Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community



As teachers and mentors, we have an important role to play in creating a supportive and inclusive learning climate for all students. Research shows that many common educational and social practices reinforce inequities and work against the success of students from underrepresented groups. Thus, promoting success for all learners requires us to reflect on our own practices and engage in deliberate, intentional efforts to model and promote an equitable teaching and learning environment.

Yet embracing diversity in our teaching is not just important for students from underrepresented groups, or only relevant for courses that focus on diversity itself. All university students should learn about the diverse world in which they live, and all instructors should draw upon diversity to enrich learning for everyone.

The resources on this page are intended to help instructors adopt teaching methods and strategies that enhance inclusivity and respect for diversity in their classes. Additional guidance for promoting equity and inclusion in socially-distanced, online or hybrid classes can be found in the Designing for Equity and Access section of the FlexTeaching Guidebook

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 opportunity 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 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.

We recommend presenting students with open-ended problems and assignments that have many “correct” answers: the types of questions that require the consensus of a group or contributions from everyone in a group to address.

It’s also important to increase transparency in courses. For example, 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 benefit from additional clarity and transparency.

Throughout the semester, you should continually assess student outcomes. Use formal (e.g., student performance, student feedback) and informal (e.g., in-class engagement, participation) evidence to guide your teaching.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself as you consider creating a more inclusive environment in your course:

  • How does your teaching promote 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, do you seek out new interventions to address those challenges?


  1. Born, W.L,, Revell, W., & Pinto, L.H. (2002). Improving Biology Performance with Workshop Groups. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 11(4).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Creating an Inclusive Climate

An inclusive classroom climate is one that embraces diversity and creates an atmosphere of respect for all members of the KU community. Feeling unsupported and isolated in the university environment puts students at a high risk for dropping out of college, particularly in the first two years of the curriculum. The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning argues that we can capitalize on the rich array of experiences, backgrounds, and skills that diverse faculty and students bring to the classroom to the benefit of all. Here are some strategies for student-centered teaching that faculty can adopt to promote a sense of belonging, validation, and mutual respect in our classrooms:

  • Look for ways to increase student exposure to the diversity of human experience. Choose content and examples that address and model diversity, regardless of the subject. Although issues of diversity may at first glance seem more relevant to some disciplines than others, scholars in any discipline should consider how different frames of reference and cultural assumptions affect the accumulation of knowledge.
  • Include issues of diversity as part of the course learning outcomes. Use images of people that represent various ethnicities, races, and genders, and use a broad range of analogies and examples. Make your classroom inspiring for underrepresented students. Discussing the contributions of diverse scholars and providing role models that represent a range of cultures, races, genders, or sexual identities conveys that everyone can be successful.
  • Create diverse groups or learning teams. When using instructor-formed groups or learning teams, avoid (when possible) creating groups that either isolate underrepresented students or create homogenous groups of students. Students who feel isolated within their team may lose the benefits of collaborative learning, and may have an amplified feeling of marginalization at the university. Provide guidelines for group interactions, check on group functioning through peer feedback, and intervene to shift or structure groups as needed.
  • Reduce stereotype threat. This term was coined by Steele and Aronson (1995) to refer to situations in which the performance of negatively stereotyped groups suffers when that stereotype is activated or emphasized. Strategies such as reframing a task with different language and providing role models can help to counteract stereotype threat.
  • Include diversity and disabilities statements in your syllabus. Such statements communicate a commitment to diversity and inclusion from the beginning of the semester. They also provide an opportunity to set ground rules or a code of conduct for respectful and appropriate behavior.
  • Reflect on your own background and experiences. Consider how your own background and cultural influences might affect how you have designed your course. Does the material provide an accurate representation of various perspectives? The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan provides reflective strategies for faculty to examine the impact of social identity on teaching.
  • Create a gender inclusive environment by using gender inclusive langue and respecting your students' personal pronouns. Set an example for your class and play an active role in using inclusive gender language in your classroom.

Resource: Rocca, Kella A. (2010). Student participation in the college classroom: an extended multidisciplinary literature review. Communication Education 59:2 (April): 185-213

Leading Difficult Discussions

Instructors can create a positive climate for intellectual discourse about diversity by setting guidelines for class participation that anticipate difficult discussions, and managing contentious interactions when they arise. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set guidelines. Provide students with a set of ground rules for class participation, or engage your students in designing them with you. Ground rules about civil behavior, acceptable evidence, and appropriate responses to offensive statements can make your expectations for civil, meaningful discourse clear from the start, and facilitate an atmosphere of mutual respect. Encourage all students to participate by assigning roles, or providing multiple avenues for participation (e.g., through writing or discussion).
  • Manage contentious interactions. When an offensive remark is made, Lee Warren, of the Derek Bok Center at Harvard University, encourages us “1) to manage ourselves so as to make them useful, and 2) to find the teaching opportunities to help students learn in and from the moment.” Try to collect yourself and set aside your own personal reactions. Do not allow personal attacks or avoid addressing a hot moment altogether. Instead, help students step back and think about the issue productively, such as by making it a topic of general discussion or a writing exercise.
  • Treat students as individuals, not as representatives of or “experts” for their racial, cultural, or other social identity group. Allow students to draw on their own lives and experiences when appropriate.
  • This page of the FlexTeaching Guidebook provides more guidance for supporting meaningful dialogue about potentially charged topics in both in-person and online contexts. 

Inclusive Teaching Resources

Resources for Instructors of Color Working at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)

This list of resources is intended to be a set of academic research evidence, anecdotal reflections, and recommendations for GTAs, lecturers, and faculty teaching and working at colleges and universities that have majority white populations among faculty and students. This list is not comprehensive and reflects a variety of experiences. The list started in 2020 with the idea that more resources can be added.

Curated by Kim Warren, CTE Fellow (July 2020)

Kim Warren is Associate Professor of History (CLAS) and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (School of Social Welfare)


Frank Tuitt, Michele Hanna, Lisa M. Martinez, María del Carmen Salazar, and Rachel Griffin, “Teaching in the Line of Fire: Faculty of Color in the Academy,” Thought and Action (Fall 2009)

Excerpt from article:

“According to Cathy A. Trower, a research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, faculty of color:

  • experience overt and/or covert racism including being stereotyped and pigeon-holed;
  • are marginalized and find that their research is discredited, especially if it concerns minority issues;
  • bear a tremendous burden of tokenism, including feeling like they must be exemplars of their entire race and work twice as hard to get half as far;
  • feel obligated to represent one’s race or ethnicity on multiple committees that help the institution, but not necessarily the individual, and to mentor and advise many same-race students—a huge hidden work load that goes unrewarded in the promotion and tenure system; and suffer from negative, unintended consequences of being perceived as an affirmative action or target-of-opportunity hire.”

Recommendations from article:

“To begin, higher education leaders need to enhance their understanding of the range of classroom experiences faculty of color encounter in PWIs and consider developing programs that address the various challenges faculty of color face. Correspondingly, because research suggests that race matters in terms of how faculty members experience the classroom environment, faculty of color need to familiarize themselves with the range of best practices related to creating inclusive learning environments and seek out resources that enhance their overall effective- ness in the classroom. Additionally, because many—but not all—faculty of color teach courses that address diversity-related content, they will need to prepare themselves for addressing acts of intolerance and resistance in the classroom. Finally, it is imperative that educators concerned with ensuring the success of faculty of color who teach in PWIs create inclusive work environments. This will require that the academy identify new models for creating institutional change; pay attention to the climate and conditions under which faculty of color teach; and signal to faculty of color that PWIs are invested in their growth, development, and success by doing everything possible to ensure that support and resources are available.”


Kristen J. Mills, “‘It’s Systemic’: Environmental Racial Microaggressions Experienced by Black Undergraduates at a Predominantly White Institution,” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 13: 1 (March 2020): 44-55. DOI:10.1037/dhe0000121

Excerpt from article:

Findings indicated that students experienced six types of environmental racial microaggressions in various contexts at the university: (a) segregation, (b) lack of representation, (c) campus response to criminality, (d) cultural bias in courses, (e) tokenism, and (f) pressure to conform.

Recommendations from article:

“…related to the theme segregation, desegregating campus housing may serve to encourage cross-racial and cross-cultural interactions and address segregation as described in this study. In another theme, representation, participants noted a lack of racial representation across campus contexts. To increase representation, universities can continue and/or increase current efforts to recruit, retain, and support staff, students, faculty, and administrators of color. To address the next theme, campus response to criminality, university administration can improve the infrastructure for reporting hate speech, racial intimidation, and bias incident reporting, and reprimand offenders in order to attend to the hyper-criminalization of Black students and curtailed attention given to crimes committed against Black students. Next, to address the theme cultural bias in courses, the university can encourage instructors to create courses and integrate material about African and African American studies and other minoritized races, ethnicities, and cultures. Concurrently, the university could make advising offices aware of these courses and their availability in order to inform and promote them to all students. In addition, instructors and university staff at large can be offered workshops and written materials on topics such as creating an effective learning climate, classroom management, inclusive teaching methods, and teaching for diverse populations. To address the final themes, tokenism and pressure to conform, and to more generally improve campus racial climate, university diversity course requirements may be altered to include more intentional interpersonal interactions (e.g., intercultural dialogues) between persons of differing backgrounds such as roundtable discussions, lectures, and university events emphasizing cultural diversity. The findings can also be used inform future social action research. For example, future social action research could inquire about the campus locations or events wherein environmental racial microaggressions are most frequently communicated and develop campus initiatives or campaigns to raise awareness of and reduce environmental racial microaggressions.”


Karen Kelsky, “How to Support Students of Color” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 31, 2017

Excerpt from article:

“I want to be clear that I am a white person addressing this column to other white people who are teaching. I do not mean to exclude anyone, or to claim authority about the experiences or needs of people of color. It is my firm conviction that the time has come for white people to speak up about racism, and to educate one another about anti-racist activism, and not leave the burden of this work on the shoulders of people of color. I am drawing inspiration here from a group I am involved with, Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national organization dedicated to mobilizing white people in anti-racism work. You can probably find a local chapter in your town, and I urge you to do so, as SURJ is not only a resource for training and information but also a location to connect with like-minded people, which is essential at a time when faculty are increasingly called upon to protect vulnerable students.”

Recommendations from article:

  • Don’t tell students of color not to worry.
  • Be visible in your support of students of color.
  • Encourage a mix of views.
  • Make your syllabus inclusive.
  • Support students of color in classroom discussion.
  • Don't be defensive.


Sarah Brown, “Students of Color Are Not OK. Here’s How Colleges Can Support Them.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 6, 2020

Excerpt from the article:

“Loyola University Maryland, Jason Parcover, director of the counseling center: ‘Investing in anti-racism efforts includes really acknowledging and understanding deeply that we are all in this together, and that our health in all forms, including our mental health, is connected to how other members of our community are faring,’ Parcover said. ‘By definition, anti-racism work is mental-health and wellness work.’”

Recommendations from the article:

  • Culturally Competent Counseling
  • No More Two-Week Waits
  • Anti-Racism as Wellness
  • An Ounce of Prevention


National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) Anyone with a email account can access the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD).

Resources from website:

Sign up for emails from NCFDD.

Excerpt from website:

“Resources for Graduate Students: You’re in a critically important stage of your academic career where you’re learning how to become an excellent teacher and rigorous researcher in your discipline. You’re primarily concerned with completing your dissertation, finding a postdoc or fellowship, and/or the nuts and bolts of finding a tenure-track job.”


Bedelia Richards, PhD, facilitator: How to Challenge Race and Gender Bias in Student Evaluations (1 hour, 17 minutes)

Resources from website:

  • Core Curriculum WebinarsThe NCFDD's Core Curriculum is designed to teach you the 10 key skills necessary to thrive in the Academy. We define "thriving" as having extraordinary writing and research productivity AND having a full and healthy life off campus.
  • Guest Expert Webinars & Multi-Week CoursesWe offer a variety of Guest Expert Webinars designed to meet the needs of faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students. Our Multi-Week Courses are intensive series offered by expert facilitators to tackle the Academy's most pressing challenges.
  • Dissertation Success ResourcesThe Dissertation Success Program is designed for doctoral candidates who are focused on finishing their dissertation. The program is built on the assumption that there is only one way to complete a dissertation: WRITE IT! The program teaches students how to navigate around three common obstacles to finishing in the context of a supportive community.
  • How to Navigate the Academic Job MarketIn this 3-week course, Karen Kelsky, PhD, walks participants through the big-picture conditions of the U.S. tenure track job market, how to think like a search committee, how to write the cover letter and CV, major types of questions to can expect in an academic interview, how to prepare answers, how to overcome the most common pitfalls, and much more.
  • 14-Day Writing ChallengeThe 14-Day Writing Challenge is an opportunity for you to experiment with daily writing in a supportive community, with a little daily dose of electronic love.
  • The Monday MotivatorThe Monday Motivator is a weekly email that provides positive energy, good vibes, and a weekly productivity tip. Each Monday Motivator reinforces the ideas presented in our Core Curriculum webinars.


Aisha S. Ahmad, “A Survival Guide for Black, Indigenous, and Other Women of Color in Academe: How to Protect Your Bright Mind from the Drain of Everyday Racism You May Encounter in Academic Life,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 6, 2020

Excerpt from the article:

“This week, I was awarded tenure at my university. Brown. Muslim. Woman. Tenured. As I enter this new stage of my career, I can think only of you: the BIPOC woman starting her journey in higher education. The next generation.”

Recommendations from the article:

“The truth is, we are not as free as you will be. The world you are creating will be more equitable than the one we created for you. You—the next generation—must scale the walls of justice that we could not surmount. You must surpass us. One day, you will help other surpass you.”


Kevin V. Collymore, “Colleges Must Confront Structural Racism. Here Are Steps They Should Take Now.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 1, 2020

Excerpt from the article:

“Whether colleges end up operating in person, online, or in a hybrid format this fall, they will have to confront structural racism head-on.”

Recommendations from the article:

  • Require implicit-bias training for anyone involved in admissions.
  • Guarantee financial aid beyond the first year.
  • Require de-escalation training for public safety officers.
  • Adopt a transparent student-protest policy.
  • Conduct a campus-wide review of building and school names.
  • Punish racial profiling on campus
  • Create a strategic plan to hire diverse faculty and staff.
  • Diversify health and wellness personnel.
  • Expand the scope of your chief diversity officer.
  • Engage in proactive dialogue.

CTE turns 25

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