Image caption: Students studying chemistry in the Student Academic Success Center, an inclusive learning community that serves first-generation, under-resourced, and other underrepresented or non-traditional learners at CU Boulder.
Teaching with a focus on inclusivity requires a proactive stance: designing classroom spaces, practices, and content to include all types of student diversity that exist, seen or unseen. As Viji Sathy and Kelly Hogan note in their article on inclusive pedagogy, it involves "designing and teaching courses in ways that foster talent in all students." It further means mindfully removing barriers for traditionally underserved students by actively fostering a sense of belonging, providing equitable access to course materials, and creating a safe classroom environment. Remote and online learning likewise present challenges, such as equitable course design and access to the learning environment.
The social inequities that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare offer a moment of clarity. It is unquestionably true that we are not all on equal footing. There are class and race differences that directly impact working conditions, safe housing, access to equitable healthcare, and many other factors. Multiple groups have experienced racist acts related to this pandemic. The post-pandemic goal should not be merely to return to the way it was. Rather, we should strive to create a “new normal,” in which attention to issues of equity and inclusion become a matter of course.
Our individual and collective efforts as higher education leaders must include deliberate actions for eliminating racism. It is our responsibility to acknowledge that racism exists at our institution. As Chief Diversity Officer Theodesia Cook recommends, we must all take the lead in educating ourselves instead of expecting the people of color on our campus to do this work. From a place of true understanding, we must then listen to the stories of our CU students and create classroom spaces that allow traditionally underserved students to feel safe on our campus. In your syllabi and lectures, consciously choose to represent scholars in your field who are typically underrepresented. Create content activities for your students that represent multiple points of view. View your classroom as a global learning community with interconnected relationships. Ask your students frequently about their experience in your classroom, instead of waiting for FCQ feedback. This inclusive classroom document, created with CU Boulder faculty, will guide you through investigating the structures in your course and creating a more inclusive learning environment.
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