Inclusive Classroom Practices

Photo credit: John Solem/UMass Amherst

Our Commitment to Teaching for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

UMass Amherst has a long-standing commitment to diversity and equity and we strive for an inclusive culture on our campus. We work to enhance students’ learning experiences and academic success across cultural, social, linguistic, and learning differences, with particular attention to the inclusion of historically underrepresented groups. For that to happen we want to support instructors in teaching effectively to a diverse range of students.

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Core Principles

As a campus community, we:

  • Embrace classroom diversity as an asset.
  • Adopt a strength-based approach to teaching and learning that recognizes the variety of strengths that students bring.
  • Actively engage students in their learning by meeting them where they are in their learning journey.
  • Recognize the full and diverse humanity of students and instructors.
  • Take responsibility for ensuring the classroom is an inclusive environment where ALL students feel a sense of belonging and an equitable opportunity to learn.


Design Your Curriculum with Diversity in Mind

Students are more motivated to learn when they can connect the course content and their learning to their personal experiences and interests (NASEM, 2018; Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009).

  • Choose course materials and create learning experiences that represent or draw on a variety of identities, voices and perspectives.
  • Use a multimodal approach to present course content (text, video, graphics, experiential learning, reflection).
  • Connect course content and learning activities to students’ lives.
  • Provide opportunities for students to share their own experiences, perspectives, and questions.
  • Ensure historically underrepresented and marginalized identities and voices are present and equitably depicted in your course by means of guest speaker, case study, student voice, readings, etc. 


Help all Your Students Learn

Part of our role as instructors is to demonstrate caring for our students’ academic success and to foster their growth and development.

  • Use a variety of approaches to engage students with the course content (models, examples, visuals, discussion).
  • Add assignments that allow various options for students to demonstrate their learning.
  • Provide a clear course structure and communicate clearly your expectations.
  • Add hyperlinks of important resources to your syllabus (resources from the campus, college or school, internet).
  • Provide opportunities for frequent feedback on students’ performance (from you and their peers). 


Cultivate a Learning Community

Research indicates that students who feel connected, respected, and have a sense of belonging are more motivated, more persistent and achieve higher academic success (NASEM, 2018)

  • Get to know your students using a questionnaire or icebreaker activities.
  • Use your students’ preferred names and pronouns that they identify on SPIRE.
  • Provide opportunities for students to learn from and with one another. 
  • Be approachable and connect with students personally. Congratulate students on their success, and support them in their failures. 

A Call to Action

  • Identify concrete ways through which you can teach inclusively.
  • Pick a class session to implement  your ideas.
  • Assess the efficacy of your ideas through peer and student feedback.
  • Reflect on what worked & what didn’t.
  • Tweak and try again. 
  • Continue this cycle of data driven continuous improvement towards teaching inclusively.

Campus Resources

Disability services provides faculty with guidance on providing classroom accommodations for students with disabilities.

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program provides resources for instructors working with English as Additional Language students.

Navigate – UMass Amherst’s Student Success Management System – offers a variety of tools intended to promote our students’ retention and persistence, including proactive appointment-based outreach, tracking interactions/documenting student interactions, and academic alert referral pathways.

The Stonewall Center offers many resources for supporting LGBTQIA+ students, including information for instructors on using non-gendered pronouns.

Web Resources

The following web resources offer advice on evidence-based inclusive teaching practices:

In the Chronicle of Higher Education’s (July 2019) Advice Guide Want to Reach of All of Your Students? Here’s How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive, Viji Sathy and Kelly A. Hogan provide an overview of instructional strategies that support inclusive course design and teaching.

Columbia University’s (2018) Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia offers many practical, accessible, and usable strategies for immediate classroom use.

The website UDL on Campus – Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education provides resources on course design around learner variability and accessibility.

Teaching in Higher Ed features podcast interviews with faculty on a variety of topics including inclusive pedagogy, universal design for learning, and cultural competence.

University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching presents an overview of research, principles and strategies for inclusive teaching and a blog on inclusive teaching strategies.

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides a handout on Gender-Inclusive Language.

Research Resources on Inclusion and Equity

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine documents evidence-based consensus on Supporting Students’ College Success – The Role of Assessment of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Competencies in its 2017 Consensus Study Report.

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University provides research on implicit bias and bias mitigation strategies.