Inclusiveness in a learning environment depends upon the kinds of interactions that occur among you and your students. These interactions are influenced by course content; prior assumptions, and awareness of potential multicultural or physical issues in educational situations. Your knowledge about your students; and your decisions, comments, and behaviors during the process of instructing are important.
* Anticipate possible responses to controversial topics. Students should be encouraged to openly share their views during discussions, but be prepared to correct stereotypes and challenge students' assumptions and stop personal attacks when comments are exchanged. It can be a difficult task to reconcile the tension between challenging offensive speech and not suppressing free speech. Consider your own response to emotion in the classroom.
* Establish agreed upon guidelines early in the class. Keep discussion etiquette in check. Students may need to be reminded periodically of the rules, especially if their behavior suggests that they are ignoring them.
* Use a variety of methods to create learning groups. Group composition can have a significant impact on group functioning, which is why it's always wise to have a variety of methods on hand. Try assigning students heterogeneously across race, gender, or class, or mix them up randomly.
* Be careful about comments made during class lectures, discussions, and feedback during presentations. Be aware of the fact that comments that are not fully explained may inadvertently embarrass or promote inaccurate conclusions.
* Create a classroom climate that encourages and expects questions about and critiques of course content. Such a climate will help to create a norm of critical thinking that will facilitate the learning process for all students. As students share their critiques with the class, other students will benefit by being exposed to different interpretations, perspectives, and concerns regarding course material.
* Be open to students' reactions to course material, even when you feel uncomfortable with the manner in which they are expressed. Be prepared for students to publicly challenge inaccurate information about particular groups that appears in class readings, films, etc.
* Be aware of gender dynamics in classroom discussions. Monitor the occurrence of this type behavior.
* Maintain the role of facilitator. One of the challenges of teaching is maintaining the role of instructor under a variety of conditions. Examine your typical responses to conflict and find ways that you may admit your limits with respect to content areas while maintaining responsibility for the group process.
* Intervene when necessary. A safe learning environment is not only fostered but needs to be maintained. In many classes, there are critical moments that can confirm in students' minds how safe the classroom is, how committed is the instructor is to equitable participation and student learning.
The University of Texas at Arlington
Global Educational Outreach & Extended Studies
OSHA Education Center
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