211. What Inclusive Instructors Do

Our students bring a rich diversity in their life experiences, skills, and prior knowledge to our classrooms. In this episode, Tracie Marcella Addy, Derek Dube, Khadijah A. Mitchell, and Mallory E. SoRelle join us to discuss how we can create inclusive classroom communities in which student diversity is treated as an asset and where all students feel a sense of belonging. Tracie, Derek, Khadijah, and Mallory are the authors of What Inclusive Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching.



John: Our students bring a rich diversity in their life experiences, skills, and prior knowledge to our classrooms. In this episode, we discuss how we can create inclusive classroom communities in which student diversity is treated as an asset and where all students feel a sense of belonging.


John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…

Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners..


John: Our guests today are the authors of What Inclusive Instructors Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching. Could you each introduce yourselves to our listeners?

Tracie: Absolutely, my name is Tracie Addy and I’m the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Derek: Hello, I’m Derek Dube. I’m an Associate Professor of Biology and the Director for the Center for Student Research and Creative Activity at the University of St. Joseph in Connecticut.

Mallory: I’m Mallory SoRelle, and I’m an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Khadijah: Hello, my name is Khadijah Mitchell. I am the Peter d’Aubermont Scholar of Health and Life Sciences and Assistant Professor of Biology at Lafayette College.

Rebecca: Today’s teas are… Tracie, are you drinking any tea today?

Tracie: Yes, I’m actually drinking Twinings peppermint tea. I like peppermint.

Rebecca: Yum!

Derek: Today I am just drinking your standard run-of-the-mill tap water.

Rebecca: Always a good option.

Mallory: I’ve got some green tea with lemongrass and mint today because I needed a little kick of caffeine

Rebecca: A mint team around here.

Khadijah: Well, I really don’t need to be drinking caffeine. [LAUGHTER] So I am drinking AHA sparkling water. It’s orange and grapefruit.

John: And I am drinking Twinings mixed berry black tea, because I need a bigger kick of caffeine.

Rebecca: I got here late and didn’t have time to make tea, and it’s really hot, and so I have a glass of water. And this is the first time I’ve ever not had tea for Tea for Teaching. But this is a very inclusive crowd, so I know it’s going to be okay.

John: Could you tell us a little bit about the origin of this book project?

Tracie: Yes, I can share about that. So, we were very interested in a lot of different research questions around inclusive teaching, for example: What predicts whether instructors adopt inclusive teaching? What are the barriers that they face? As well as, what can we do to kind of move this forward at institutions? So initially, we were very kind of research-minded, and we noticed that there were other questions that we could explore. Also, in our study, that I know later one of my co-authors will talk about in more depth. And those questions were, “What do inclusive instructors do?” So we ended up collecting a lot of really interesting information about the practices of inclusive instructors. And so that led us to think… Wow, wouldn’t it be wonderful to put this all together into a beautiful story that included the voices of instructors, that included instructors across disciplines, across institution types, across ranks, etc., and put it together in a guide that would really be practical, that would help instructors really think about inclusive teaching in a very practical way? So that essentially initiated this project. And I invited my co-authors who are joining today to partake with me in this project to write the book, and I thought of each of them for very specific reasons. And I value, very much so, their contributions and what they did around inclusion. And we kind of put it all together, and we worked together on this great work. Now, this is also coupled with more studies, some of which have been published as well, that kind of get into this big picture, thinking about inclusive teaching, thinking about… What do we do? How do we do it? And then even further, How do we actually enact it? What are the barriers we face? And how do we overcome or address those barriers?

Rebecca: Can you talk a little bit about what inclusive teaching is, and why it’s important, to kick off our conversation today?

Tracie: Yes and I think it’s so important to define our terms here so that everybody starts off on the same page. So when we talk about inclusive teaching, and especially in the book What Inclusive Instructors Do, we’re talking about teaching that is creating a classroom environment that’s welcoming, so students feel a sense of belonging to the actual classroom setting. And we’re also talking about, that it’s equitable, and it’s thinking about the diversity of learners, and it’s very responsive to that diversity in the classroom. So we’re kind of joining here, this idea of belonging, as well as this idea of equity together, and all the practices, which are many, that we can actually use in our classrooms to be inclusive. And with regards to, “Why is it important?”… inclusive teaching has always been important. Inclusive teaching is excellence in teaching. We publish this book now, but this has historically always been a critical area to think about in teaching and learning. And some of the reasons why… well first, there’s a history of exclusion at institutions of higher education, some are able to be educated and have these experiences, and some are not. And there’s also a lot of good research around thinking about that and belonging. There’s clear research that ties belonging to academic achievement, it ties it to wellbeing for students, and many other important things that we know are really important for students’ success in college. Also, we teach diverse students in many of our institutions. So it really behooves us to really think about that and that diversity. And so it’s important now, it’s always been important. I know, with all of the things happening in our nation, there have been more calls and more attention towards inclusion and equity. But I will say, as I’ve said already, that it’s always been important to actually have environments in our classrooms that students feel as if they belong. We know that that’s a place where students can feel excluded.

John: You also conducted a survey of faculty about inclusive teaching practices. Could you tell us a little bit about the survey that you used?

Derek: Sure. So I’m happy to share a bit about that. Now, as Tracie had mentioned, there’s four of us that worked as co-authors on this book, and we all have different experiences, and backgrounds, and expertises, and roles at our institution. But we didn’t want this book to be just our voices and our four experiences, we wanted it to be much more than that. So with that in mind, we dove into the literature around inclusive teaching—what’s published, what’s the research out there—but really to figure out what’s going on right now and what are inclusive instructors doing, we wanted to have as broad a swath as possible. So working together we created a national survey on inclusive teaching, an inclusive teaching questionnaire, and we shared this both directly to various institutions of various different rank and style, master’s institutions, doctoral institutions, community college liberal arts institutions. We also connected with listservs, and social media, and directly with instructors as ways to share this out. This survey was given for about a month to two months in early 2019. And in the end, we ended up having about 566 participants that had started the survey, over 300 of which reached the end of the survey, and over 200 of which responded to all of the questions that we asked. And it was really interesting, because when we looked at the demographics and the backgrounds of those who responded, we saw a wide range of individuals from different types of institutions, male and female, various backgrounds, various disciplines, whether they were tenure track or not, and also the fields that they worked in. So we really felt like we got a good feel of a variety of different instructors being able to speak to what inclusive teaching means to them, what they’re doing, and how they see it at their institution. Also, geographically, we had respondents from the northeast, from the southeast, from the northwest, from the southwest, and everywhere in between, which was really nice to see as well. So when we did this survey, as Tracie mentioned, we had a few different things that we wanted to know some of them were… What are instructive pedagogies? What are inclusive instructors doing right now? But also, What are barriers they’re facing? What experiences for training have they had? How confident do they feel in their own ability to teach in equitable and inclusive ways? So all of these things were pieces of information that we were able to get from this broader swath and bring in and really pull in and really allow, in a lot of ways, those voices to be the voice of the book.

John: So a very inclusive approach to developing a book on inclusive teaching.

Derek: That was the idea, yeah.

Rebecca: In your first chapter of the book, you suggest that faculty should treat student diversity as an asset rather than employing deficit models that we definitely have experienced in our own educations and perhaps in our institutions. Can you describe ways that faculty can convey this message to students through their instructional practices and actually take advantage of these assets?

Mallory: Sure thing, that’s a great question. So, the idea that we should approach differences in background, experience, personality, skill sets, as an asset to the learning environment, something that improves the learning environment instead of a challenge to be overcome or an obstacle we have to deal with, was one of the most, I think, significant themes that comes out both in the scholarship around inclusive teaching, but also in the words of the folks in our survey. And a lot of examples came out in people’s responses about how they go about doing this in practice. And that begins with course design and syllabus with things like incorporating diverse perspectives in the material you’re assigning in class to demonstrate the value of these different perspectives. It comes from incorporating welcoming statements in a syllabus that explicitly state the value of multiple perspectives in the classroom and devising participatory strategies that are designed to bring those out. It also includes trying to build assignments that take an asset-based approach. I’ll give you an example of one, in a group project where you ask students to identify some of their different strengths: Are you good at researching? Are you good at writing? Are you good at editing? Are you good at presenting? And putting groups together that assemble students who identified different strengths and having them talk about those. The idea that not all students have to be good at every one thing, that we all bring these different strengths to the table. And one of the things that I think is really important for this asset-based approach is knowing something about what those assets are in your classroom. And that requires knowing something about who is in your classroom. So one of the things we also talk about in the book that I think is a good tool for helping to treat diversity as an asset set in the classroom is what we call a “Who’s in Class?” form, which is a form that can be given anonymously to students at the beginning of the semester, to just help and identify what are some of the social identities in the classroom, some of the skills people bring to the classroom, some of the different perspectives that students are bringing to the classroom, to give instructors more of a sense of what that diversity is, and how that can be used over the course of the semester to really improve the learning experience for everyone.

Rebecca: So I’m curious, with a survey like that to learn who’s in the classroom, are those results something that we should be sharing out to students and having a conversation about?

Mallory: Yeah, so I’ll take that and also open it up to Tracie, because she’s done a lot of work in the development of this form. I think the goal is to distribute this, allow anyone who wants to participate anonymously to participate, and then, yes, to share back the aggregate takeaways to the class, because it lets other students know who else is in this class with them. And particularly, I think, for students who might feel like there’s something they’re bringing to the table that maybe they don’t know other students are also bringing to the table. It’s a way of saying, like, “Look, there are lots of folks who are both like you and lots of folks who are not like you. And that’s going to be something that’s going to help us throughout the class this semester.”

Tracie: And I guess I’ll piggyback on that a bit. And I will say, you definitely can share it with your class. I think the important thing is letting your students also know that in aggregate, we will be sharing this. And also, if there’s certain things on there that really does it make sense to share with everybody? …having that discretion too. Because students will share lots of different things on that form, and some of it can be used to introduce this conversation, like Mallory said, and to really think about the diversity of the class. And I know also Khadijah has done things of that nature, she’s actually used the form in her class and done things like that, and has had a lot of positive feedback from students, with that regard. Derek might have done too, I’m not sure, but… [LAUGHTER] I know Khadijah has voiced that to me as well. So I think it’s a good opportunity to really think about who’s in class and a safer way for students… students will often feel more comfortable sharing in that type of format than just asking them without that kind of anonymity tied to it.

Derek: And I can actually just chime in a little bit here too. One of the ideas that Mallory brought up, and then Tracie added to, was getting to know your students. It’s really hard to teach your students in a meaningful and inclusive way if you don’t know who your students are. So finding ways to do that, especially early on in a course—really early, the earlier the better—was really important to us. And that’s where the “Who’s in Class?” form was born. It was born as a way to instead of waiting for, “Okay, I’m going to meet and learn my students throughout the semester, maybe get to know them more at the end with evaluations and things like that,” …what can we do right away? And because the students may not necessarily know us right away, or what our intentions are, we thought that the “Who’s in Class?” form could be most powerful as an anonymous and aggregated way of collecting data. Where students could feel safe, that their privacy was protected, that they could share that information that they wanted the instructor to know, but maybe didn’t want them to know about them in specific. So that’s why we moved that way. Now, in thinking about getting to know your students and being able to really, in a directed way, be inclusive and equitable and support different students with different needs, we do believe that moving from anonymous to a more non-anonymous way of getting that information can be important in a lot of situations. But we think that it’s best when it’s student-directed, when the students decide that they’re comfortable to share that information with the instructor, that’s the time when it’s most likely most appropriate. The “Who’s in Class?” form can be a way to ease into sharing information in a safe way. And then you come, you talk to your class about, “Why did we do the ‘Who’s in Class?’ form? What did we learn in aggregate?” And then you open up and say, “I’m here to extend these conversations, to continue these discussions. I have office hours that are open that you’re welcome to come to and talk to me if there’s any specific thing here that you want me to know that directly relates to you.” I know that Khadijah, at least, has, in some of her courses, used situations where there’s essentially mandatory office hours, I think right in the beginning, like little meet-and-greets where it’s only 5 minutes or 10 minutes, but you’re going to come in and you’re going to meet and you’re going to have an opportunity to talk. And you can share what you want to during that time, but you’re going to get that face-to-face time. And maybe she can talk about that more in a moment or two. But other things that I’ve done, if you have large classes where maybe there’s not a ton of time to have individual meetings with every student, in a lot of my classes, one of the first assignments is an online discussion board using our learning management system, which in my case is Blackboard, where students make a post about themselves and some information about not only them academically, but also their hobbies or interests. They post a picture either of themselves or something that represents themselves. And then there’s an opportunity and encouragement for students to reply in meaningful ways to each other, to get to know each other, because it’s not just about the instructor knowing who’s in the class, but it’s about the class knowing who’s in the class too, for it to be the most positive experience. So that’s been really beneficial. And I as an instructor then take time, and I can do it at nine o’clock after my kids are in bed, to make sure that I respond to each student in a meaningful way and try and make connections where I can, “Oh, you like science fiction, well I’m currently reading this series, we should talk about that sometime,” or things along that line. So I think that starting in a safe, anonymous way like the “Who’s in Class?” form can be a great way to get that ball rolling and, if the students feel comfortable and feel like it would be meaningful, allow them to break that anonymity border by offering opportunity.

John: We’ve been running a reading group along with SUNY Plattsburgh, and this was a topic that was discussed really extensively in one of our meetings, where there was pretty much a consensus that there’s a purpose for both an anonymous form to let people express things that they might not be comfortable revealing, but then also giving students the opportunity to share either with just the instructor, perhaps through meetings, or if it’s a larger class, a discussion forum, or Flipgrid, or VoiceThread, or some other way where they can share their identities with other people. And I think the consensus was, there’s a good purpose for each of these, and some combination might be really helpful.

Khadijah: One thing I just want to add on to what everyone is saying is that the “Who’s in Class?” form has been transformative for my classroom spaces. And I know Derek brought up something about large class size and thinking about large classes, it even can help with that. But I think we also need to think about the other end of the bell curve, very small classes, because even though someone may be not identified, there’s some aspects of their identity that could then disclose who they are. So I think that we also need to be mindful of that. For example, clearly there are visible aspects of our identity that would be able to disclose what a particular student was in a small setting, that would not be as much of an issue with a large setting. But I do think that there is so much power in that. And speaking to what Derek mentioned about the essential office hours, so for every class that I teach, I do use the “Who’s in Class?” form and these essential office hours. And even though the “Who’s in Class?” form is anonymous, people do share with me during these essential office hours, and it really fosters a greater classroom environment in that way.

Rebecca: I love the name essential office hours, I love the emphasis on the “essential.”

Tracie: Absolutely. And I was going to share that the development of the “Who’s in Class?” form was with collaboration with students too. So I asked a number of students about this form, as we were going through the process of creating it, from questions like, “Are these questions that we should ask? How should we implement it or administer this? Would they answer these questions?” And so that was also very helpful. But I will say that working with a number of instructors on the “Who’s in Class?” form in my center, there are a number that actually do have a separate form as well that’s course specific, that’s not anonymous, they add additional questions on that. And then we have all these wonderful variations that, like Khadijah said, the essential office hours and other ways to get to know students, which I think, John, well you mentioned, I think is obviously fabulous. There’s all these different avenues for students to be able to share aspects of themselves with not only the instructor, but as Derek mentioned, with the class. What a wonderful thing that is for building a more inclusive classroom.

John: Once you have this data on who’s in your class, how can you use that to convince students that the diversity of the class is actually an asset to the class? What sort of methods could you use to help convey that message? In particular, how can you avoid issues such as stereotype threat?

Khadijah: Well, I can speak to the first part of your question, John, I think about: what can you do with this data? So I actually summarize the data, and we have a little PowerPoint presentation, and I share that back out to the class so that we appreciate this diversity. I also then go tweak and tailor my classroom to the students that are in the room. So if there are particular issues that may be salient to that group and that population, then we address that as a learning community together. Thinking about stereotype threat, so this is really important, particularly in the discipline that I’m in, in STEM disciplines. So when we think about stereotype threat, we normally think about negative stereotype threat. And that’s the perceived risk of confirming negative stereotypes about a particular social group that a student may be assigned. And what it leads to is this imbalance of how the student’s sense of self, which is typically positive, versus this inconsistent expectation of whatever group that they fall into. And so this is really, really pronounced when we think about various academic disciplines, and notably people who’ve done work in STEM. And what happens is this leads to worse academic performance or a threatened or less of a sense of belonging. So things like the “Who’s in Class?” form that can help with that sense of belonging. I think that there are several evidence-based approaches that we use to mitigate this impact in effect. And the first is really thinking about self-affirmation. So there are a lot of the instructors in our study, and we see the voices in the book. We talk about reinforcing the students’ feelings of integrity and self-worth and that this self-affirmation dramatically reduces the effects of negative stereotype threat. And we know that this can change achievement gaps and bolster this sense of belonging along with initiatives like using this “Who’s in Class?” form. I think one thing to keep in mind is, although we often talk about negative stereotype threat, there also is positive stereotype threat. And so, one way, as instructors, we can combat that, is thinking about the stereotype content model, because this allows for both types of stereotypes. And what happens is this model is a psychological model that’s based on perceptions of warmth and competence. And thinking about particular stereotypes as high or low warmth and competence. And, in particular, we know that inclusive instructors realize that harm can arise from either one of these and depending on visible and invisible identities. So what happens is you can use this stereotype content model across different types of courses, levels, times to acknowledge and reflect on the individual’s own stereotypes, to offer apologies for students that may have resulted in harm, and to carry out actions that would re-establish welcoming spaces. So we like to think about the stereotype content model can be coupled with these three As: acknowledge, apologize, and act. And so that would just be examining your own background and experiences, and apologizing if there’s been any type of misspoken or things that weren’t addressed, and thinking about how to act and take action in the face of some of these stereotypes.

Rebecca: So as we start thinking about some of these ideas, how do we start building these inclusive principles into our course designs? We’ve talked a little bit about the openers, considering some of these ways of acknowledging and recognizing who’s in our spaces, and who’s in our classes, and who’s in our community. But how do we make sure that we continue that thread of inclusivity throughout the entire semester?

Mallory: So I think course design is a really critical tool for inclusive teaching, and particularly the way that manifests in a syllabus. So I’m a political scientist by training, I like to think of a syllabus as a little bit of a constitution. It’s kind of the founding document of your class. It tells us what our common purpose is, it tells us who’s part of this community, it tells us how we act within that community, what we owe to one another, how we participate in that community, and really what we’re doing. And all of those are really integral questions if we’re thinking about inclusive teaching. So in the survey, I would say there are three really broad themes that came out of people’s responses to how they try and enact inclusive practices in syllabus design. And so the first one was really trying to demonstrate that everyone has a place in the field. We think back to what Tracie was saying earlier about belonging, being important, this is an obvious tie-in to that. And so perhaps the most frequent comment that got made in the survey was, probably unsurprisingly, “We should incorporate diverse perspectives on the syllabus,” and also in other course artifacts throughout the semester, but particularly on the syllabus. So that’s one way to demonstrate that everyone has a place in the field. The next big theme that came out was encouraging everyone to play a role in the learning process. And so we could think about that as another form of fostering belonging, but I would also say that’s part of the equity piece as well, providing space for everyone to be an active part of this particular learning community. And so there were a few different ways that came out in people’s responses. So one idea was encouraging everyone to play a role in the learning process by essentially just setting a tone that this will be an inclusive classroom in the syllabus language. So that could incorporate something like having a welcoming or a diversity statement directly in your syllabus. It could also just be the tone of the language you use. Is the language hierarchical? “The professor will do this and the student will do this,” or is it more inclusive? Is it, “Hey, we are doing this, [LAUGHTER] we will talk about these things, we will tackle these assignments.” Another piece of that puzzle was about setting citizenship expectations. If we want everyone to play a role in the learning process, we want to set some expectations for how we’re going to treat one another while we’re doing that. And I think a lot of syllabi are good at setting expectations for what students owe to their faculty. But, one of the things that we talked about a little bit in the chapter that addresses this is also that a syllabus is a good place to set expectations for how students treat one another, but also what faculty owe to students. And so, again, sort of leveling that playing field and establishing we are all in this community, we all play a really important role, we will all have give and take and here’s the responsibilities we have to one another. And then the third theme that came out, in thinking about inclusive course design, was essentially promoting the conditions for everyone to be successful in the course. So that really nails that equity piece. And so, one of the one of the big-picture ways that people implement this is to think about a syllabus as an opportunity to explain to students, not only what you’re doing, which I think most syllabi do a pretty good job of, but also how you can go about doing that successfully, and critically why we’re doing this. So the “what” is sort of setting clear expectations, so that everyone is on the same page about what we’re all trying to accomplish. The “how” is potentially providing resources to help students accomplish those goals. So directing them to the library, directing them to a writing center, if such a center exists. That could also include things like mental health resources to help students navigate the semester, particularly in the past two years that we’ve been having, those can be especially critical. And then also that last one, the “why,” giving a rationale. We all have reasons, hopefully we have reasons, for designing courses in the way that we do. But we often don’t explain those to students. And I think we often forget that students aren’t inside our heads and don’t really know why we’re asking them to do things in a particular way. And so part of setting the conditions for people to be successful is to explain why we’re doing the things we’re doing to students so that they can make strategic choices when they’re in our courses and are trying to be successful in those courses. And then the other really important theme that came out when thinking about promoting conditions for everyone to succeed is, perhaps unsurprisingly, trying to make sure your course design and syllabus are accessible to as many groups as possible. That’s another way that the “Who’s in Class?” form can come in really handy because there are a lot of ways in which we might try to make something accessible to one group that inadvertently becomes less accessible to another. So knowing something about who is in your class, and what some of the accommodations they might need are, can really help you make strategic choices about how to be as accessible as possible. So those were really the big-picture things that came out about how to make your course more inclusive through the design of a syllabus.

Rebecca: Mallory talked a bit about syllabus design and setting a good tone up front, and the survey does that as well. So what are some things that we can do at key touchpoints throughout the course of the semester to keep this feeling of inclusion continuing and that sense of belonging continuing throughout the semester?

Khadijah: So that’s a great question. I would say that welcoming students begins even before the course starts, even before they lay eyes on the syllabus. So I think that you can set this positive tone, you want to think about it like a greeting card, to promote belonging from the beginning. And so we talked about the “Who’s in Class?” form, but even having a video that would welcome them to the course, kind of like a trailer for your class at the beginning. There are things like the physical environment, thinking about that if you’re in person, but if you’re online, think about what are the first images that someone sees when they log on to your learning management course or the course website. Thinking about what type of activities would emphasize diversity and equity and inclusion. And that would be at the beginning, such as the “Who’s in Class?” form, but throughout the semester. And so I think that those things are carried out. Building the relationships with the students are also important throughout the semester. But at the end, I think we never think about how the students, even at the end of a course, feel welcome. It’s never too late. So even on the last day of class, you can highlight as an inclusive instructor, and we saw this throughout our work, how much you’ve learned from the students themselves and thanking them for how much that they taught the instructor. And thinking about, by having this equitable participation that Mallory brought up, that acknowledging that at the end of a course, actually affirms them in their abilities. It encourages them to see themselves as members of that community of practice, and we know this is critical for various disciplines. And wrapping up with giving students a way to reflect and give feedback on how welcome they felt in that environment. And that is really critical, that feedback that they give, for helping make future classrooms more inviting.

John: And you also advocate not just doing that at the end, but also getting feedback from students regularly throughout the semester, I believe. Could you talk a little bit about how you might do that efficiently?

Khadijah: Exactly. So, I think when we think about content, we think about formative and summative assessment. It’s the same thing with the sense of belonging. So you can do a mid-semester check-in. That could be a formal survey, or it could be something as simple as, “What’s working?” I typically take a piece of paper and say, “What’s going great so far?” and “What would we like to work on as a community?” And so that gives equal onus in the shared space in the classroom. But it lets the students know that I’m hearing them and that they belong and what they’re saying is important.

Rebecca: That mid-semester check-in often times well with thinking about advisement and registration for next semester too. So I could imagine really reinforcing a sense of belonging before the continuity of the next semester, or thinking or planning for the future can actually be really useful. And it’s not something I had thought about before, but when you were talking about the end-of-the-semester sense of belonging, our advisement time is coming up right now and registration. So I’m thinking that right now is a really good time to just reinforce and underscore these ideas to make students feel like they really do belong in the spaces that they want to occupy.

John: One of the things we really appreciated in your book was the use of reflection questions. This is something that is really rare in books directed at professional development for faculty. And it probably shouldn’t be, because we all know the benefits of reflection. Could you talk a little bit about the importance of reflection in learning, both for students and for faculty?

Tracie: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and I’m very happy that you appreciated that. We were thinking very intentionally as we were thinking about designing the book in that phase. And you can kind of see there’s like a part one, a part two, a part three, and then these reflection questions embedded throughout, and then also in aggregate at the end of the book too. And so, in general, as you mentioned, reflection is so critical. We know in the science of learning that we need to take these points in time and moments to really think about our learning, to really make sense of it, and see that meaning that we’re making of it, and that we have or are growing. And so, in our book, we thought, it’s so important, this material, that we want you to think about it further. And, as an educational developer myself, I was thinking about all the people also reading the book, and I was like, “Oh, if we were in a setting, like a workshop or something like that, I could ask these questions. Like what would I ask for application or reflection?” And I’d want to have that. And thinking about the book, and talking with my co-authors about thinking about these reflection questions, it was kind of similar where it’s like “Let’s add these in, so that there are these opportunities to actually engage in that process.” With inclusive teaching in general, there’s so many things to think about, to think about how we do it, what we do. And we gave so much information that it was so important, I think, to process it and to allow time points for stopping to actually start to think about it further. The other thing that we thought about in terms of the reflection questions is that we know that, in our bigger study, we found that there are lots of barriers that instructors described to inclusive teaching. One of them was resources, another was discussions, and whatnot. And so, by embedding these reflection questions, it also has easier access if there is a discussion—or a book club, or reading, or opportunities—to actually take this book information and bring it back and talk about it in a community at their institution, whatever that might look like. And so that’s another reason we did include them too. And I think we later decided to include the aggregate too, but I think that was also helpful. And then also just being able to pick through those which you probably want to emphasize more and have that option to do so. Some might resonate more with some than others. So all of that to say that, that’s why we put it in there and I agree that I think it’s a really good thing in books to include that. Especially these types of books we’re really reflecting and we’re really thinking about intentional teaching, in this case inclusive and equitable teaching.

John: So you started writing this before the pandemic and then while you were writing this there was this global pandemic that popped up and it was a period in which there was also a great deal of social stress. How do you think this might influence the willingness of faculty to focus more on the importance of inclusive teaching?

Tracie: So for me, inclusive teaching has always been important as I’ve mentioned earlier. So the fact that all these things happened were just that they were made more public and people became more aware. And now people are trying to change these things a little bit more than the past. So I will say what it did do was really made me think what a timely book… [LAUGHTER] to actually be at this point in time. I think it was a great opportunity. And I think it’s really useful, and we hear that, that it’s been really helpful for many institutions during this time, especially with this increased focus on it, on thinking about these issues as well. I will say that we wrote most of the book, I think a big majority of it, before it happened and then there’s a whole process that happens in making a book so there’s some time. So we did later try to tie in more of the recent things that had occurred a little bit later. But the beauty of it is, it all kind of fit naturally in there anyway. It’s not like we had to majorly revise the book, we just had to address the issues that were facing our nations. So I think, overall, it’s just a timely book. And this has always been important, and we really do need to talk about it, and this increased that ability for us to do that.

Derek: Yeah and I’ll just add, along with increased appetite for tools to help around these ideas of inclusion and equity, there still weren’t so many of those tools out there. So it worked well that we felt that we could provide one of these tools, that we had been working on it, that it was really ready to go out there as this appetite increased. And, specifically related to the pandemic, so one of the the effects of the pandemic on higher education was it forced a lot of institutions and a lot of courses to move to either hybrid or online pedagogies. And interestingly, this was something that we had been considering all along in terms of some of the chapters we were writing and thinking about welcoming classrooms, but also pedagogical means and ways to work, both in and on the ground and in online settings. So as we saw this starting to happen, we did go through and make sure… Are we talking about things and making sure that it’s understood that many of these are applicable, whether you’re in-person or online? And if you are in an online setting, how can they be used in that way as well?

Mallory: Yeah, I would echo, I think Tracie’s exactly right: structural inequalities in academia and society are not new. And I think for a group of four people who are writing a book on inclusive teaching, they’re already thinking about a lot of these. So what was new was maybe the attention of universities, who maybe were not paying attention, were forced to start paying attention, which I think is a good thing. But one of the other things that I think made me reflect a lot on the value of this book, that came out of the pandemic was, in the shift to online learning—as an instructor who was frantically trying to move all of their classes online with a week’s notice over spring break—was how much I valued being able to learn from my colleagues, and troubleshoot things, and benefit from other people’s expertise. And that’s a lot of what we’re doing in this book by drawing on this survey and not just saying, “Well, here’s what the scholarship tells us inclusive teaching looks like.” But saying, “This is what inclusive teaching looks like by people who are in the classroom doing this work, whether they’re formally trained to do it or not.” I think the value of that became even clearer to me, as I was trying to do the same thing with my colleagues on a daily basis. Learn from other people’s expertise as we were trying to navigate this really challenging situation.

Khadijah: So for me, a lot of what my co-authors have said really resonates. I think that I always thought about inclusive teaching before we had such social challenges that have been more pronounced in the media. I think two things stuck out to me as we wrote this book. One of the parts of the book, we talk about what happens when your classroom is disrupted. And I think it’s interesting, we tend to think about internal things that disrupt, so the students or the instructor, but a part of it was what happens with things outside, so these social conditions disrupt our learning. And so, the fact that the book addressed that when so many things were going on, it kind of was a how-to and it gave practical tools, of models and activities that you can do to navigate that. And I think what’s really resonated is that these things that we talked about in the book transcend transient social things. So like Tracie mentioned, something can happen in the future and this book would still be relevant in the way that we think about inclusive teaching, and what would come further down the pipe. So I think that it helped me reflect on current situations, but also kind of forecasting how having these new tools, from people that we’ve learned around the country, how that would help with future application.

Rebecca: I agree, that’s one of the powerful pieces of the book, is that we know it’s going to keep being useful for folks moving forward. And I know that we’re really grateful that we were able to share that with our faculty in our reading groups this year.

John: It does seem from our discussions with faculty that people are much more open to inclusive teaching than they’ve ever been in the past because while the problems and issues have always been there, they were often hidden on campus because you didn’t see the inequity. But when we were teaching students in their own homes, we saw differences in their access to technology, to their living quarters, and other inequities. It was much harder for people to ignore that. And I think everyone came to appreciate the benefits of community and building a strong community as a result of working through the pandemic. I think everyone realized that having a productive community is an important part of our lives. And the importance of that in a classroom, I think, is much more visible to faculty than it had been for many faculty before.

Rebecca: So we always wrap up by asking, the big huge question, “What’s next?”

Derek: Well so one of the things that I’ll say, I’ll keep it short and simple. What’s next? Around the book, it’s spreading the word. It’s spreading the word of why inclusive teaching matters, why equitable teaching matters, and what tools are out there. Whether it’s our book or whether it’s some other tool, some other way to get yourself into that realm, and get some understanding and work with your colleagues and learn from the experts. However that happens, that’s great. And for me personally, it’s doing the exact same thing: constantly learning, knowing that I have room to grow, knowing that I can improve in my teaching personally and all of that, and looking externally and reflecting internally for ways to do that.

Mallory: I think, “What’s next?” is such a great question to end on. Because one of the things we focus on in the book is that inclusive teaching is an iterative process. You never reach the end of it, you never get the perfectly inclusive course. And so, “What’s next?” is always revisiting what you’re doing and trying to, both in your own courses, revise and work towards fixing the things you didn’t get right the last time and at the institutional level, trying to build more capacity for inclusive teaching and buy-in. And I think the big “What’s next?” question is: What happens as we move away from the immediacy of the pandemic? What happens when racial injustice is not the main topic of the news? Do we still have the support for inclusive teaching efforts, or does that fade into the background? So I think the “What’s next?” is making sure that the momentum that has been gained is not lost.

Tracie: Yeah, and I would agree with all of my co-authors so far. I think the institutionalization of inclusive teaching would be so wonderful as a next step. So whether it’s, like, not treating it as a fad, [LAUGHTER] but creating it as part of our cultures in our institutions. So I know, like at my institution, we’re working hard towards that in a variety of ways. For me also personally, I do a lot of work around this, and thinking about the research and whatnot. So one of my steps right now that I’m taking is really thinking about the tools that we can really think about and capture practices around inclusive teaching to have that feedback. So we have all these great strategies, but let’s talk about more tools to really get feedback on our actual teaching practices. So I am doing some research around that right now, and I do work with students, student partners, to help us really think about this thing called “inclusion” and this equity as well. And so that’s where I sit in this space. So I’m going to continue to think about tools like Who’s in Class? and then these new tools, and go from there as well.

Khadijah: So, I echo a lot of what Tracie, Derek, and Mallory said. I think for me, of personal interest, when we do a lot of the inclusive classroom teaching, it makes me think about my laboratory. It makes me think about my teaching laboratory and my research laboratories. And I think teaching and mentoring go hand-in-hand in this space. Particularly when we think about DEI and STEM. And so for me, I’m interested in: What does inclusive mentoring look like in these spaces? And what are some of those principles and practices that are translatable from what we think about in the classroom, but then also what may be distinct in the laboratory and mentoring?

John: Well we very much appreciate you joining us, it feels like we’ve been in a dialogue with you all through our semester so far through the reading group. And we very much enjoyed your book, and I hope many other people will join in reading through it and working with it. Thank you.

Tracie: Thank you.

Mallory: Yeah, thanks.

Derek: Thank you so much.

Rebecca: We look forward to seeing all your new work.

Khadijah: Thank you.


John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.

Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer. Editing assistance provided by Anna Croyle.