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Inclusive Classrooms: What an inclusive classroom is and is not

"learn" carved in stoneThe goals of an inclusive classroom should not be creating a comfortable space, making students feel good about themselves, or ending each class meeting with a group hug.

In fact, learning and applying new ideas and skills, thinking deeply, grappling with complex issues and situations should be challenging, which doesn’t necessarily make students feel comfortable or good. The main goal of an inclusive classroom, like all others, should be about increasing student learning – the learning of all students.

Most of the practices that are seen as promoting “inclusive classrooms” are simply what are known to be good teaching practices. Students are more likely to take intellectual risks when there are clear goals and expectations, supportive and well-designed instruction, and a respectful learning environment. Faculty can be more effective when they recognize what students bring (and don’t bring) to the classroom in terms of background skills and knowledge in a content area and also the ways their culture and identities may affect them.

For example, one can learn more about student from the research findings from psychologist Claude Steele, who describes the many ways “stereotype threats” affect students from every cultural group and their performance in the classroom. He also suggests ways faculty and other campus staff can reduce the impact of stereotype threat.

Inclusive Classrooms is a faculty resource project spearheaded by Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Festle. This project was created out of a research-based recognition that students perform better if they feel they “belong.”  For more ideas and resources on how to foster inclusive classrooms in regards to both content and pedagogy, as well as to read about what other faculty are doing and student experiences visit the Inclusive Classrooms website.

Image by Flickr user Mark BrannonCreative Commons licensed BY-NC-SA 2.0

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