Inclusive Teaching

Helping Students Navigate Ramadan and Final Exams

RamadanWhile final exams are a stressful time for all U-M students, in the Winter 2020 semester, Muslim students will face an additional set of challenges. This year, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan will fall during finals (the full holiday runs from April 23-May 23), and students observing the holiday will be fasting from dawn to sunset. For many students this entails maintaining concentration and energy for exams that might fall late in the afternoon after waking up before dawn to have an early meal; having to postpone breaking the fast until after taking a late exam; or losing sleep while studying late into the night after breaking the fast.

Teaching in Tumultuous Times

Australia Bush Fire credit - Fredrick VanrenterghemWe wish we did not have so many occasions to provide guidance to instructors on teaching in tumultuous times. The campus community is beginning yet another new term amidst a range of distressing events:  from hate-based violence in the U.S. and around the world (including but certainly not limited to a series of anti-Semitic attacks in New York, a church shooting in Texas, and violence against Muslims in India), to environmental disasters in many parts of the world, to escalating conflict between the US and Iran. As we return from the break to the regular work of teaching and learning, many people in our community are feeling threatened and terrorized, grieving deeply, experiencing intense anger, or fighting a sense of despair at a swelling of hatred and violence in our nation and world. CRLT regularly re-posts the guidance below because it is important to remember that these emotions enter our classrooms, studios, and labs, and they can understandably and significantly affect students’ ability to focus on their learning and work with peers in our intellectual community. 

Gender Inclusive Practices for Your Teaching

Screen capture image of Wolverine Access interface for designating pronouns University of Michigan students identify across a full spectrum of gender identities and gender expressions.  As instructors, how can we cultivate gender-inclusive teaching and learning environments -- that is, environments that invite the full participation of students of all genders and respond to the harmful impact of gender stereotyping and misgendering on student learning?  

Instructors in any discipline can promote gender inclusivity in their courses by trying out some or all of the strategies below. This list is not exhaustive and represents just some of the many intentional practices you might incorporate into your curriculum, policies, classroom facilitation, and interactions with students. 

Transparent Teaching: A Focus of This Year’s Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan Series

What does ‘transparency’ mean in a teaching-learning context, and why is it a key principle featured in many CRLT workshops and resources about inclusive teaching? image of campus with many different students walking At its simplest, transparency means clearly communicating with students about course expectations and norms. As outlined below, such transparency can lead to more equitable learning experiences. That’s why transparency is the focus for this year’s Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan May workshop series. (Registration available here; for more details about both transparency and the May series, read on.)

Teaching in the Wake of Hate Incidents

We wish we did not have so many occasions to provide guidance to instructors on teaching in the wake of hate-based violence. As our campus processes the news coming out of New Zealand today, we offer this slight update of a blog from October.

In the wake of the massacre of worshippers at New Zealand mosques, many people in our communityPeople hold candles as they gather for a vigil in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. are feeling threatened and terrorized, grieving deeply, experiencing intense anger, or fighting a sense of despair at a swelling of hatred and violence in our world. These emotions enter our classrooms, studios, and labs, and they can understandably and significantly affect students’ ability to focus on their learning and work with peers in intellectual community.

Diversity and Inclusive Teaching Seminar

The Diversity and Inclusive Teaching (DIT) Seminar is co-developed by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) and The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR), with support from Rackham Graduate School and IGR. In this five-week seminar participants have the opportunity to learn about and practice a range of effective facilitation strategies for use in U-M's classrooms. We will focus on pedagogical techniques that productively engage instructor and student identities and experiences in the learning process, as well as balance different voices and views. We will also discuss strategies for managing resistance and conflict in the classroom.

Seminar objectives

This seminar will survey a broad range of diversity and identity-related issues that present themselves in classrooms and other learning environments. The curriculum over the five weeks will explore how social identities and diversity impact student and instructor experiences. The seminar will explore issues related to:

  • the relationship between instructor identity and inclusive teaching

  • balancing power and participation in the classroom

  • strategies for working through potential “hot moments” and conflict

Teaching with Student Veterans in Mind

US flag in the Diag

*updated November 7, 2018

During U-M's Veterans Week, it's a good time to reflect on the needs of our students who have served in the military. Did you know that record numbers of veterans are enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities--and many of them are here on U-M's campuses? Since January 2014, the university's tuition policy has allowed students who have served in the military to qualify for in-state tuition. If you teach at U-M, odds are good you've had or will have student veterans in your classroom.

How might your awareness of veterans in the classroom make a difference in your teaching? The research on student veterans suggests several strategies and cautions for teaching inclusively with veterans in mind. Here are a few:

Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series 2018: Engaging Undergraduates as Teaching-Learning Partners

In recent years, several colleges and universities have begun to include students more actively in faculty professional development opportunities, often engaging students to consult with faculty about both course planning and implementation. In a recent book on Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten delineate a range of positive outcomes of such student-faculty partnerships to improve teaching and learning.  As these authors argue, “Students have insights into teaching and learning that can make [instructors’] practice more engaging, effective, and rigorous” (2014).

image of campus with many different students walking We’d add that student insights can likewise contribute to teaching practices that are more inclusive and equitable. Drawing upon their experience learning from a range of instructors and alongside a range of peers, student consultants can offer perspectives on several key inclusive teaching principles, including:  how effectively course materials convey an instructor’s values related to equity and inclusion; how transparent the materials are about student learning objectives and evaluation criteria; and how they support a sense of social belonging for a broad range of students, especially those that too-often are not represented in or acknowledged by curricula and course materials in a wide range of disciplines.

This year, as part of our 2018 Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series (April 30 - May 4), CRLT will pilot two programs that include undergraduate student consultants as key partners for faculty who wish to think about course design in collaboration with students. These include:

Overview of Inclusive Teaching at Michigan

At all levels, from individual instructors to the upper administration, the University of Michigan has stated a commitment to inclusive teaching.  What does “inclusive teaching” mean at U-M? CRLT uses the following definition, which synthesizes a range of research related to teaching and learning as well as ideas collected in faculty focus groups:

Inclusive teaching involves deliberately cultivating a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel valued and supported in their learning. Such teaching attends to social identities and seeks to change the ways systemic inequities shape dynamics in teaching-learning spaces, affect individuals’ experiences of those spaces, and influence course and curriculum design.

Some key aspects of this definition to note:  1. This definition is relevant in every discipline, whatever your content. 2. Inclusive teaching requires intentional practice over time. As one participant in a CRLT faculty workshop stated, “Teaching inclusively is a mindset. You can’t think about it once and be done.” 3. Inclusive teaching does not describe any particular pedagogical approach but names a foundational intention that shapes your approach, whether you are lecturing, leading discussion, holding office hours, or facilitating team-based learning.