By: Rita Kumar and Brenda Refaei
In the current climate, equity and inclusion are under attack from those who benefit from the status quo. The Black Lives Matter movement forcefully articulates the various ways systemic racism works to marginalize and endanger racially minoritized people. Instigated by the unjust killing of Black people by law enforcement and others, the necessity of addressing systemic racism has reawakened the national consciousness. Likewise, the tragic shootings of people gathered for religious observances, such as at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the Quebec City and Christ Church mosques, and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, show that even houses of worship are not safe from the corruption of invective surrounding equity and inclusion. Educators have a role in overcoming this hostility toward others. They must seek out ways to include students who have often been excluded from the opportunities and advantages afforded by higher education while also working with students to develop cultural humility, which acknowledges that no one
set of cultural norms should be imposed on all (Foronda et al., 2015). The role of higher education faculty in guiding students’ development, so they are ready to participate as informed citizens in a pluralistic democracy, has never been more urgent than now.
As more people enroll in higher education to pursue economic opportunity, colleges and universities are seeing greater diversity among their students—not only in racial heritage, gender, and ability but in other, less apparent ways such as level of preparation, economic security, mental health, and so forth. Unfortunately, Hurtado and Guillermo-Wann (2013) found “students continue to experience negative cross-racial interactions, discrimination and bias, and harassment along multiple social identities
(e.g., race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation) but rarely report it to campus authorities” (p. vii). Even more disturbing, they found that Black students noted that racism and stereotype threat negatively affected their educational experience. At the same time, more nontraditionally aged students are enrolling in higher education, which requires a greater demand for flexibility in course offerings, pedagogical approaches, and modes of instruction.
There are some who would argue that only specific disciplines have the knowledge or skills to create inclusive classrooms. We take a different position in this book. Instead, we argue that each college instructor must promote equity so that all students feel included in the classroom and that all students learn to respect the diversity present in the human experience. Equity means providing the tools and knowledge students need that to promote effective education of all students, diversity is important in seven areas: inclusion, social meaning, citizenship, belonging, color blindness, speech, and institutional culture. Institutions should mirror the population of their community if they are to be inclusive. Including all members of society in higher education is necessary in a democracy. In diverse classrooms, all students benefit from the opportunity to learn from different perspectives. Unfounded social meanings, such as those associated with racism, can be challenged. When diversity is not present, those unfounded social meanings may never come up or may never be challenged. In discussing belonging, Carbado and Gulati pointed out that tokenism does not help in promoting diversity. Students need others like themselves in the classroom to feel like they belong. Strayhorn (2019) has emphasized that student success is largely affected by positive peer-to-peer relations that amplify a sense of belonging.
Perhaps the most profound and important function in their taxonomy is that of citizenship. Carbado and Gulati stated, “A third function of diversity is to facilitate the formation of a racially cooperative society” (2003, p. 1155). They elaborated: “Central to this function is the idea that universities are sites for Americanization. They naturalize us. In other words, who we become as Americans is a function of who we are as students. The nexus between school socialization and citizenship has profound implications for race. In short, school segregation produces and legitimizes societal segregation. At the most basic level, students perform in society the racial interactions they learn and rehearse in school” (p. 1155). Therefore, it is imperative that all faculty seek ways to promote inclusivity that fights against accepting prevailing social segregation that marginalizes some while privileging others. This important mandate of higher education is often given short shrift by a drive for profits over academics.
As higher education takes on the corporate model (Blum & Ullman, 2012; Mills, 2012), it loses focus on the needs of individuals. Faculty feel pressure to teach quickly so they can get back to their research or they feel pressured to teach as many students as possible without regard to the students’ preparation for the courses. Berg and Seeber (2016) noted, “Yet, if there is one sector of society which should be cultivating deep thought, it is academic teachers. . . . The administrative university is concerned above all with efficiency, resulting in a time crunch and making those of us subjected to it feel powerless” (p. x). How are faculty who feel powerless supposed to empower their students? How can faculty who do not have time for cultivating deep thought find ways to create more inclusive learning environments? Faculty need to prioritize inclusive classroom design while recognizing that achieving equity is a lifelong pursuit that will not be achieved through redesigning one course. Part of the deep thinking that faculty should engage in is examining how their own values and beliefs shape their interactions with students, how they approach pedagogy in the classroom, and how they determine what should be taught in the curriculum.
However, many college educators need guidance in self-reflection, and in developing curricular designs and pedagogical approaches that support students. Regardless of discipline, educators need to engage in creating inclusive learning environments that are learner-centered. The pedagogical approaches should be theoretically situated and use active learning strategies that are culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995), culturally responsive (Gay, 2018; Hammond, 2015), and culturally sustaining (Paris, 2012). An inclusive learning environment is intentionally transparent and designed to allow all learners to succeed. Inclusive classrooms promote equity and social justice in that underserved students have opportunities to learn and all students have opportunities to learn other ways of knowing and being. In addition to inclusive pedagogies, educators need to critically examine their curricula to ensure that it does not promote inequity. Finally, inclusive pedagogies and curricula mean little if assessment practices are not equitable. Educators should explore a variety of ways to assess student learning that honors students’ diverse ways of learning and knowing.
BECOMING AN INCLUSIVE PRACTITIONER
Creating an inclusive learning environment to provide opportunities for all requires the examination of our own biases. Before educators can address equity and inclusion in educational settings, they must first be willing to examine their own values, unconscious biases, and beliefs derived from the culture in which they live. Culture is “a dynamic system of social values, cognitive codes, behavioral standards, world views, and beliefs used to give order and meaning to our own lives as well as the lives of others” (Gay, 2018, p. 8). This system of values often operates below a person’s level of consciousness. Effective teachers are those who are open to exploring how their values influence their behaviors, changing ineffective or harmful behaviors by constantly seeking out ways to improve their work. In deciding how to facilitate inclusive practices, faculty may discover how much their beliefs about students are influenced by deficit thinking, which places responsibility on students for poor school performance. Deficit thinking shows up when teachers believe that students are not motivated or prepared for college work and takes the responsibility off the teacher to create an inclusive learning environment. To become an inclusive practitioner, educators need to learn to reflect on how their own worldview, values, and beliefs shape the way they construct their learning environments. They also need to learn more about students’ cultural systems so that those can be brought into the classroom.
When faculty begin teaching, they have often never had the opportunity to examine their own assumptions about the teaching and learning process and how those assumptions guide their behaviors and beliefs in their interactions with students. Brookfield (1995) described how assumptions are difficult to examine because they “give meaning and purpose to who we are and what we do” (p. 2). These assumptions live below instructors’ consciousness yet powerfully influence all of their actions. It requires intentionality and effort to examine assumptions about effective teaching. Brookfield was focused on uncovering assumptions about teaching, but Gallaway and Zamani-Gallaher (2018, p. 5) noted that higher education also needs to reflect on how to effectively “deal with the complexity of race, identity, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
This self-examination is a necessary first step in creating an inclusive learning environment. It is important to keep in mind Tuitt’s (2016) warning about the need for faculty to examine their own thinking before engaging in culturally responsive teaching: “In closing, I have come to understand that utilizing CIPs [Critical and Inclusive Practices] is not a form of praxis that all educators should embrace. In fact, educators who fail to do the self-work may cause more harm than good and, as a result, engage in the creation of unjust learning environments” (p. 218). This “self-work” is necessary for all faculty who wish to create inclusive learning environments because all faculty operate within cultural contexts that marginalizes some while privileging others.
Faculty need to uncover how these beliefs permeate their own thinking and actions—everyone has implicit biases that have been absorbed through their lived experiences in their society. Faculty should take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) (Project Implicit, n.d.). This test can help raise awareness among educators of the insidious ways that cultural and social biases influence their own beliefs and actions. Taking the test and reflecting on the results offers instructors a space to consider how they might change their behavior in their interactions with students. Educators, in particular, need to examine their assumptions to discover how these implicit biases inform their teaching.
In analyzing implicit biases, Hammond (2015) connected the physiology of the brain to the deep emotional reactions people have when they confront their implicit biases. She pointed out the function of “the amygdala and reticular activating system (RAS), is . . . to keep us safe” (p. 54). Since humans have developed implicit biases to keep them “safe,” these areas of the brain are triggered when people begin to bring their awareness to them. As they become aware, they may experience the freeze, fight, or flight reactions the amygdala and RAS have developed over years of evolution. People experience deep and strong reactions when they examine their implicit biases because their brains want to protect them. Educators can minimize this strong reaction through mindfulness and other relaxation techniques (Hanson, 2013).
Educators need opportunities for mindfulness practices that enable them to build professional resiliency as they take on the difficult work of addressing inequities in higher education and society. Developing professional resiliency allows faculty to maintain their own mental health while providing needed services and instruction. Mindfulness is needed to “stay woke.” Justin Michael Williams (2019) wrote, “Staying woke isn’t just about awareness. It is a call to action. And it matters most when you feel like giving up” (p. 10). Once faculty become more attuned to social injustice, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. Mindfulness practices provide the needed respite to take up the work anew each day.
Many faculty entered teaching to share their knowledge of their subject matter with others. As part of their work with students, they may develop an ethic of care (Gay 2018) in which they see the importance of meeting the students where they are in order to help them learn the content. As faculty begin to better understand the experiences of their students, they may take on a social justice purpose in teaching to uplift historically marginalized students while also raising awareness of social justice issues in communities of privilege. Educators need awareness of social issues and how to facilitate social justice in the classroom.
DESIGNING INCLUSIVE CURRICULUM
Faculty must pay close attention to the structure and content of the curriculum as they prepare students for a world that needs to be freed from the shackles of Eurocentric thought and processes. Henson (2015) asserted that “successful curriculum development in the twenty-first century must prepare teachers to help all students to succeed” (italics in original, p. xv). Eurocentric educational systems through curriculum and pedagogy continue to dominate academia, leading to the indoctrination of students into a Western system of thought. Producing knowledge provides power to those who create it by giving the producers power over how the world is seen and creates academic hegemony marginalizing non-Eurocentric values. Educators have a duty to critically analyze and question the impact of a system that upholds “Eurocentric systems of thought, while simultaneously devaluing indigenous knowledge and multiple ways of knowing” (Wane, Shahjahan, & Wagner 2004, p. 500). Diverse members of the academic community who contribute to building the discipline need to be recognized—not as tokens but as equal participants. This means paying attention to who is represented as the knowledge experts in the field.
Knowledge cannot be divorced from the realities, beliefs, experiences, and sociocultural ethos of the people it serves if its purpose is to empower learners. Such knowledge in the form of curriculum content is necessary for empowerment and is only possible when students are offered an inclusive curriculum. However, it is equally important that such knowledge is imparted in a way that does not cause curriculum violence. Jones (2020) described curriculum violence as lessons created by curriculum writers
and educators “that damage or otherwise adversely affect students intellectually and emotionally” when Eurocentric values drive the curriculum. Curriculum content that references ethnically diverse groups needs to be comprehensive, accurate, authentic, and current to not further perpetuate stereotypes and strengthen preexisting biases toward marginalized groups.
An inclusive curriculum presents students with “socially relevant and challenging new knowledge so that they, in collaboration with their teachers, can engage in a meaningful dialogue and become more informed members of their communities” (Wane, Shahjahan, & Wagner 2004, p. 507). Such a curriculum anticipates and prepares for all students’ right to access and participate in a course. An inclusive curriculum is based on Croucher and Romer’s (2007) definition of an approach that “does not place groups in opposition to each other. It respects diversity but does not imply a lack of commonality. It supports the concept of widening participation but does not imply an externally imposed value judgment; it values equality of opportunity but encourages all to feel that this relates to them, and that the issues are not just projected as being relevant to groups more commonly defined as disenfranchised and translated into universities’ targets for equality” (Croucher and Romer, 2007, p. 3). Croucher and Romer’s inclusive approach equips faculty with a foundation for building an inclusive curriculum. Morgan and Houghton (2011) described an inclusive curriculum as one that accounts for students’ educational, cultural, and social backgrounds and experience in addition to any physical or sensory impairments and their mental health. They proposed that a curriculum based on principles of equity, collaboration, flexibility, and accountability benefits both educators and students (p. 5). Since the curriculum represents a crucial tool for facilitating the process of an inclusive education, its design should reflect its relevance to students and promote their participation.
Inclusive curricula ensure that the less visible part of the curriculum, “the hidden curriculum—that which is taught implicitly, rather than explicitly” (Henson, 2015, p. 13), offers opportunities for equity. Educators need to use transparent approaches to make visible the “hidden curriculum” that often alienates marginalized students. When students from different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds do not find affirmation of their identities, values, and beliefs in school and outside, it impacts their academic performance, sense of belonging, and motivation. By designing an inclusive curriculum, instructors can include different perspectives to build a multidimensional gaze that allows students to see and acknowledge the world at all its levels. Inclusive curriculum development should be adopted as an ongoing process and be closely intertwined with social inclusion.
An inclusive curriculum is one that is accessible, relevant, and engaging to all students. The course material should reflect student realities and experiences. An inclusive curriculum provides all students with opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes of their program of study. The curriculum must be open to alternative perspectives that encompass diverse realities and is meaningful to differently situated people reflective of the communities in which they work. The curriculum should not be based on a “one size fits all” model but should be designed in a way that it can be taught to mixed-ability learners. The curriculum should ensure both equity and quality. An inclusive curriculum empowers all students. “Because of the dialectic relationship between knowledge and the knower, interest and motivation, relevance and master,” students must be seen as co-originators, co-designers, and co-directors of their education and not merely as consumers (Gay, 2018, p. 142). A relevant and inclusive curriculum is one that mirrors societal changes, which includes changes in the community, the school, and the students themselves (Henson, 2015). Finally, the curriculum should be both global and local in design, which means that it should be flexible, balanced, and relevant to each context and individual while addressing national, local, and learners’ diversities. The broader purpose should be to strike a balance between the global, national, and local expectations, realities, and needs (Opertti, 2009). In doing so, the curriculum can effectively respond to learners’ diversities and sustain long-term education for all.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) presents a viable approach for developing an inclusive curriculum because of its core belief that “diversity exists in all shapes and throughout the entire lifespan” (Wu, 2010, p. 1). UDL transforms instruction so that adaptations for students with disabilities improves the experiences for all students in the course. For instance, offering multiple ways to present an assignment, such as providing a video with captions in addition to a document that can be read by a scanner makes the assignment more accessible to all the students in the course. The concept of accessibility makes using UDL a rational choice to guide the development of inclusive curriculum. The twenty-first-century classroom with students from a broad range of academic, social, economic, emotional, and cultural backgrounds demands a curricular approach that can meet the needs of such a heterogeneous community. A UDL curriculum allows instructors to approach learning with the mindset that the curriculum can meet diverse student needs through multiple means of engagement and action, knowledge representation, and expression. A UDL curriculum facilitates the adoption of varied course materials, technologies, pedagogical approaches, classroom activities, and assessments to meet the needs of learners.
Designing an inclusive curriculum also involves choosing curriculum content that is relevant to diverse students and can be delivered in ways that are meaningful to students. Curriculum designers should seek a wider range of sources beyond textbooks to build curriculum content. In addition to textbooks, curriculum content that is meaningful to student learning can be derived from other sources (Gay, 2018). However, course materials need to be critically evaluated to ensure that there is accurate representation of those who have contributed to the building of knowledge.
Educators can also consider co-constructing the curriculum with students. Such an approach has the potential to facilitate an innovative way of conceiving and organizing the curricular outcomes and structure as well as the syllabus with the ultimate objective of developing learners who will be autonomous, critical, and assertive Citizens.
CREATING INCLUSIVE PEDAGOGY
Inclusive pedagogy is an intentional process of transforming the learning environment so that it respects the ways of knowing and being all students bring to the learning situation. It sustains all members of the classroom community by drawing upon the unique gifts each person brings to the learning environment by recognizing students’ home cultures, dialects, and norms as equal to those of the dominant cultural norms. Inclusive pedagogy works against deficit thinking, which views learners from nondominant dialects, cultures, and literacies as deficient and in need of remediation before they can access the dominant culture’s privileges. It is important to offer opportunities to critique and challenge systems of oppression, which prevent equal access to resources. Inclusive pedagogies are learner-centered. Learner-centered education occurs when the focus of educational practices is on making knowledge accessible to all students (Weimer, 2002). For this reason, inclusive pedagogies are critical to ensure that traditionally underserved students have equal access to knowledge and skills they need to attain their goals for higher education. In sum, inclusive pedagogy is a mindset, a teaching-and-learning worldview, more than a discrete set of techniques (Gannon, 2018).
Establishing and implementing inclusive pedagogy is a process of building a practice that can span a continuum beginning with equity-focused principles and ending with one that encompasses social justice principles. An inclusive pedagogical practice would develop intercultural competence as a learning goal. With the rapid internationalization of higher education, one of its objectives is helping students conceive of themselves as global citizens. In the context of this new dynamic, the development of intercultural competence as a learning goal for designing pedagogical strategies is relevant. Spitzberg and Changnon (2009) defined “intercultural competence as the appropriate and effective management of interaction between people who . . . represent different or divergent affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations to the world.” Deardorff (2006) noted that intercultural competence needs to be intentionally taught in real-world interactions that use critical reflection to develop understanding. Referencing concepts drawn from intercultural competence and pedagogy, Lee (2017) defined “intercultural pedagogy as the commitment (not just the desire) to make intentional, informed decisions that enable our courses to engage and support diversity and inclusion” (p. 15). However, the focus of intercultural competence is essentially to help bridge cultural differences between different nationalities; it does not explore social inequities within the countries or past exploitative practices between nations.
In order to address inequities that exist due to race, gender, and class, Paris (2012) offered the term Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, which “seeks to perpetuate and foster— to sustain—linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling. In the face of current policies and practices that have the explicit goal of creating a monocultural and monolingual society, research and practice need equally explicit resistances that embrace cultural pluralism and cultural equality” (p. 93). Such a monocultural and singular perspective needs to be challenged for public institutions to meet their mission of providing their students with tools that will prepare them for the challenges of a pluralistic society. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy addresses the competing interests of education: replicating current society versus creating a more inclusive society.
Like Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy provides a framework to assist faculty as they seek to create more inclusive classrooms. Gay (2018) described Culturally Responsive Pedagogy as “teachers acquiring more knowledge about ethnic and cultural diversity, becoming more conscious of themselves as cultural beings and cultural actors in the process of teaching, and engaging in courageous conversations about issues fundamental to social justice in society and educational equity for ethnically diverse students” (p. 80). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy intersects with the aims of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in their joint goal of addressing social justice through education. Moreover, both pedagogies emphasize the need for equity in meeting the needs of ethnically diverse students.
Another inclusive pedagogical approach is proposed by Tuitt, Haynes, & Stewart (2016). They suggested Critical and Inclusive Pedagogies (CIPs), which are embedded in theoretical models of teaching and use students’ lived experiences to create inclusive learning environments that combine principles of equity and social justice. CIPs strive to create an identity-affirming and socially just learning environment by using a variety of interactive and dynamic teaching practices and diverse and interdisciplinary content and perspectives. In order to implement CIPs, instructors need to be courageous and transparent.
Under the broader umbrella of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, McCarty and Lee (2014) present the concept of Critical Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy as essential tounderstand and guide educational practices for Native American learners. Merculieff and Roderick (2013) stressed that “It’s time—past time—to build a genuinely equitable educational (not to mention social, political, and economic) system in which Native and non-Native communities function as true partners” (p. ix). Given the current linguistic, cultural, and educational realities of Native American communities, McCarty and Lee (2014) argued that Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in these settings must also be understood as Culturally Revitalizing Pedagogy, and they advocate for community-based educational accountability that is rooted in the sovereignty of Indigenous education. Merculieff and Roderick (2013) described fourteen common Indigenous teaching practices that present a very different ontological view of reality from the one commonly held by Eurocentric systems of thought. Exploring these practices reveals a deeper understanding of interconnectedness between people and between people and nature, which influences how learning occurs. Indigenous pedagogies provide a thoughtful alternative to Eurocentric approaches to learning and challenges the notion that Eurocentric pedagogies are more effective.
In addition to culturally sustaining practices, part of inclusive pedagogy has to be a focused and intentional push to integrate universal design that recognizes diversity beyond disabilities. Grier-Reed and Williams-Wengred (2018) stated that “from the perspective of culturally sustaining pedagogy and universal design, all students are unique, and it is the systems in education that are disabling rather than the students who are disabled” (p. 2). They contend that though inclusive pedagogy has used a broad definition of inclusion, the literature has been specifically focused on disability as criteria for inclusion. The definition needs to be broadened to include other criteria such as gender, age, racial, and ethnic diversity. Waitoller and Thorius (2016) suggested that the cross-pollination of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy with UDL can help build emancipatory pedagogies that can provide students and teachers the means to engage meaningfully with ableism and racism.
In moving along the continuum toward social justice, inclusive pedagogies should intentionally address racism. Blakeney (2005) asserted that although culturally responsive pedagogies promote inclusivity, there is a need for antiracist pedagogy to address systemic racism in education. Kishimoto (2018) argued that antiracist pedagogy, which is informed by Critical Race Theory, is needed to respond to educational contexts that have for too long been “exclusionary and functioned to assimilate students by normalizing dominant knowledge and values through the hidden curriculum” (p. 541). She rationalized that antiracist pedagogy should not be limited to teaching in its application but be adopted as an “intentional and strategic organizing effort in which we incorporate anti-racist values into our various spheres of influence” (p. 551). Kandaswamy (2020) further emphasized the importance of intentional antiracist pedagogy when she highlighted the need to push students to think beyond color blindness and multiculturalism when challenging racism and Eurocentrism.
The approaches to inclusive pedagogies described here illustrate the importance of critiquing and challenging systems of oppression, which prevent some students from achieving their educational goals. The pedagogies encourage educators to intentionally incorporate equity-minded practices in their interactions with students. These pedagogies fall along a continuum of raising students’ awareness of cultural difference to empowering students to dismantle systemic forms of institutional barriers such as racism. But inclusive pedagogies and curriculum are only meaningful if they are accompanied by inclusive assessment practices.
IMPLEMENTING INCLUSIVE ASSESSMENT
Faculty often have strong feelings about the role of assessment in higher education, which is born out of a concern about being judged unfairly. Indeed, if they look to the way assessment is done in the K–12 setting, they are right to be mistrustful of powerful outside organizations making pronouncements upon what students can or cannot do in their classroom. However, thoughtful assessment processes can improve student learning by making the content relevant to students’ experiences. Incorporating a culturally responsive approach to assessment allows for multiple means of demonstrating learning.
Assessment processes need to be examined in the light of how unexamined assumptions may lead to marginalization of traditionally underserved students. Whether faculty acknowledge it or not, assessment drives what is taught and what is valued in the classroom. “It [assessment] can influence not only how we see ourselves, but also our social relations with others and how we see them” (Leathwood, 2005, p. 308). For this reason, it is incumbent upon inclusive practitioners to examine their assumptions about student learning and ways that learning can be assessed. Through assessment processes, instructors convey clear messages about which students and ways of learning are valued. Traditional, one-size-fits-all approaches to assessment negate culturally responsive pedagogies and curriculum by flattening out how learning is assessed.
When we examine the most prevalent assumptions in assessment, we find that they derive from a positivist framework that views fair assessment as one that uses the same processes for all students. This attention to fairness does not acknowledge the differences among learners and the variety of ways that learning can take place. Assessment researchers Henning and Lundquist (2020), promoting inclusive assessment, suggested that educators and other assessment practitioners should use an inquiry approach to designing assessment, which is responsive to the learning environment, including the students’ ways of knowing. In this approach, assessment becomes a process of telling “the stories of what students know and can do” (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017).
Before faculty can create responsive assessments, they need to examine their own assumptions about student learning and how it can be documented. At the same time, faculty need to learn more about other ways of learning through investigating the work that has been done by researchers in areas such as Universal Design for Learning (CAST 2020) and Indigenous pedagogies (LaFever 2016; Merculieff & Roderick 2013), which can offer insights into possible ways to transform assessment practices that are fair to a greater number of students.
Transformative assessment practices begin with inclusive student learning outcomes. Faculty can use UDL and Indigenous pedagogies to rethink the language of course outcomes statements. For instance, LaFever (2016) recommended a modification of Benjamin Bloom’s three-domain taxonomy based on the medicine wheel. In her revised taxonomy, she describes four domains of learning: intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual. She provided a scale for spiritual development that could be incorporated in course outcome statements. Similarly, Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (CAST 2020) present a different conceptualization of how a learning environment can be constructed. These are two of several different approaches that highlight there is not a one-size-fits-all model for learning or assessment of learning.
In addition to exploring options beyond discipline-specific learning-outcomes language, faculty need to involve students in the process of developing, implementing, and assessing the learning outcomes. Unfortunately, teacher and student voices are missing in the construction of course learning outcomes (McArthur, 2016; 2017; Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017). Often, course outcomes are developed by a committee and assigned to courses with little opportunity for faculty who teach the courses to provide input, while students have even less opportunity. However, inclusive practitioners use their power and positionality to push back on this inequitable situation by critically examining course learning outcomes with their students. They evaluate which ways of learning are valued in the outcomes statements and which are disregarded.
Working with students to critically evaluate course learning outcomes is one way inclusive faculty can contextualize assessment within their courses (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2020). Another way is to work with students to identify what evidence can be used to demonstrate student learning. Collaboratively, students and faculty can develop the types of assignments that would best demonstrate their learning. This collaborative approach to documenting student learning recognizes the variety of ways knowledge can be represented without privileging one above another. Portfolios are an excellent means of documenting a variety of learning demonstrations that support a more integrative approach to learning. When portfolios are done well, they provide opportunities for students to reflect upon their learning and its relevance to their own lived experiences.
Once faculty and students have identified what type of evidence should be collected to demonstrate learning, they need to identify how that evidence will be analyzed. Students and the instructor can work together to develop the criteria for success (Inoue, 2015; McArthur, 2016; 2017; Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017; Winkelmes, Boye, & Tapp, 2019). A culturally responsive rubric can be co-created with students so the criteria for success are written in language that is clear to students. After the rubric has been created, students should have the opportunity to practice applying it to sample work to clarify the language and deepen their understanding of their expected performance (Winkelmes, Boye, & Tapp, 2019). Although rubrics can help in making criteria transparent, it is important to guard against allowing them to reduce learning to basic steps students can move through without engaging in the content of the course.
Inclusive assessment practices are essential in an inclusive learning environment. “We cannot assess what students know without also attempting to understand how culture, context, and the influence of both impact learning and how we assess that learning” (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2020). When faculty have done the difficult work of examining their assumptions about teaching and learning, thoughtfully implementing inclusive pedagogy, and carefully constructing an inclusive curriculum, their assessment processes must follow the same values of honoring each student’s unique lived experience in documenting their learning. Montenegro and Jankowski (2017) argued: “What is needed is not to help learners conform to the ways of higher education, thus reinforcing inequities and expectations based on ideologies the students may not ascribe to, but to empower students for success through intentional efforts to address inequality within our structures, create clear transparent pathways, and ensure that credits and
credentials are awarded by demonstration of learning, in whatever form that may take” (p. 16). Inclusive assessments promote social justice by partnering with students to identify and address barriers to demonstrating their learning.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Beginning with a critical self-examination, to designing an inclusive curriculum, implementing inclusive pedagogy, and creating inclusive assessment, this book provides a comprehensive overview of why equity and inclusion are essential in the classroom. An inclusive curriculum and pedagogical strategies cannot and should not be ignored on the pretext of lack of time and content coverage challenges but need to be practiced intentionally. The authors in this book provide educators with examples of inclusive practices in different learning contexts and different disciplines so that faculty can fulfill their responsibility of developing students who are ready to function in a diverse society.
The book is divided into six parts according to broad disciplinary connections. Each part begins with an overview and a summary of the lessons learned from the chapters and ends with a series of reflective prompts to help readers consider how they can use the lessons to create their own inclusive learning environments. Readers can go to the section that most closely aligns with their discipline. All readers will find Part I on “Setting Up Inclusive Learning Environments” and Part VI on “Inclusive Assessment” applicable irrespective of their discipline.
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