
Think about your course and curriculum: which voices, identities, and perspectives are included? How are they represented in readings? Which ones are missing? Why?
Provide multiple means of representation of course content. What are different ways for students to access the course content? Lecture? Readings? Videos? Discussions?
Create a variety of assignment types. Provide students with choices in how they complete an assignment or between two different assignments.
Research indicates that perceptions of what "high expectations" means often varies between faculty and student (Borghi, Mainardes, and Silva, 2016). Communicate early and often what high expectations means to you, and provide support to all students as they work towards those expectations.
Establish ground rules for class participation and discussion. Ask for student input, and feel free to revisit (and revise) the rules during the semester as needed.
Offer frequent formative assessment opportunities as "climate checks" to gauge student perceptions of the course and their progress.
Ask students questions about their experiences related to course content: What's their previous experience with this subject? What are their goals in this course? What are their fears about this course?
Learn and use the correct pronunciation of student names and their pronouns.
Become familiar with student services and resources around campus so you know where to direct students or seek faculty support during the semester.
Teaching, like learning, provides the promise of on-going development, if we let it. Take time to reflect on how your practices and perspectives have changed, and in which directions you want to see them move.
Consider the intersecting aspects of students' lives to foster a sense of belonging among students.
Mistakes are inevitable. How you respond to those mistakes can serve as an important model of cultural humility for your students, and emphasize the ongoing nature of the learning process.
Several organizations across the UT campus offer workshops and seminars on a variety of Inclusivity topics. We have provided links below to a few of the options offered regularly by other centers and divisions:
"As faculty, we have the opportunity as well as the social obligation to nurture talents and gifts that once might have been lost. We all have this opportunity - regardless of the teaching and learning setting in which we find ourselves. In response, it is our individual ethical and professional responsibility to create an inclusive learning environment - to the best of our ability" (Nolinske, 1999).
Improving the classroom climate and creating an inclusive curriculum are important and explicit parts of the 2017 UT Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan
It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin to provide an educational and working environment that provides equal opportunity to all members of the University community (Handbook of Operating Procedures 3-3020).
What does inclusivity mean to you? How does that definition get translated into practice in your approach to teaching & learning? Join us, every semester (April / November) for an interactive series of sessions devoted to developing an inclusive teaching and learning mindset.
Our third bi-annual Inclusive Teaching and Learning Symposium was facilitated by guides who taught us how to quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone.