Inclusive Syllabi

An inclusive classroom begins with an inclusive syllabus. Although we include information for creating a syllabus on our preparing a course page, we also believe that it is important to include resources specifically for instructors who wish to create an inclusive classroom climate and acknowledge issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their syllabi. This page begins with a statement produced by Ward Lyles (School of Public Affairs and Administration) for the CTE 2016/2017 Diversity Scholars Program. After reading this letter, we encourage you to consult the many resources on this page as you draft a syllabus that recognizes and embraces diversity.

Return to Teaching Resources

Return to Preparing a Syllabus

Return to New Faculty Links

“Furthering the Conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Course Climate, Pedagogy, and Content”

An introduction to the self-assessment tool from Ward Lyles (School of Public Affairs and Administration)

Dear Colleagues,

Creating an inclusive and equitable climate for learning in diverse classrooms is an important but often overlooked aspect of developing a syllabus and conducting a successful course.

Faculty and students working with the Center for Teaching Excellence consolidated and extended existing resources to create an easy-to-use tool for self-evaluating our teaching when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. This packet introduces the tool and explains how it can be used to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in our courses, especially through a self-audit of our syllabi.

If our goal is to engage all students in active and meaningful learning, our course syllabi and curriculum must acknowledge the experiences and identities of all people. This process starts with an understanding of the following:

Diversity is understood to be intellectual, practical, and personal engagement with issues related to social justice and equity, particularly in relation to minority and marginalized groups such as African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, international peoples, women, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Equity is understood to consist of a safe, healthy, and fair learning environment for all students.

Inclusion is understood to consist of fully involving and engaging all students in the community of learners in a classroom.

When considering issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in terms of how they manifest in higher-education settings, some groups, including, students of color, non-traditional students, first generation students, working students, parents, and older students, are often especially marginalized. Moreover, individuals can experience social categories such as race, class, and gender as overlapping and interdependent factors of discrimination or disadvantage, a phenomenon understood as intersectionality. All instructors can take steps to recognize the diverse experiences their students live and to make their classrooms more inclusive and equitable.

The self-assessment tool draws on a variety of resources and experiences. Prominent resources referenced include the work of Kim Case, including her Syllabus Challenge worksheet, Shari Saunders and Diana Kardia, including their work on creating inclusive college classrooms, recommendations from the KU Center for Teaching Excellence, and discussions and insights of the Diversity Scholars group of 2016-2017. Goals in completing an assessment using the tool might include:

  • To further discourse about diversity, equity, and inclusion in teaching,

  • To identify strong points as well as weaknesses and gaps in coverage of diversity, and

  • To improve course syllabi and make our university more inclusive to all students.

We hope and expect that the tool will evolve over time as more instructors use it. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Page Contents

  • 1. Introduction to the Self-Assessment Tool

  • 2. Self-Assessment Tool for Instructors

  • 3. Sample Syllabus Statement

  • 4. Building a Syllabus, with Examples

  • 5. Student Support Services at KU

Self-Assessment Tool for Instructors

Please look at the prompts below and consider your own syllabi and teaching to determine what level (0, 1, 2, or 3) most accurately reflects your situation. The levels are designed to help you make effective changes moving forward. 

By piloting this project in the Urban Planning department we were able to establish a baseline of addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion that most syllabi achieved. At the very least all syllabi included:

  • Information on accommodations for schedule conflicts and religious holidays.
  • Information on accommodations for disabled students and how to contact the AAAC.

Critically read your syllabus and note if and where you address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Understanding where your syllabus is lacking in coverage of these issues can help inform the improvements you choose to make in Levels 2 and 3. The first and easiest change to make to your syllabus is adding information about campus resources available to students. See CHECKLIST OF RESOURCES for a list of pre-formatted descriptions of resources to paste directly into your syllabus.

The next level of improving your course involves reviewing the descriptive sections (the introduction, objectives, course format, policies, etc.) of your syllabus and focusing on how the course climate you create and the pedagogy you use does or does not address issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. While this level requires more consideration on the part of the professor than Level 1, it also makes a greater impact on student’s understanding of how these issues will be addressed in the course. See CHECKLIST OF ACTIONS for detailed examples of how to engage issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity – to the benefit of all students – in the realms of class climate and class pedagogy.

More substantial changes can be made to fundamental course elements such as the module topics, lecture topics, and course readings to integrate issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion into a classroom setting. These changes may require a restructuring of the course, but the resulting changes will actively engage students in developing and furthering their understanding of these issues. Here too, CHECKLIST OF ACTIONS provides numerous ideas for addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion through course content.

Sample Syllabus Statement

“This is an Inclusive Classroom”

At KU, administrators, faculty, and staff are committed to the creation and maintenance of “inclusive learning” spaces. These are classrooms, labs, and other places of learning where you will be treated with respect and dignity and where all individuals are provided equitable opportunity to participate, contribute, and succeed.

In [our classroom/insert course here], all students are welcome regardless of race/ethnicity, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disabilities, religion, regional background, Veteran status, citizenship status, nationality and other diverse identities that we each bring to class.

Your success at KU and beyond is enhanced by the innovation and creativity of thought that inclusive classrooms facilitate. The success of an inclusive classroom relies on the participation, support, and understanding of you and your peers. We encourage you to speak up and share your views, but also understand that you are doing so in a learning environment in which we all are expected to engage respectfully and with regard to the dignity of all others.

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or who lacks a safe and stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact me or Student Affairs for support. Other resources you may find helpful:

If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to raise them in class or with me directly.