Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Adopting inclusive teaching methods

Some teaching strategies are particularly effective in engaging and supporting learning in students from a wide range of backgrounds. Methods that encourage active and collaborative learning improve student engagement and learning for all students, and close the achievement gap between underrepresented and majority students. The overall effectiveness of these methods has been borne out in research nationally, most recently by a major meta-analysis of hundreds of studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Strategies such as cooperative small group learning, problem-based learning and increased course structure (e.g., guided-reading questions, preparatory homework, and in-class activities) have proved especially helpful to minority students and first-generation students. These methods are at the core of current course redesign efforts to include more student-centered teaching. Similarly, peer-led supplemental discussions or workshops enhance learning for all, with especially significant benefits for minority or underrepresented student groups.

These approaches shrink large classes to smaller groups in the same space, reduce academic isolation and encourage a sense of community and social support. They also enhance critical thinking, improve student preparation and accountability, and transform students into active learners. They also employ universal design, a strategy that increases access and support for particular groups of students but that benefits all learners.

Several courses at KU have employed these strategies, and the instructors explain their approaches and their results in course portfolios on the CTE website:

Active, problem-based and collaborative learning

Peer-led discussions

Other approaches in and out of the classroom that improve engagement and success in diverse learners:

  • Emphasizing the real-world applications of course material.
  • Open-ended problems and assignments that have many “correct” answers; questions that require consensus of group or contributions of everyone in a group to address.
  • Increasing transparency in courses, such as the use of rubrics for grading. Rubrics improve grading efficiency and consistency, and they also demystify what it takes to succeed on an assignment. Students from underrepresented groups who do not have access to insider academic knowledge can particularly benefit from additional clarity and transparency.
  • Continually assessing student outcomes. Use formal (e.g., student performance, student feedback) and informal (e.g., in-class engagement, participation) evidence to guide your teaching. Are the strategies that you are using promoting broad student achievement of the skills and concepts you hope they will take away from your course? Are your methods engaging students from a wide range of backgrounds? When student outcomes fall short of your expectations or wishes, look for new interventions to address those challenges.


  • Born, W.L,, Revell, W., & Pinto, L.H. (2002). Improving Biology Performance with Workshop Groups. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 11(4).
  • Course Redesign at KU
  • Eddy, S.L., & Hogan, K.A. (2014). Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work? CBE—Life Sciences Education, 13, 453–468.
  • Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, Wenderoth MP (2014). Active learning increases student performance across the STEM disciplines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 111, 8410–8415.
  • Rubrics from CTE.
  • Scale-Up or Studio Physics model
  • Universal Design

CTE turns 25

The Center for Teaching Excellence is celebrating its 25th birthday this academic year. Watch for special events and workshops.