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Introduction

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is developing the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia. Learn more about the approach to the guide and the creation of the five principles below. 

On this page:

A Note from the Executive Director

“Creating equal and equitable access to learning opportunities is at the heart of the work the CTL does in service of Columbia’s commitment to learner-centered teaching. Inclusive pedagogies are pedagogies grounded in deep reflective practice and the resulting awareness of the implicit values and assumptions embedded in every decision we make about course design and classroom (both face-to-face and online) practices. It requires intentionality on the part of instructors and a willingness to question long-standing practices. It requires an unflinching examination of power and the dynamics between students and instructors, as well as those among the students themselves. But the results are worth this effort: a transparency of intention, explicit conversations about learning, and a sharing of the power and responsibility to make learning happen. This guide will help Columbia instructors begin this unpacking process and also empower them to make the kinds of intentional pedagogical choices that best suit their teaching contexts and their students. It will assist instructors in navigating the conversations around learning, content choices, grading, assessment and overall course design. It provides instructors with many ideas and strategies on how to create healthy communities where both learners and learning are respected, and where teachers and students are connected as collaborators in this learning process. With this guide, we invite you to join us on this journey.”

Catherine Ross, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, Columbia University

Why this Guide?

Inclusive teaching gets a lot of attention on college campuses. Instructors are increasingly expected to understand how course climate – the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environment of class – impacts their students and respond to calls for inclusive classroom environments from both students and administrators. These are not just matters of attending to students’ educational preferences; decades of research have demonstrated that learning does not occur in a vacuum, and students’ perceptions of class climate (whether they experience the classroom as supportive and inclusive, or “chilly” and marginalizing) can have a dramatic impact on their learning outcomes. Moreover, creating an inclusive teaching environment is beneficial for all students’ learning, because “many of the strategies that help foster a productive climate also encourage student development.”1

But creating a learning environment that supports all students can be challenging, especially when one considers the myriad ways in which inclusion and disinclusion can manifest themselves (for example, student-student interactions, faculty-student interactions, course content and policies, etc.). Although inclusion and diversity are important to most instructors, staff, and students, these topics are rarely discussed in a practical manner. This has left many faculty—even those with strong philosophical and pedagogical motivations—wondering “where do I begin?”

Our goal when creating the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia has been to help Columbia instructors answer that question by offering an overview of inclusive teaching principles with practical, accessible, usable strategies. We wanted instructors to learn about inclusive teaching principles and strategies, reflect on and improve their own classroom practices, and receive resources for further study and application all in one place.

This guide is appropriate for faculty and instructors who are familiar with inclusive teaching, as well as those beginning their journey to create an inclusive learning environment. The five principles are derived from evidence-based practices, so instructors can be assured that the tools and strategies they find here are informed by current research.

We also wanted to include strategies that instructors can use immediately. While some strategies may require a curricular redesign, instructors can make many changes to create a more inclusive environment immediately. Moreover, the principles outlined in this guide are flexible; instructors can implement the principles in a holistic manner, or take them individually and apply them in the manner that best suits them, their disciplines, and their students.  

Creating the Guide

The work to create this guide began in 2016, after the CTL held a one-day event called the Inclusive Teaching Forum. The Forum brought together faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students at Columbia to share their experiences of constructing and participating in inclusive teaching environments. Throughout the day, participants shared with other students and faculty about what inclusive teaching practices meant to them. Nationally-renowned expert Michele DiPietro delivered a plenary address about the relationship between inclusive classrooms and positive learning outcomes for students.

The CTL prepared two videos for the Inclusive Teaching Forum that captured various perspectives about inclusive teaching at Columbia and helped set a framework for the day’s discussions. Plenary speaker Dr. Michele DiPietro aligned inclusive teaching practices with research-based evidence into how learning works.

In order to continue our commitment to inclusion at Columbia, the Center for Teaching and Learning established an internal Inclusive Teaching Working Group. The Working Group determined that an inclusive teaching guide would be a helpful resource for the Columbia community, and appointed Drs. Christine Simonian Bean and Amanda M. Jungels as Co-Chairs of the Working Group and the effort to create the guide. We reviewed many of the resources, guides, books, and websites that are currently available to assess areas of overlap, similarities and differences and common themes. We also extensively consulted literature and research on inclusive teaching and learning.

Based on this exploration and research, the Working Group developed five principles that we believe exemplify inclusive teaching practices. Subsequently, each member chose a principle to research and write. Each principle underwent two rounds of peer review, and the entire guide was reviewed by several CTL staff members who are familiar with inclusive teaching practices, research, and theory. The final product—which we regard as an evolving work because the research on inclusive teaching is ongoing and iterative—is the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia, released online in Fall 2017 and in print in Spring 2018.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), we want to thank Provost John Coatsworth for his vision and leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion at Columbia University, both inside and outside of the classroom. His support has been instrumental in developing the guide and creating a campus culture that values inclusive teaching and learning for all. We also want to thank you for your interest in and commitment to inclusive teaching, and for taking time to read the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia. We at the CTL hope you, and your students, find it beneficial as we continue to work as a community to make Columbia University welcoming and inclusive to all. We invite you to contact our staff with questions, suggestions, or ideas for collaborating with us at CTLInclusiveTeaching@columbia.edu.

We would also like to thank our campus partners who assisted us in our research, planning, and outreach efforts, especially Vice Provost Dennis Mitchell, Assistant Provost Shana Lassiter, and Director Adina Berrios Brooks from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion who reviewed and gave counsel on the guide.

Christine Simonian Bean, Ph.D. and Amanda M. Jungels, Ph.D.
Assistant Directors, Faculty Programs and Services
Co-Chairs, Inclusive Teaching Working Group

Thank You

To the Authors of the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia:

Lucy Appert, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Faculty Programs and Services

Christine Simonian Bean, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Faculty Programs and Services
Co-Chair, Inclusive Teaching Working Group

Amanda Irvin, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Faculty Programs and Services

Amanda M. Jungels, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Faculty Programs and Services
Co-Chair, Inclusive Teaching Working Group

Suzanna Klaf, Ph.D.
Interim Director, Faculty Programs and Services

Mark Phillipson, Ph.D.
Director, Graduate Programs and Services

Special thanks to:

Center for Teaching and Learning
Catherine Ross, Ph.D., Executive Director
Ian Althouse, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Graduate Student Programs and Services
Caitlyn Esposito, Communications Manager
Andrew Flatgard, Learning Designer, Faculty Programs and Services
Michelle Hall, Director, Columbia University Medical Center Programs and Services
Lakshmi Nair, Learning Designer, Faculty Programs and Services
Marc Raymond, Senior Designer, Experience and Creative
A. Maurice Matiz, Senior Director

Footnotes

  1. Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2010, 180