Author: Sarah Taylor, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work
Good culturally inclusive, responsive, and accessible teaching is really just good teaching, especially in a place like CSUEB, where our learners are extraordinarily diverse across many domains of human experience, including, but not limited to: race/ethnicity, socioeconomic background, (dis)ability status, sexual orientation, gender, age, immigration experience, religion, and culture. If we are only teaching to students who learn from traditional pedagogical techniques, we are reaching only a small number of the students in each class.
Becoming a diversity-sensitive educator is about being in a state of constant learning. Even after many years of experience, I still make mistakes, and that is okay. The goal is to be self-reflective about teaching, so that mistakes are opportunities to hone skills and to engage the class in a discussion about lifelong learning and cultural humility. My mistakes, and transparency about them, have led to critical dialogues that have allowed students to share their own experiences in interacting with diverse individuals without feeling judged.
Culturally inclusive, responsive, and accessible teaching is more about pedagogical practices than about the content being taught. Integrating articles, films, activities, and books related to diversity is necessary, but not sufficient, for reaching diverse learners. If the overall teaching approach stifles dialogue, leaves some students unable to access the content, and inhibits self-reflection, it is unlikely that deep learning will take place, regardless of the content of the course.
In my classes, I strive to create a culturally inclusive, responsive, and accessible learning community with the following characteristics:
Some of the strategies I use to create this learning community include: 1) Self-Reflection and Support; 2) Access for all students; 3) Respectful classroom environments; 4) Opportunities for collaboration and student feedback; and 5) Fun, intentional communities.
When driving home after class, I try to ask myself these questions:
It has been especially helpful to have mentors and colleagues to process all of these issues with, both informally over coffee, and formally, in faculty learning communities and other team projects focused on diversity-sensitive teaching and learning.
Access is inclusive not only of legal accommodations for students with (dis)abilities, but of learning styles, educational background, comfort with technology, etc. Some techniques that support access for all students include:
Creating a respectful classroom is complex - whole books have been written about it. However, there are a few simple things any instructor can do to build a respectful classroom. These include:
Students appreciate opportunities to give input into the class throughout the quarter. This facilitates buy-in and a sense of ownership about the class. Though course evaluations may be useful, but they are received too late to make changes to a class that is currently being taught. Timely feedback helps for making adjustments mid-quarter that enhance student learning and engagement. Some strategies for encouraging ongoing feedback include:
Learning should be fun, and part of the fun of learning is engaging with diverse classmates in developing an intentional community. Some strategies I use to create this community include: