2. Supporting Students

Recommendation 2.1: Equity & Inclusion
Ensure that course design and teaching provides equal access and is welcoming and inclusive to every learner.

Synopsis from Self-Review

Pursuing accessibility means starting the design process with accessibility in mind, not applying principles of accessibility after the fact or only when special cases merit attention. Pursuing inclusion means ensuring that all students’ social identities and lived experiences are considered and eliminating potential biases so all students feel a sense of belonging. In addition to thinking about our interactions with students in terms of design, access, and teaching practices, we should consider how we build relationships and how we communicate to be inclusive to all students.

How to Put Into Practice

A critical feature of equity- and inclusive minded teaching is acknowledging that our students come to us with vastly different experiences and those experiences are often tied to their social identities (i.e., race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, first-generation status, etc.). Therefore equity and inclusion should be considered in every aspect of course design and teaching. Building equitable, inclusive classrooms requires ongoing work and reflection, the challenges of which give rise to meaningful improvements for both you and your students. The four core elements of equitable, inclusive teaching below can help you identify opportunities for growth in your course. Implementing these elements can improve persistence, retention, and satisfaction for all students. Start with any of the four, based on your own needs and situation.

Relationship: Students’ sense of belonging—that they feel like they can succeed as scholars in our disciplines—is key to their academic success. Explore strategies for building this sense of belonging into your course. 

Access: To learn successfully, students need equitable access to resources: to physical spaces and course materials, to one another, to their instructors, to support services, and to the wider world. Learn how to design your content and interactions to center access.

Design: Students should enjoy freedom from biases or assumptions that negatively affect their motivations, opportunities, and accomplishments. We have a collective duty to design instruction in order to address barriers to student success. Learn how to apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to lower common barriers and increase student engagement. 

Pedagogy: How we teach matters as much as what we teach. Explore strategies to approach teaching and learning with support, compassion, and inclusivity—while maintaining the rigor of your discipline.

Source: Special Topic: Equity & Inclusion

Supporting the success of students with disabilities

Students with disabilities may hesitate to communicate with instructors regarding their accommodations due to a perceived risk of exposing themselves to bias. Proactively setting a welcoming tone regarding accommodations can help alleviate this barrier to student learning.

  • See Recommendation 1.4 Flexibility & Accommodations for inclusive approaches to addressing accommodations for students with disabilities, as well as ways to integrate flexibility into your course design beyond individual accommodation plans.

Additional Resources

Background Information

What is this?

All students should have equal access to education in the course, and all students should feel a sense of belonging.

Why is this important?

Both in-person and online learning environments can be challenging for students to navigate, whether they need accommodations or not. Equity and inclusion in course design and teaching are key to the success, retention, and satisfaction of all students.

Where is this?

Equity and inclusion should be considered in all aspects of your course design and teaching.

Success Factor 2: Supporting Students

An inclusive learning environment is established when all students are supported in adapting to the structure, schedule, expectations, and technologies used in the course. Supporting students requires thorough communication about how their course is set up, what they have to do, how the course is run administratively, and what resources and services are available to help them succeed.

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