Steps Toward Creating an Inclusive Classroom

Micromessages are small, subtle, often subconscious messages we send and receive in our communication with others in the form of a gesture, word choice, treatment, or even tone of voice. These messages can be either positive (micro-affirmations) or negative (micro-inequities). –National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity

Without awareness educators may inadvertently use micro-inequities to discourage underrepresented students (e.g. female and minority students) from engaging in a course, and ultimately in careers in that field. Although there is strong evidence this is a significant issue in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) it also occurs in other courses and disciplines as well.

So how do we create an inclusive classroom for ALL students at ISU? It may seem like a daunting task, particularly when as an instructor we might not even be aware of the negative micromessages we are sending. Through the direction of the Senior Vice President and Provost, CELT has convened an Inclusive Classroom Taskforce this semester. The taskforce is charged with developing a variety of resources including online materials and face-to-face professional development training to support faculty in creating an inclusive classroom. The taskforce includes undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty and staff from across campus with both expertise in inclusivity and diversity and an earnest desire to make Iowa State an exceptional learning environment. To support this initiative CELT has reorganized some of our existing content on this topic and has added additional materials under the new Creating an Inclusive Classroom section on our website.

We’ll continue to communicate with campus as the Inclusive Classroom Taskforce moves forward.

Five strategies for a successful start for your students (Teaching Tip)

January brings with it the comfortable familiarity of a completed fall semester and the newness and opportunities of a spring semester waiting to begin. Before the first day of the semester, consider these strategies to promote student success.
  • Welcome students. Send a welcoming email or Canvas announcement to your class (see the communication strategies page). Let students know where and when the first class session occurs: in person or online, how to access the Canvas course page, include a copy of the syllabus, and share your student office hours. This welcome sets the stage for prepared students on the first day of class.
  • Do a readiness assessment. On the first day of class, include a short, no-stakes quiz with a mixture of prerequisite knowledge questions and topics that students will encounter in the course. This readiness assessment can provide you with diagnostic information about the new class. Further, providing the correct answer to the questions can serve as an early resource for content review. Get started by using the Quizzes and Exams strategies page.
  • Ask students for their goals. No matter the class size, ask students why they signed up for the class and how it will help them achieve their goals. Students can complete this information (including name and pronoun preferences) in word or sentence format using Qualtrics. Display the Qualtrics word cloud results in real-time or share them during the next class session.
  • Give a syllabus quiz. Instead of a detailed syllabus reading, give a short syllabus quiz in the first week of the term (see CELT’s Sample syllabus quiz questions page). This method is an easy first assignment win for students and can lessen potential anxiety about course expectations and grading.
  • Make Connections. Prepare a small follow-up assignment in which students actively engage and make a connection with the course material and their lives. Perhaps this is finding a news article or social media post related to your course content. Maybe it is asking students to identify something within their lives impacted by the course topic. At the next class session, create triads of students to share the information. This strategy is beneficial if you use permanent triads for discussion and project teams throughout the semester and further connections with content and between classmates. Find additional ideas for engagement on the Ideas to create a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive classroom page along with the Engaging Students Online page.
Continue to read the CELT Teaching Tip for the Start of the Semester Checklist, Instructional Tools & Updates, the CELT Teaching Spotlight, and CELT Upcoming Programs. The CELT staff eagerly awaits meeting and working with you in spring 2021!
With a joy for teaching,
Sara Marcketti, Director

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Five strategies for a successful start for your students (January 14, 2021 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for January 14.

Keep Your Students Engaged (Teaching Tip)

Photo of Students using educational technology in the English language classroom by Iowa State University licensed under CC BY 4.0

A reoccurring theme in CELT focuses on best practices for engaging students in the classroom. As we move forward this semester, these suggestions may help keep your students engaged with the course and its content.

  • Ask for feedback: Solicit feedback in real-time from students to gauge understanding of new course material.
  • Host student (office) hours: Provide students with great access by offering office hours virtually and in person.
  • Plan thoughtful group work: Use the table on the CELT website to see if group work is the most appropriate method of use and follow the tips for facilitating successful group work.
  • Develop participation as a skill: Review the Gillis (2019) framework for ways to reframe participation as a skill that can be practiced, strengthened, and valued by students.

If you are looking for more ways to increase student engagement, check out the CELT website or attend a CELT event.

One event to consider is the webinar taking place on Sept. 8 from 3:10-4 p.m. discussing creating an inclusive learning environment. Creating an equitable and inclusive classroom can foster engagement and encourage student involvement. More information, including how to register, can be found on the CELT Event page.

With a joy for teaching, 

Sara Marcketti

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Keep Your Students engaged (September 1, 2022 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print Version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for September 1, 2022 (PDF).

Connecting with (and among) our students (Teaching Tip)

Students meeting with Joel Geske at Hixson Lied Success Center

The fall messages from Provost Wickert and Associate Provost VanDerZanden discussed the importance of wellbeing for students, faculty, and staff. As instructors, we can offer support for wellbeing in the classroom by ensuring all our students feel welcomed and included.

During the annual inclusive classroom training (AY22-23), we use the mindful and learner-centered syllabus toolkit (PDF) to guide discussions about connecting with our students throughout the semester. We incorporate active learning to connect faculty and build community while they talk about teaching inclusively. We know these facilitated peer interactions matter because, in the post-survey, we read responses such as, “… I like having to do this annually because it does force us to talk about teaching, which we rarely do with each other,” and “We have many dedicated faculty who keep working on improving their teaching — including making the classroom inclusive!”

Here are a few strategies to create connections:

Example: When teaching for 50 minutes, intentionally pause twice for 90 seconds. During those 90-seconds, request that your students review their notes, then ask a neighbor if they discovered anything unclear in those notes. Researchers found that students will recall more content if brief engagement activities are introduced into the lecture (Prince, 2004).

  • Reflect on peer interactions: Give students regular opportunities to reflect upon ways their peers enhance their learning at the end of a class with the questions, such as: “What did you learn from someone else today? How did your peers support your learning today?”
  • Promote student office hours: Now is the time to encourage students to use student office hours early and often. Connect with those seeking help, wanting to discuss your discipline, or share any feedback; see CELT’s student office hours.
  • Find out what matters: Express a commitment to continuous growth by inviting periodic feedback about the course and their learning; see CELT’s Use formative feedback page for ideas.

To discuss additional active learning strategies, attend the Simple methods to keep students engaged webinar on Sept. 26 (12:10-1 p.m., online via Zoom) presented by Megan Myers (Associate Professor, World Languages & Cultures and CELT Faculty Fellow).

With a joy for teaching,

Sara Marcketti

References and resources are available on the training (AY22-23) page.

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Connecting with (and among) your students (September 15, 2022)

Prefer a Print Version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for September 15, 2022 (PDF).

CELT Restructuring Update (Teaching Tip)

People working on a project together

As the rhythm of the fall semester takes hold, we wanted to share a CELT restructuring update with you.

As you know, Iowa State developed a comprehensive strategy for online education – Iowa State Online – that brings together talented staff from across campus (and beyond) to create a seamless unit focused on quality online instruction and student experience, as well as online program growth and innovation. This new structure, which is embedded in CELT, will help promote a consistently high level of quality across all course modalities.

Where are we today?
Much of the work since announcing the CELT expansion with the formation of Iowa State Online has focused on bringing everyone together into a (much larger) CELT family in preparation for the full launch on January 3, 2023.

Key leaders have been identified for the primary functional areas of the unit:

  • Susan Arendt, Director for Iowa State Online
  • Matt Carver, Senior Manager for Enterprise Instructional Technology
  • Clark Coffman, Interim Director for Instructor Development
  • Lesya Hassall, Senior Manager for Course Design and Quality

We’re also still hiring, with several positions available.

What’s happening now?
The CELT leadership team continues gathering important information from key stakeholders and diligently works on operational and logistical details. Be on the watch for a CELT survey or town-hall style meeting soon to gather your input and feedback.

What happens next?
You’re probably wondering how things may change in January, or even now as you prepare for your spring classes.

  • If you are planning your winter session or spring semester classes, continue working with the same person and office you have in the past.
  • Iowa State Online will take a strategic approach to program offerings with decisions made as an institution. We will continue to offer robust instructor development and support for instructors across all modalities.
  • Programs and services such as the Miller Faculty Fellowship, #CyThx, Inclusive Classroom, consultation and observation services, Online Learning Community, and programming will continue with little change – but more people to support this work!
  • Further details about CELT’s services are forthcoming and will be well-publicized within the CELT teaching tip, Inside Iowa State, and through college communications.

And, of course, if you have never taught online but are ready to jump in or are looking to optimize your current or future classes, please email celt@iastate.edu or call 515-294-5357. We’re ready to help and have the expertise and resources you need to succeed.

With a joy for teaching,

Sara Marcketti, Assistant Provost and Executive Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: CELT Restructuring Update (October 13, 2022).

Prefer a Print Version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for October 13, 2022 (PDF).

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