Inclusive Classrooms

An inclusive classroom is one that reduces or eliminates barriers to learning for the greatest number of students in your course. An inclusive classroom accounts for our student diversity with respect to ability, ethnicity, Indigeneity, language, gender orientation and identity, and experience as examples.

An inclusive classroom provides students with multiple ways to learn and multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge and skills. An inclusive classroom counters systemic “we’ve always done it this way” approaches to assessment and teaching methods.

The move to online teaching presents an opportunity to make impactful change for students.

The Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) has developed an online teaching hub to support you in your online teaching journey. On this site you'll find information about course design, instructional tools, and where to go for help.

While there are many approaches, an inclusive classroom can be facilitated through Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

NOTE: UDL is one tool of many. UDL does not necessarily eliminate a student's approved accommodation.

What is UDL?

UDL “is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution, but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.” (From the National Centre on Universal Design for Learning)

UDL is not:

  • A watering down of content
  • A practice that compromises the essential elements of your course or program
  • Costly
  • Reactive but proactive

How to implement UDL

Small changes in the classroom can make big differences to your students. UDL takes into consideration the why, what and how of learning. In other words, engagement, representation and action and expression.

The following are examples of representation. Some small changes you can make immediately.

Post general outlines ahead of your lecture.
Students can prepare before class and/or use the outline as a guide for taking notes during the lecture.

Use more than one method (visual, auditory, hands-on) when explaining a concept.
Some examples include captioned videos, flow charts and diagrams.

Pause during your lecture. Pause during a video. Pause during a demonstration.
This will provide your students with an opportunity to process what you’ve said, or what they’ve observed, before moving on.

Make explicit connections between previously taught concepts and new concepts.
Your transition to new material can be intentional and purposeful.

Break larger tasks into smaller tasks—and assign value.
For example, 40% of the final grade is a major project. A percentage of 40% could be assigned to an outline and thesis statement; another percentage could be assigned to the reference list; another for a draft, etc.

Other ways to create a more inclusive classroom

An inclusive classroom reduces the need for student accommodations and falls in line with Dalhousie’s diversity and inclusion strategy. Some of your Dalhousie colleagues are using the following approaches to create an inclusive classroom:

Sourcing e-books for students who use readers or other technology

Using multiple forms of evaluation

Allowing cue sheets during tests/exams
You’re not testing memory recall; rather, the ability to apply theories and concepts.

Reducing the use of timed tests/exams as an assessment tool

Assigning reasonable weighting of all assessments

Providing options for class participation
In-class, through Brightspace discussion board, reflection papers.

Centre for Learning and Teaching

The Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) is a resource, support, and service for faculty, instructional staff, and graduate student teachers, available for consultation on inclusive classrooms, curriculum, content, activities, and assessment. This may include the implementation of UDL but also numerous other pedagogical strategies.

Check out the CLT’s Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining an Inclusive Classroom.