Creating an Inclusive Classroom

Diversity. Inclusion. These two terms have come to the forefront in many conversations over the past twelve months, including many conversations related to higher education. As a faculty member and teacher I’ve contemplated what these terms might mean relative to my work.

  • Diversity defined: Individual differences (e.g., personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) (American Association of Colleges & Universities).
  • Inclusion defined: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity–in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect–in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions (American Association of Colleges & Universities).

The reality is that classrooms in higher education across the US are more diverse today than ever before. With this diversity of students comes the need to ensure that the learning environments we create are inclusive and designed to support all students. It means I need to understand my personal assumptions, particularly those related to bias, language, and word choice. I need to be aware, and adjust, to the ‘temperature’ in the classroom. The discipline I teach isn’t controversial, but I’ve heard from a number of our colleagues across campus who have faced difficult or uncomfortable situations in their courses recently. Many have dealt with the situation with grace and professionalism. Some have been at a loss of what to do next. It can be difficult to know what to do, or not do, since there isn’t always a clear direction to go.

To support faculty, CELT has gathered best practices from multiple resources and in some cases distilled them to actionable items on the Creating an Inclusive Classroom website. CELT also facilitates the Inclusive Classroom Faculty Development Workshop and Coffee and Crucial Conversations each month. To find out about the next program visit CELT’s Event and Registration website or download CELT’s Spring 2017 Inclusive Classroom Programming Schedule (PDF).

Another opportunity to learn more about diversity and inclusion is the upcoming Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) conference. ISCORE is a comprehensive forum on issues of race and ethnicity at Iowa State University and beyond. The ISCORE will be held on March 3, with a half-day professional development conference on March 1.

We hope you find these resources and the ISCORE conference beneficial to your work at ISU and beyond.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching