Fostering Inclusive Classrooms
Inclusive classrooms provide an environment where all students feel comfortable participating as their full and authentic selves and where each individual feels a sense of belonging and and support. But inclusive settings don’t just happen - they are cultivated through intentional practices where educators and students work together. For this reason, it’s important to consider how you will consider equity and inclusion throughout the teaching and learning process.
Similarly, it’s important for emerging healthcare professionals to work to create climates of inclusion with their patients and clients.
Setting the tone: It’s important to think about how you will work to cultivate an inclusive climate from Day 1 of class. One place to start is with inviting your students to introduce themselves by the name they would like to be called, their pronouns, and their learning goals for the class. Including diversity statements and information about student resources in your syllabus can be helpful in indicating your goals and values to your learners. Co-creating guidelines for discussions or learning contracts can establish clear expectations for the session, term, or block. But it’s also important to show students that you care about them as humans, not just as students; so think about ways that you can do periodic check-ins or temperature checks.
Leveraging Students’ Prior Experiences: Students don’t enter our classrooms as blank slates. They each come with their own goals and a plethora of life experiences, knowledge from prior classes or workplaces, preferences, concerns, and skills. Small group discussions can be a great way for students to learn from the diversity of background, thought, and identities present in the classroom. But sharing can also be vulnerable - so allowing student to engage with affinity groups can also be beneficial. No matter the format, it’s important to pay attention to the group dynamics and to intervene if necessary.
Providing multiple means of engagement: Principles from the Universal Design for Learning indicate the value of providing students with multiple ways of engaging with the material. For example, using captions or providing a transcript helps students who have hearing loss (those who know it and those who don’t), English language learners, and students sitting further from the speakers. This increases access to the content and will encourage more students to participate in the discussion that follows.