Inclusive Teaching

What obstacles to student learning might you inadvertently be introducing into your classroom? How can you plan courses and lesson plans in ways that effectively anticipate a range of student abilities? What resources and practices can help you work with students who disclose learning disabilities? What are good strategies for fostering respect and understanding about learning disabilities within your classrooms?

Participants discussed all of these questions in a recent workshop with the CRLT Players on "(dis)Abilities in the Classroom." Using theater to prompt reflection and discussion, the session explored various challenges faced by U-M students with learning disabilities and provided concrete strategies for instructors to support students in navigating those challenges. As emphasized by this CRLT Occasional Paper, students with disabilities are attending and succeeding at U-M in increasing numbers. As our classroom communities become more diverse in this way, it's critical for U-M teachers to anticipate and respond productively to a range of student abilities in their classrooms.

During the workshop, participants brainstormed a wide range of teaching strategies that echo the best practices for inclusive teaching recommended by the CRLT Occasional Paper as well as U-M's Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office. As their Faculty Handbook--a great resource for all U-M teachers--explains, many strategies for anticipating or accommodating students with learning disabilities are simply good pedagogy.

Specific teaching practices suggested at the workshop include: Read more »

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What are effective ways to get to know my students and create a positive learning environment from the very beginning of the term? How can I pique students' curiosity about the subject matter? How can I set student expectations for active engagement in the course?

These are common questions we hear about the first days of class, an important time for setting the tone for what is to come in the term. CRLT offers many resources to help faculty and GSIs think carefully about getting the most out of the first days. These include tips for learning student names, activities for building community, and suggestions for ways to introduce course material and communicate expectations.

Other resources about inclusive teaching provide specific strategies for ensuring that you foster learning environments that include and enable all of your students, from the very beginning of the term. Indeed, inclusive teaching can begin before you ever walk into a classroom, as emphasized by these resources on course design and syllabus design.

As always, CRLT consultants are also available to work one-on-one with instructors. We're here to help you get your classes off to a great start.

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With the beginning of the semester just around the corner, many instructors are strategizing about how best to start productive classroom conversations. Students who speak even briefly at the beginning of a class meeting are more likely to participate in discussions going forward, and a well-chosen icebreaker can help everyone join in. As quick, low-stakes, and often fun activities that involve students at the beginning of a session, icebreakers can be a good way to learn about who's in the classroom, reduce anxiety, and engage all students in thinking together about course content.  

CRLT provides examples of icebreakers and guidance for using them in the Handbook on Departmental GSI Development. We also recently polled our Graduate Teaching Consultants (GTCs) to gather a list of their favorites. Here are some good ideas we received when we asked the GTCs to "tweet" us a particularly effective icebreaker they have used, seen, or heard about: Read more »

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Getting ready to meet your Winter Term classes? As you gear up for a new semester, it's a great time to make sure you're keeping a broad range of students in mind. CRLT provides many resources to help you effectively teach diverse students, no matter what your area of specialization. One of our "Preparing to Teach" resources, this page on Creating Inclusive Classrooms offers concrete guidance on several aspects of inclusive teaching, including:

  • course content
  • classroom dynamics
  • instructor assumptions

For additional resources to support your teaching of U-M's diverse student body, you can visit our Multicultural Teaching page or click on the "Multicultural Teaching" link at the bottom of any CRLT page. The printed version of our GSI Guidebook--distributed to everyone who attends one of our GSI Teaching Orientations and available to U-M instructors upon request--also contains helpful guidance on these issues, including the chapter "Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom" from Barbara Gross Davis's book Tools for Teaching. More general resources to help you finalize your Winter Term plans can be found on our Preparing to Teach page (under the "Resources and Publications" menu above).

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Research has demonstrated that students in classes dealing with social issues learn and retain more understanding about identities and power relations when they engage with one another, and when they are given the opportunity to connect discussion to their own experiences, identities, and their perception of identities.  That is, students inlecture learn and retain less than students in dialogue classes.

Moreover, research on learning also demonstrates the value of students engaging “desirable difficulties.”  That is, students in all classes have higher achievement levels and develop stronger cognitive skills when the course material attaches to their prior knowledge and when they have to grapple with material that is difficult (but within their reach). Teachers achieve these results by using carefully designed discussion questions to get students to engage with each other. Working through key concepts together and in varying contexts and conditions encourages them to apply their knowledge, to reconcile diffferent perspectives, and to hone their abilities to analyze more complex problems.  Read more »

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