Week #6: Inclusivity in Teaching and Learning
The definition above is framed in such a negative manner- it tells us what inclusivity is not. Inclusivity is the alternative to bias. Biases are internalized, frequently unconscious, attitudes we harbor towards others. Inclusion, on the other hand, is something we experience as a result of action from other people. We feel included when others ask about our opinions and value our input. As an educator, acknowledging and addressing biases and how they impact my interactions with others is a priority. Otherwise, how can I be an effective educator?
In class, we discussed the importance of inclusivity in teaching through the case of Professor Graham and Janet Macomber. This was a powerful description of how a teacher's blindness to his own bias created a very Chilly Classroom Climate, resulting in a negative experience for his learner and effectively destroying her interest in his class, maybe even in the entire subject. The Chilly Classroom Climate typically describes a classroom in which women are not given the same opportunities, respect, etc. as their male counterparts. This negative atmosphere is promoted through the actions of the teacher such as: giving male students praise, but female students criticism, frowning more at female students, using women as examples for hypothetical scenarios with inappropriate behavior highlighted, and more. Any of these behaviors can be applied to any marginalized group so I don't want to discount the experiences of any student who has experienced these unfortunate actions on the part of his or her teacher. This is a terrible way to encourage learning!
Anyone can feel left out and it is the duty of educators to make sure that we don't let that happen in our classrooms
So let's discuss inclusivity and how teachers can encourage it. As it turns out, there's an entire website devoted to inclusivity in the classroom:
I have benefitted so much from the personal inventories required of me in the past for work and school. This has impacted the way I think about teaching others and I recommend taking any or all of these assessments in order to minimize your own blind spots. I'm sure there are more but here's a list of a few to get you started!
This website recommends one of the many Implicit Association Tests and I can't fault that idea!
Myers-Briggs Test of personality
It's not enough to simply know yourself, though. Teachers must actively tear down bias and stereotypes. We have to promote belonging for our students.
Greet Everyone, Everyday: simply greeting your students at the door can foster the kind of positive environment you want.
Set Norms: define what behaviors are allowed and what aren't. Everyone agrees to this set of standards for the classroom.
Foster Engagement: build trust between your learners and yourself. Encourage discussion and acknowledge everyone's contributions.
These are just a few ideas and I created this list by doing a lot of reading and compiling the parts that I hope to include in my own classroom. I hope it is helpful for you as well!
Teaching is about so much more than content- it's about supporting people in a difficult process by recognizing their differences and celebrating how they contribute to a richer experience for everyone. ~Me