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Instructors filled tables in a spacious, well-lit room located on the fifth floor of the historic Margaret I King Library. Usually, they teach. Today they came to the home of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) to learn.

On January 19, 2023, CELT held a workshop titled “Setting Up an Inclusive Classroom” with facilitators Dr. Jill Abney, Senior Faculty Instructional Consultant in CELT, and Dr. Shauna Morgan, Director of Inclusion and Equity Initiatives in CELT and Associate Professor in the Department of English.

Abney said that most instructors are already asking themselves how to make classrooms more inclusive, but why are inclusive classrooms important? 

“The more we learn about students and people, the more we recognize that we have different ways that we learn better. We have different identities that impact how we experience the classroom space,” Abney said. 

Abney also explained that building an inclusive classroom could help instructors address challenges they are facing in their classes. 

“Some of the places where students get frustrated or get behind a little might have to do with inclusion,” Abney said. “And so, if you can find a strategy that helps to either negate that barrier or circumvent it, you’re doing yourself and your students a favor.”

An inclusive classroom builds a learning environment for the instructor as well. 

Instructors have a lot to learn from students, Abney noted, and taking the time to think about inclusivity in the classroom means getting to know students better. As instructors get closer to their students, they learn more about teaching, as well as the content that they are teaching. 

“Students say things that get me thinking, wow, I hadn't thought about it that way,” Abney said, reflecting on her own experience teaching history courses. “But if I didn't take the time to engage those particular students, that particular person, then I wouldn't get that chance to hear that.” 

Taking a step towards establishing inclusivity in the classroom can be as simple as attending workshops such as those hosted by CELT. 

CELT’s inclusivity workshops aim to equip instructors with tips and strategies to build inclusivity, and more importantly, the confidence to tweak things in their classes as they see fit. After all, there is no uniform solution to setting up an inclusive classroom. Approaches can vary across classes and disciplines—attending workshops such as these allow instructors to think about what could work for them, as well as hear and exchange ideas with instructors from different fields.  

“A room full of folks chasing after the answers to the same questions inspires us to think more broadly and we can learn from each other's experience,” said Abney. “I hope they walk away with a reflective mindset to give themselves the permission to think ok, there’s not a set right answer. I’m going to ask these questions to help myself find the best path for my class.”

CELT will continue offering these workshops, and is planning on launching an inclusive teaching badge this year. Check out CELT's event listings for upcoming workshops on inclusive teaching and other topics.