Principles and Practices of Inclusive Pedagogy

If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!

During the 2017 “Principles and Practices of Inclusive Pedagogy” TLISI session, CNDLS staff members Joselyn Lewis, Michelle Ohnona, and James Olsen shared insights about ways to implement inclusive pedagogy practices in the classroom including definitions of inclusive pedagogy, their current inclusive pedagogy initiatives, and crowd-sourced resources and strategies for incorporating inclusive pedagogy in the classroom.

Setting the Stage
To begin the session, facilitators prompted the group to walk around the room, examining print-out slides featuring statistics about Georgetown students, their backgrounds, and the many identity groups of which they are a part. This exercise in empathy alluded to one of the central focuses of the session: the students’ experience, which inevitably permeates the boundaries of the classroom. In their book, “How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching” (Wiley-Bass, 2010), Susan Ambrose et. al describe this phenomenon:

“Even though some of us might wish to conceptualize our classrooms as culturally neutral or might choose to ignore the cultural dimensions, students cannot check their sociocultural identities at the door… Therefore, it is important that the pedagogical strategies we employ in the classroom reflect an understanding of social identity development so that we can anticipate the tensions that might occur in the classroom and be proactive about them.”

This discussion of the ways in which the student brings his or her multiple identities into the classroom serves as the basis of inclusive pedagogy, and kicked off the session.

Next, the group explored definitions for inclusive pedagogy. The session leaders admitted that definitions were something they struggled with—there are multiple ways to define how we create inclusive spaces in the classroom, or what those teaching strategies look like—but suggested “a” definition borrowed from Christine Hockings, a Professor of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Wolverhampton. In her 2010 article, “Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: A synthesis of research” Hockings defines Inclusive Pedagogy as:

“the ways in which pedagogy, curricula, and assessment are designed to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant, and accessible to all. It embraces a view of the individual and individual difference as the source of diversity that can enrich the lives and learning of others.”

The argument for inclusive pedagogy, then, is to make difference an explicit part of the teaching and learning experience in the classroom.

Examining Yourself and What You Bring
Inclusive pedagogy, alongside exposing and celebrating difference in the classroom, embraces self-awareness. The session leaders prompted the group to consider individual identities, biases, and presuppositions that they may bring into the classroom as teachers. What were the barriers that their students faced in participating fully? How might student identities shape learning processes? What skills might be highlighted by using different teaching methods? Ohnona pointed out that self-awareness also comes with a degree of self-acceptance as a practitioner, but not an expert, saying that being a practitioner of Inclusive Pedagogy is not the same as earning a workshop credential or taking a course. In the words of Bell Hooks, “To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn.” The first step to being an Inclusive Pedagogy practitioner is awareness of what one brings to the classroom as a teacher and a learner.

The Five Axes of Inclusive Pedagogy
Lewis, Ohnona, and Olsen then presented five axes of inclusive pedagogy, to generate strategies for incorporating this way of teaching into the classroom. The first was pedagogy: how do you ask students to engage with content? The second, content, addressed the materials used in the classroom. What theorists are given attention? Whose voices come forth in the syllabus? Third, the group discussed assessment, asking questions like, How do you assess ways of knowing? How can you diversify that assessment? The fourth axis, climate, asked members to consider what environment they create in the classroom— emotional, physical, intellectual— and how students were asked to engage with that space. Finally, the group addressed power: what are the power structures that exist in the classroom, and how can they be diversified?

The latter third of the session was dedicated to brainstorming strategies along these five axes of inclusive teaching and learning. In walking around to different notepads on the walls, participants jotted down ideas from their classroom experiences that provided inclusive and diverse methods of teaching. The session ended with a share-out of ideas and resources to make classrooms more responsive, attentive, and student-centered for the benefit of all.

At CNDLS, we are pleased to offer a series of Inclusive Pedagogy workshops throughout the year which can be found here. Additionally, we are happy to arrange a custom workshop for departments and offices on campus. Contact us to learn more about these opportunities. Our website includes a plethora of information about inclusive teaching and learning practices, as well.