Inclusive Teaching: What does it mean and what can we do about it?

In a report presented to the University Faculty Senate on January 24, 2017, Addressing Issues of Classroom Climate and Bias in the Classroom, the senate committee on Educational Equity and Campus Environment (EECE) recommended that the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence make available resources to help faculty address issues of classroom climate and implicit bias. An appendix to the committee report includes a worksheet from our workshop “Teaching Inclusive Courses.” The Inclusive Teaching worksheet, as well as other resources and materials, are available in our Tools & Resources repository. Simply visit the link and enter the search term "inclusive teaching" in the search box. While the worksheet may be used individually by faculty, it is not a checklist, nor a prescription. This is an activity designed for a workshop. No one faculty member would be likely to use every strategy, nor would using all of them guarantee an inclusive learning environment. Faculty find the activity more useful within the context of the workshop, which is designed to encourage discussion among participants. The workshop includes other activities and generates interest in the research that prompted development of these strategies. The workshop also serves as a forum for faculty to give voice to their own questions.

Our inclusive teaching workshops are available at the request of any program, department, campus or college, without cost and at the convenience of the faculty. Penn State Altoona, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the STEM Teaching Group, which includes a sampling of faculty from three colleges, have participated in earlier iterations of this workshop. We refine the workshop every time we conduct it, whether here or at other institutions such as the University of Connecticut’s College of Medicine and the University of New Hampshire. We have presented the workshop and its unique design at number of conferences including the annual conference of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in 2016.

Our inclusive teaching workshops are designed with faculty in mind. The design is founded on the assumption that most faculty are already aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion. However, fewer faculty are aware of how the lack of inclusion can have a negative impact on students’ learning and faculty teaching. Experience indicates that even the most caring faculty may not know what actions they can take in their own courses or how to respond to inadvertent or overt biases expressed in the classroom. The workshop design ensures that faculty walk away from the workshop with strategies they can use in their next class session, but also includes information about the underlying issues and why they matter in all courses and all disciplines. This workshop does not pretend to have all the answers, but does provide assurance that faculty can take actions that matter, and it opens the door for future discussions and deeper explorations.

Penn State's All In Image

As President Barron, the ECEE, and President’s Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity have noted, we continue to hear reports from students that they experience implicit biases, stereotype threat, and micro and macro aggressions in our classrooms. Research indicates that a negative classroom climate can hinder students’ learning, and faculty teaching. Even if you cannot attend a workshop, come talk to us about inclusion, diversity, teaching, and learning.

Other important information provided during the recent senate meeting includes the university’s Report A Bias Incident, webpage hosted by the Office of Educational Equity, and that the Office of Affirmative Action offers a variety of training activities for the Penn State community.

Do not hesitate! Invite us to bring this workshop to your faculty! Contact us at or 814-863-2599 for more information.