How does one become a more inclusive instructor?

What does being a more inclusive teacher mean?

Inclusive teaching refers to pedagogy that strives to serve the needs of all students, regardless of background or identity, and support their engagement with subject material. The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan is dedicated to the support and advancement of evidence-based learning and teaching practices and the professional development of all members of the campus teaching community.  

So in what ways might one incorporate inclusive teaching into how they teach or what they look for from an instructor? Over the years, CRLT has collected strategies for inclusive teaching and  organized them into four categories. These categories are also effective practices for leaders and mentors:

  • Transparency
  • Academic belonging
  • Structured interactions
  • Critical engagement of difference 


Clearly communicating about norms, expectations, evaluation criteria

  • Clarify how you’d like mentees to address and contact you, especially when interacting with others from a range of educational cultural backgrounds.
  • Dedicate time to explaining your expectations and evaluation criteria for each task you assign.
  • Dedicate time during meetings for mentees to ask questions about your expectations.
  • Communicate your goal of creating an equitable and inclusive environment.


Cultivating students’ sense of connection to scholarly and professional communities 

  • Communicate high expectations and your confidence that mentees can succeed at the tasks you assign.
  • Allow for productive risk and failure. Emphasize that struggle and challenge are important parts of the learning process, rather than signs of deficiency.
  • Assess mentees’ prior knowledge and interests so you can accurately align their assigned tasks with their strengths and needs.
  • When using examples or case studies, emphasize the range of identities and backgrounds of experts who have contributed to your field.


Providing or eliciting goals, protocols, processes to make sure group interactions don’t default to patterns of privileging already-privileged voices or otherwise replicating systemic inequities

  • In large group discussions, use strategies for including a range of voices: e.g., take a queue, ask to hear from those who have not spoken, wait until several hands are raised to call on anyone, or use paired or small group conversations to seed larger discussion.
  • Give mentees time to gather their thoughts in writing before discussing with the whole group.
  • At the beginning of group or team projects, create time and a process for mentees to discuss their respective strengths, personal learning goals, anticipated contributions, etc.
  • During long-term group or team projects, provide a process for mentees to reflect upon the team work/dynamics and provide constructive feedback to one another.  


Recognizing that students bring diverse identities, strengths, and needs to the learning environment 

  • Invite mentees to identify examples from their own arenas of knowledge or expertise to illustrate concepts being learned.
  • Help mentees connect their prior knowledge to new learning (e.g., before introducing a new topic ask them individually to reflect on what they already know about the topic).
  • Present material in a variety of modalities (readings, diagrams, lectures, podcasts) rather than relying on one mode of engagement.
  • Communicate concern for mentees’ well-being, and share information about campus resources (e.g., Counseling & Psychological Services, Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center, Services for Students with Disabilities).

To learn more you can access the complete list of 47 strategies on the CRLT website.

This list is adapted from the document “Applying Inclusive Teaching Principles: Curated Inventory of Strategies” prepared by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan, 2019.

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