Creating an inclusive learning environment is a chief goal for educators in today’s diverse college classrooms. Recently, UA English Department’s Dr. Lauren Cardon partnered with Dr. Anne-Marie Womack of Rice University to publish Inclusive College Classrooms: Teaching Methods for Diverse Learners. This book offers valuable insights and practical strategies for instructors and emphasizes the transformative power of inclusive teaching practices.
Cardon and Womack’s motivation for writing the book stems from a gap they observed in pedagogical training for faculty. While new teachers receive training that focuses on specific course assignments and pedagogical theories, there can be a lack of comprehensive training on inclusive practices. The book addresses this gap by drawing from research on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and various Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) pedagogies, and recommends specific, practical methods for effective, inclusive teaching.
Inclusive College Classrooms encourages self-reflection, urging instructors to consider how their current methods might exclude learners and how they can actively foster equity in the classroom. Cardon and Womack explore four core principles for inclusion: access, representation, agency, and community. These values guide instructors on creating inclusive classrooms. Instructors can cultivate a safe, enjoyable classroom environment by recognizing diverse abilities, removing barriers to learning, and promoting student agency. Dr. Cardon explains:
When we create access, we recognize that students have diverse abilities; consider how the learning environments we create could exclude students; and create flexible learning conditions to include more students. Representation means affirming the diversity of experiences and thought that students bring into their education; introducing diversity in classroom; and challenging the biases and prejudices of dominant ideologies that leave some voices unrepresented in academia. Agency refers to students having choices in how they learn and creating a learning environment that leaves room for mistakes (that normalizes them, in fact). And community refers to how we nurture relationships with and among students, as well as consider the relationship between the classroom and communities outside of our academic institutions.
Instructors can create a more inclusive learning environment by implementing these values. To help instructors apply these principles, the book provides 200 example lessons spanning various disciplines from humanities and fine arts to STEM-centered courses. This wide range of examples allows instructors to envision the use of these inclusive methods in their own fields, catering to the diverse and unique needs of their students.
To further aid in the implementation of inclusive practices, the book chapters focus on six teaching methods: Lecture, Flipped, Seminar, Group Work, Inquiry-Based Learning, and Experimental Learning. By examining each method through the lens of DEI, the authors explain how instructors can adapt their teaching approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners.
Another noteworthy aspect of the book is its inclusion of the innovative work of colleagues at The University of Alabama, highlighting real-world examples of successful teaching practices. These examples highlight the collaborative nature of inclusive pedagogy and supply further inspiration to instructors to engage in inclusive teaching.
Ultimately, Inclusive College Classrooms: Teaching Methods for Diverse Learners serves as a valuable resource for faculty, administrators, and graduate students. By providing research-based tools, practical examples, and actionable strategies, Cardon and Womack empower instructors to make their classrooms more inclusive and to cater to the diverse needs of their students. Through inclusive teaching practices, instructors can foster a dynamic and collaborative learning environment where students thrive.