Equity and Inclusion
The pandemic highlighted barriers to student learning such as access to technology, a quiet remote learning environment, and resources to support their success. Instructors across higher education became more aware of how their course designs, expectations, and biases impacted the learning environment. By reflecting on and rethinking their practices, instructors worked to foster learning environments that were equitable and inclusive for all learners. They considered how course climate — the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environment of a class — impacts their students and worked to provide transparency, co-construct community agreements with their students, communicate openly, and make themselves accessible through virtual office hours. They strove to make their course material accessible and their assessments equitable. In all, they attended to the needs of their students, practicing pedagogies of care, and recognizing their students as whole.
What You Can Do
Removing barriers to learning requires reflecting on classroom climate, elements of course and assessment design, and teaching practices. The tips below provide a starting point. To take this reflective work a step further, schedule a one-on-one course consultation to discuss inclusive and anti-racist pedagogical practices, contact CTLfaculty@columbia.edu.
1. Foster a classroom community where all students feel a sense of belonging.
It is essential to foster a classroom community throughout the duration of your course so that all students feel a sense of belonging in the class. Students’ perception of the inclusiveness of a course can greatly impact their learning and overall success. Fostering this community might include icebreakers to help build rapport with and between students, developing community agreements and discussion guidelines, or even considering how you might navigate any potential HOT moments that could arise in the course.
2. Ensure equity across your course materials and assessments so that all students can succeed in the course.
To support the learning of all students and ensure their success in your course, make course materials accessible and assessments equitable. Consider alternative forms of assessments, as well as lower-stakes class assessments that engage students in active learning. Provide transparency as you assess student learning by sharing rubrics with your students and if applicable with your teaching and course assistants as this will help students know what to expect and ensure consistent grading.
3. Reflect upon your teaching practices and the feedback you receive from your students.
To ensure equity and inclusivity in your course, an important first step is to reflect on your own teaching practices: what are your pedagogical values? What identities are you and your students bringing into the classroom? In addition to your own reflections on the course, solicit student feedback early and often. Students appreciate having a voice in the classroom learning community and being heard. Share back the aggregate data with your students and any changes in the course that resulted from their feedback.
“I want my students to learn non-judgement, and I model that in the classroom by making sure that every student sees they have something to give, something to contribute. Everybody has value, regardless of their experience or background entering the class, and likewise, so do the patients in which we provide care.”
“Using the syllabus and class materials to share the values that I care about and that are important to me in terms of how the classroom should feel seems to go a long way. I think it makes both me and my students feel seen from the outset of the semester. Having some language in the syllabus about my values on anti-racist teaching and inclusion and talking about it in class helps set the tone.”
“I think George Floyd and other elements happening during the pandemic, where people realized “Hey, we’re not putting enough in our pedagogy around anti-racism,” really defined an anti-racist pedagogy movement at this time. I personally knew there needed to be curriculum changes; around this time, I added in positionality: who I am is going to define how and what I teach.”
Browse through the faculty narratives for more inspiration and to learn about how Columbia instructors brought equity and inclusion to the fore of their courses and prioritized the needs of all learners.