Diversity and Inclusion Web Resource

Supporting Diverse Learners through Inclusive Teaching

The Suffolk student body is exceptionally diverse, and as an instructor, you have the opportunity to create a positive, productive learning environment that leverages your students’ differences. This page aims to provide you with tips, strategies, terms, and resources related to teaching inclusively to diverse learners. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact us at ctse@suffolk.edu – we will be happy to help support you.

Student-centered teaching strategies:

  1. Emphasize the importance of diverse approaches and viewpoints. Students will gain a richer learning experience if they are asked to consider viewpoints and interpretations of material that differ from their own. Self-evaluation can be a valuable opportunity for student reflection.
  2. Integrate culturally diverse and relevant examples. By connecting diverse examples to the material at hand, instructors create an inclusive environment and enhance the learning experience for all students.
  3. Allow students time to think and write. Many students benefit from having time to process information. Giving students a few minutes to collect their thoughts or write a response before calling on them can encourage participation and promote a more equitable opportunity for discussion.
  4. Convey high standards and express confidence in students’ ability to meet standards. Critical feedback can be used to reflect the instructor’s high expectations of students while communicating confidence that students can achieve those expectations.
  5. Treat each student as an individual. Group labels and assumptions can be inaccurate and damaging for students. By treating each student as an individual, instructors foster a safe and respectful learning environment.
  6. Establish a classroom community and expectations at the beginning. By clarifying expectations early about student discussion, collaboration, respect, and support, instructors can foster a safe, positive learning environment. If students are involved in the process of setting these expectations, as this will give students ownership over their classroom experience.
  7. Encourage a growth mindset. When talking with students about their performance in class or on exams or assignments, avoid describing such performance as a sign of “natural ability” (or lack of ability). Speak with them about the extent to which experiences of academic faltering can provide opportunities to grow and improve. Create an environment in the classroom or laboratory in which it is okay to make mistakes and where faltering can lead to deeper learning.

Relationship to strategic plan/mission/initiative:

Inclusive teaching is directly related to Suffolk University’s Strategic Plan Imperative 5: Building a cohesive community committed to diversity, sustainability, and impact on the region. Classrooms can serve as communities of learning in which diversity is leveraged, encouraged, and showcased. Student learning will be most productive in an environment in which students feel respected and in which different perspectives are represented.

Relationship to how learning works:

Our students are different from one another along many dimensions, and these differences can impact their learning experience in a number of ways. Here are a few:

  1. Students’ cultural, academic, and socio-economic backgrounds can impact their preparedness to navigate a college classroom, including their effectiveness at studying, their inclination to reach out for help, their comfort with speaking up during a class discussion, and their familiarity with pre-requisite content.
  2. Students may experience stereotype threat, which occurs when one feels at risk of confirming a negative stereotype threat associated with their group. For example, women experience negative stereotypes regarding mathematic ability, and the anxiety associated with fulfilling the stereotype can result in lowered student performance (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999).
  3. When the course climate (i.e., learning environment) feels marginalizing – for example, when students feel their perspectives are discouraged, when a range of perspectives is absent from course content, or when students experience microaggressions – student learning is negatively impacted (Ambrose et al., 2010). Not only do their attitudes towards academics suffer, but their cognitive development does as well (Pascarella et al., 1997, Whitt et al., 1999).

Additional resources:

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010) How learning works: seven research-based principles for smart teaching San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 35, 4-28.

Pascarella, E., Whitt, E., Edison, M., & Nora, A. (1997). Women’s perceptions of a “chilly climate” and their cognitive outcomes during the first year of college. Journal of College Student Development, 38(2), 109-124.

Whitt, E., Nora, A., Edison, M., Terenzini, P., & Pascarella, E. (1999). Women’s perceptions of a “chilly climate” and cognitive outcomes in college: Additional evidence. Journal of College Student Development, 40(2), 163-177.

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