There are many aspects to creating an inclusive college classroom, from ensuring every student is participative and engaged in the course material, to providing opportunities for students to speak their minds based on their own worldviews and life experiences.
While the 1972 passage of Title IX greatly helped this cause, it is still up to professors to follow specific guidelines in order to foster collaborative and accepting classroom environments.
Here are several ways you can create an inclusive classroom environment on the collegiate level:
Tailor your course content to your audience
If you are fortunate enough to have control over the materials you use for your specific course, then you ought to take full advantage of that privilege. Shari Saunders and Diana Kardia suggest that you choose course materials that “include multiple perspectives on each topic of the course rather than focusing solely on a single perspective.”
Although this particular tactic may require additional research on your end, as not every textbook will be entirely inclusive, it will provide a more diverse classroom the opportunity to relate to and give feedback on the topic.
Create classroom rules and behavioral guidelines
These rules could include respecting and listening to differing opinions, maintaining an open mind, making an effort to get to know those who are different from oneself, and so on. By implementing such guidelines at the beginning of the semester, students will be more likely to adhere to them throughout the remainder of the course and be more receptive to conflicting worldviews.
Rid yourself and/or your students of any biases
Biases are an issue in and of themselves, so it should come as no surprise that racial, sexual, and other biases hinder all chances of increasing classroom inclusivity. It is best to combat these attitudes and assumptions by maintaining a neutral opinion of all students until you truly get to know them, their work ethics, willingness to participate, writing habits, strengths and weaknesses, and so on.
Do not get comfortable with your lack of knowledge of other cultural groups
Educate yourself on the people you are teaching, whether through outside research or by actually engaging in conversation with your students. Not only will you learn about them, their culture, and how they engage in cultural traditions and habits, but you will be able to better defend them against discrimination within the classroom as well.
Be aware of your students’ needs
This is true in all classrooms, not just those that host special needs or disabled students. Be sure to offer your students your time and guidance throughout the semester, assuring them that you are available to aid them no matter how large or small their issue is. Additionally, encourage your students to reach out to classmates for assistance as well, as this will foster the inclusive environment you are seeking to develop.