Let’s talk about diversity and inclusion
Diversity is the norm, not the exception. Therefore, we should design and deliver our courses with this in mind. But why do so, and how? And what does “inclusion” mean in terms of teaching?
This website on Inclusive Pedagogies aims to answer these questions and many more!
Feel free to browse the different pages on this website, in any order, as often as you like.
Definitions of inclusive teaching
Inclusive teaching is the “practice of embracing student diversity and designing courses in ways that reach all students”.
(Hogan & Sathy, 2020)
Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity in all forms - race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, ideology, and even personality traits like introversion - as an asset. It means designing and teaching courses in ways that foster talent in all students, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education.
(Sathy & Hogan, 2019)
Tip: Along the way, you may need to access a lexicon to clarify some of the terms you will encounter while browsing this website. We recommend using the Guide on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Terminology from the Government of Canada.
Benefits of inclusive teaching
- Supports a positive learning environment and a student experience conducive to academic success.
- Enriches the learning environment.
- Engages students as they feel included and sought-after contributors.
- Lowers barriers to learning and supports students in reaching their full potential.
- Encourages feelings of competence, autonomy, and social belonging.
- Acknowledges diversity and diverse ways of learning (DWL) (No “one-size-fits-all” model).
- Fosters a more collaborative relationship between the professor and their students.
Learning is both a simple and complex process
It is simple,
because it is part of our everyday lives: after all, we learn every day!
It is complex,
because it uses a multitude of cognitive functions, such as our memory and analytical skills; emotional functions, such as confidence in our abilities and motivation; and kinesthetic functions, to help us face challenges, deliver results, and apply our acquired knowledge in our personal and professional lives.
It is also complex,
and most particularly according to some, because we must account for the various contexts, including that of the institution, that of the teaching staff and of its area of expertise, and above all, that of the students at the centre of the process.
And in a group, such contexts can be very diverse and bring their own share of challenges and benefits to the learning environment.
Education is a powerful weapon to change attitudes and transcend differences.
This website’s intent and structure
This website was created and organized thinking of you, the University’s teaching community members, hoping it will help make your courses and teaching practices more inclusive. We also hope it will help you provide a more positive and inclusive learning experience for students from marginalized/minoritized/racialized/subordinated1 groups and enrich the learning experience of the entire student community.
The teaching team and staff offering training on campus are the target clientele of this website on inclusive pedagogies.
This website will attempt to answer the following questions:
- How to lower barriers to learning for all?
- How to inclusively support the development of every student’s full potential?
- How to equitably foster academic success for our entire student community?
In doing so, this website will help you think about inclusive teaching (Page 2 - Context and considerations). It should also help you explore new strategies, tips, and tools for teaching and supporting learning (Page 4 - Strategies and tools) based on the conceptual frameworks (Page 3 - Conceptual frameworks) that guided our thinking and our choice of recommendations. Finally, you will discover resources to further explore the various ideas on this website (Page 5 - Resources).
Learning about others, dialoguing with others and implementing positive strategies “will allow us to become catalysts for change leading to more supportive and inclusive learning environments, for the benefit of all learners (…)”.
(Tomlins-Jahnke, Styres et al., 2019, p. XXVII).
Background: learning space and collaboration
Above all, this website is an educational space.
We want to make this clarification because we are aware that the classroom, whether physical or virtual, is not a neutral space2. It would therefore be easy to get into a political debate, which is obviously not our objective.
What we teach and share comes from one or more specific perspective(s), and explicitly or implicitly refers to one or more ideologies3 conveyed by our beliefs and values, and by the beliefs and values of our department, our university, and/or our societal systems4. We will discuss this further under Page 3 - Conceptual frameworks.
Assumptions that the content of learning is neutral ignore the privileging of some academic subjects over others, the focus on dominant social groups at the core of the curriculum, and the approaches to teaching and learning that advantage socially dominant groups and marginalize and exclude others based on race, gender, and class-based stereotypes of smartness, academic preparation, or the cultural values embodied by traditional academic practices.
(Adams & Bell, 2016, p. 28)
There is no neutral text; all texts represent a particular perspective. All texts are embedded with ideology; the ideology embedded in most mainstream texts functions to reproduce historical relations of unequal power. Texts that appeal to a wide audience usually do so because they reinforce dominant narratives and serve dominant interests.
(Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017, p. 210)
The knowledge, experiences, and perspectives that describe equity, diversity, and inclusion in postsecondary teaching are wide-ranging. We tried to give the best representation possible of this reality. When developing content for this website, we consulted many members of the academic community and the literature. We gathered a variety of academic and experiential expertise and positions. We then summarized and structured them within the specific framework of the learning environment, not our university campus as a whole.
Due to time and space limitations, we simply could not review and catalogue the phenomenal amount of information and resources available. We had to make choices. And we hope we made the right ones. We apologize for any oversights or deliberate omissions, and we invite you to send us your comments and suggestions using the Feedback Form in Page 5 - Resources, to help this website evolve in the coming months and years.
Finally, some context is in order: most team members who created this website belong to the dominant group (white, educated people). They acknowledge their privilege. Each of these people also belongs to a group that is either a minority, marginalized, subordinated or racialized group on campus.
They see themselves as allies to the entire teaching community and to all students, and they value positive, inclusive, and safe learning environments.
Collaboration: united we stand, divided we fall!
We thought it important to indicate that we subscribe, as done by others5 elsewhere, to a unifying vision of intergroup, collaborative work. Consequently, this website treats marginalized, minority, racialized and subordinated groups as a whole, with similarities and common goals, but also, we realize, with specific particularities and needs. We do not deny them. We choose to focus, for the most part, on the commonalities, to build together. To do this, we tried to capture the variety of views within the groups we consulted, to listen with empathy when gathering testimonials, and to question our analysis and understanding of these views against our own biased position.
Working in collaboration with diverse groups is essential for building collective strengths and developing strategies that draw on the energies, insights, and access to power of people who are differently positioned. Working at the intersections across groups and identities is an important coalitional strategy because it links processes of subordination/domination and prevents compartmentalizing issues (…). When one group fails to acknowledge the ideas and needs of their groups in a coalition, it only strengthens the power relations that each is attempting to challenge. Thus, thinking and working across intersections can prevent working at cross-purposes.
(Adams & Bell, 2016, p. 20)
It is our experience that if professors and departments have to consider individual groups “requests” and realities in how they design and deliver their course(s) and curricula, it increases the chance that they will feel or be overwhelmed. Consequently, they won't implement changes in how they teach or offer programs, therefore maintaining the status quo in how things are done, as well as maintaining the systemic ways of the majority group. This makes for a disservice to all.
By focusing on the commonalities of different groups, again without dismissing the specificities, it is our belief that we have a better chance of making progress, by all of us working toward the same goal, making the learning experience more inclusive for all.
In the end, it is our goal to make our courses, and the learning environment more welcoming and engaging for students from all walks of life, whether they are Indigenous, Black, racialized; have a disability; identify as LGBTQ+; or are coming from abroad (international students). We also want the learning environment to be more representative of gender, age, religion, ethnicity, abilities and so on.
Of course, no approach is perfect. However, we think this united approach is a win-win for all. No more status quo!
Let’s make our classrooms more inclusive, together!
Document to download
On each page of the Inclusive pedagogies website, you can access a document summarizing key messages or strategies.
- Adams, M., & Bell, L. A. (Eds.) (2016). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (3rd ed.). Routledge.
- Beaudoin, J.-P. (2018). Parlons d’enseignement - Diversité, inclusion et apprentissage [unpublished]. Teaching and Learning Support Service, University of Ottawa.
- Hogan K. A., & Sathy, V. (2020, April 7). 8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching. Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Ryan, E. L, & Deci, R. M. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.
- Sathy, V., & Hogan K. A. (2019). How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive: Advice Guide. The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (2nd ed.). Teachers College Press.
- Styres, S. D. (2017). Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education: Philosophies of Iehti’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha (Land). University of Toronto Press.
- Swiftwolfe, D. (2019). Indigenous Ally toolkit. Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network.
- Tomlins-Jahnke, H., Styres, S. D., Lilley, S., & Zinga, D. (2019). Indigenous Education: New Directions in Theory and Practice. University of Alberta Press.
1Please note that on this website, we use those qualifiers interchangeably for readability. We acknowledge that these terms are not exact synonyms.
2See: Adams & Bell, 2016; Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017.
3“Ideology generally refers to the study of systems of ideas and sets of beliefs that constitute a group of individuals” (Styres, 2017, p. 97).
4See: Adams & Bell, 2016; Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017.
5In particular Adams & Bell (2016), Sensoy & DiAngelo (2017), and Swiftwolfe (2019).