Module 6: Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching

Since this MOOC was developed in 2015, the world has changed. Following the murder of George Floyd and others, the US and many in higher education have examined admissions, teaching, hiring and other policies, reckoning with inequitable historical practices. Inclusive teaching as a field has advanced considerably, incorporating more rigorous frameworks, evidence-based practices, and far greater care to ensure that those who hold minoritized identities are not expected to represent a social group, teach those in the majority, or be harmed by reliving damaging moments projected as part of the instruction of inclusive teaching. The materials initially developed for this section on inclusive teaching don't uphold these principles, nor are they sufficient or contemporary.


To provide students with contemporary information and resources, the original Inclusive Teaching module has been replaced with materials that introduce the topic of inclusive teaching with videos and readings, and links to other, more comprehensive resources for advancing your inclusive teaching practice. These resources include other courses on EdX that focus on inclusive teaching and guidebooks and materials produced in recent years.

CIRTL would like to thank the developers of the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project for allowing us to include two videos in this MOOC. You are encouraged to complete the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project MOOC in order to advance your skills in inclusive teaching. <https://www.inclusivestemteaching.org/>. The course runs approximately twice per year (see edX registration page) <https://www.inclusivestemteaching.org/>

Introduction to Inclusive Teaching

Week 6 Introduction (6.1.0)

Spring 2022

If we want all students to succeed, we must design learning environments that support all students.  Developing the ability and awareness for creating inclusive and equitable learning environments takes time, effort, reflection and openness to learning outside of your comfort zone.  To support student success, all courses should be designed and taught with equity and inclusion in mind.  

At the University level, students enter STEM undergraduate majors at roughly equal rates regardless of racial identity; however Black and Latinx students leave the major at nearly twice the rate of white students, transferring majors and leaving school (Riegle-Crumb et al, 2019).  The underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color with bachelor's degrees in STEM  continues in the workforce where these populations remain underrepresented across STEM fields (NSF).  So while students enter undergraduate studies with desires to study in STEM fields, many are not staying and succeeding, leading to a STEM workforce that is not as diverse as the population it represents. In addition to the unethical inequity, that lack of diversity hurts progress in STEM fields, as more diverse participation has been shown to enhance the innovative capacity of the STEM endeavors. (NSB 2020).

Equity-Focused Teaching

Equitable and inclusive teaching involves creating learning environments where students have equal access to learning, feel their contributions are equally heard, valued and respected, and all students are supported in ways that enable their learning and success.   When designing learning environments that support success for all students, you need to consider the design of your course and how you are teaching, and assessing student learning. Course design includes elements such as the content taught, examples highlighted, materials used, course policies established, and assessments designed.  Pedagogical considerations might include things such as how you create classroom climate, facilitate discussions, promote active and cooperative learning, and ask for, receive and act upon student formative feedback.

Self Reflection

In addition to course design and pedagogical considerations, learning to teach equitably and inclusively requires initial and ongoing self-reflection. You will be able to better identify and respond to needed changes to your course composition, structure, and teaching approaches if you take time to self-reflect on your own identity, socialization and world view.  Self-reflection helps reveal implicit biases in your choices such as assumptions you make about prior knowledge, learning or discussion style, cultural references, educational goals, familiarity with norms of university learning, impact of language or content, or effectiveness of assessment techniques.  Reflecting on the identity of your students helps you create effective educational experiences and supportive interpersonal interactions and relationships with your students-all factors known to enhance retention and success among underrepresented students. Combined with a growing understanding how STEM fields have historically oppressed minoritized and marginalized students and the experiences of these students in STEM courses, self-reflection will build your perspective and importantly, your empathy.

Systems Understanding

In addition to individual changes you can make as an instructor, it is important to understand that inequities and racism exist within the context of a larger societal structure.  We all live and work in systems that differentially advantage and disadvantage certain individuals, depending on their social and cultural identities.  Teaching equitably means reflecting on the systems we teach in, considering how policies, norms, rules, expectations, and communications may support students differently and seeing what we can do to interrupt structural inequities.


Riegle-Crumb, Catherine, Barbara King, and Yasmiyn Irizarry. "Does STEM stand out? Examining racial/ethnic gaps in persistence across postsecondary fields." Educational Researcher 48, no. 3 (2019): 133-144.

 The STEM Labor Force of Today: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical Workers, https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsb20212

National Science Board (NSB), National Science Foundation. 2020. Vision 2030. Alexandria, VA. Available at https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2020/nsb202015.pdf.

Why is Inclusive Teaching Important in STEM?

In the first of the two videos from the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project MOOC, four experts respond to the prompt, “Why is inclusive teaching important in higher education, and in STEM education in particular?”

We will hear from:

  • Omari Keeles, Assistant Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University

  • Stephanie Knezz, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

  • Terrell Morton, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri, Columbia

  • Anna Conway, Director of the Teaching and Learning Center, Des Moines Area Community College

The Inclusive STEM Teaching Project materials are Creative Commons 4.0 no-derivative, non-commercial license.

Hesitancies Instructors Can Have to Inclusive Teaching

Instructors often have resistances to incorporating inclusive teaching practices into their courses. In this video excerpted from the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project MOOC, Tershia Pinder-Grover, Director of the Center for Research in Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan, addresses common hesitations and resistances to inclusive teaching, strategies for breaking them down, and reasoning to avoid those mindsets.

Please note that Dr. Pinder-Grover’s reference to “this course” in the video is referring to the Inclusive STEM Teaching course, not this CIRTL MOOC.

The Inclusive STEM Teaching Project materials are Creative Commons 4.0 no-derivative, non-commercial license.

Common Resistances to Actively Practicing Inclusive Teaching :

  1. Relevance. “This doesn’t apply to my discipline.”

  2. Coverage of course topics. “I have so much material to cover; I don’t have time to focus on diversity and inclusion, too.”

  3. Skills/Expertise. “I don’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to talk about sensitive or controversial subjects. / I’d rather avoid it altogether than do it wrong.”

  4. Importance of challenging students. “Students are too sensitive. Learning/[my discipline]/the real world is challenging. We shouldn’t put so much effort into making them feel comfortable/making it easy for them.”

  5. Concerns about “reverse discrimination.” “If I focus on the concerns of underrepresented students, won’t I then just marginalize or exclude majority students?”

  6. Belief in a ‘difference-blind’ ideal. “Isn’t it fairer to ignore student differences so I can treat everyone the same way?” or “If I focus on the concerns of underrepresented students, won't I just be tokenizing or marginalizing them further?”

  7. Repercussions for your career. “How will this impact my tenure, student evaluations, perceptions among my peers, service load?”

  8. Avoiding difficult discussions (status quo is safe).


Conway A., Goldberg, B., Green, N., Morris, Z., Pinder-Grover, T., & Womack, V. (2021): Module 1: Hesitancies Instructors Can Have to Inclusive Teaching [MOOC lecture]. In Armstrong, S., Calkins, S., Conway, A., Daniels, T., Frey, R., Gillian-Daniels, D., Goldberg, B., Green, N., Greenler, R., Hill, L., Hokanson, S.C., Immelman, T., Milton, J., Pinder-Grover, T., Savoy, J. Tuttle, N., & Womack, V. The Inclusive STEM Teaching Project. edX. https://www.edx.org/course/the-inclusive-stem-teaching-project

Self Reflection

Self Reflection Prompts vs Discussion Boards

For this MOOC we have included one self-reflection prompt and no open discussion boards. Reflection prompts provide a safe opportunity where you can challenge yourself without concern for how it may be interpreted by others.

Public discussion boards are powerful tools to hear and engage with other individuals and hear other perspectives. However, by their nature, they are open to comments that could be intentionally or unintentionally hurtful. Therefore, these boards need to be monitored regularly in order to maintain a goal of “do no harm.” In this module, we will only provide self-reflection opportunities. Some of the MOOCs referenced below have very active and informative discussion boards.

Self Reflection Prompt

Have you ever encountered any of these hesitancies in your teaching?

Additional resources on Inclusive Teaching

Several excellent resources on inclusive and equitable STEM teaching at the university level have been developed in recent years and we encourage you to explore one of the the following three MOOCs on inclusive teaching. In addition to the MOOCs described below, additional resources on inclusive teaching are mentioned at the end of this section. We encourage you to look into your disciplinary educational literature to give you more insight on discipline specific approaches to inclusive and equitable teaching.

Inclusive Teaching MOOCs

The Inclusive STEM Teaching Project (inclusivestemteaching.org/) has developed an Inclusive STEM Teaching MOOC. This MOOC was developed by a collaborative team including several people from the CIRTL community and several people who were part of this CIRTL MOOC’s development team. The Inclusive Teaching MOOC includes a 6-week asynchronous course hosted on the EdX platform and optional local learning communities that support further discussion and reflection. This MOOC employs videos of theatrical acted case studies as scripted and performed by the University of Michigan’s CRLT Players theater troupe.

Other self-paced STEM Teaching MOOCs include Teaching and Learning in the Diverse STEM Classroom (https://teaching.cornell.edu/tldc-mooc) developed by Cornell University. Course topics include inclusive course design, social identity and self-reflection, and pedagogical practices that effectively support student engagement and a sense of belonging across differences.

Finally, Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom (https://www.edx.org/course/inclusive-teaching-supporting-all-students-in-the) developed by the Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning is another self-paced MOOC that may be of interest. Topics in this MOOC include the creation of an equitable course climate, the design and implementation of accessible and inclusive classroom practices and assessments, and the selection and implementation of diverse course content. All of these MOOCs provide high-quality learning experiences that can help you become a more inclusive practitioner.

As part of your exploration to become a more effective educator that supports the success of all students, we encourage you to take one of these three MOOCs.