Reflecting on our pedagogy makes us think about what does and does not work, and what we can and cannot change. We examine the way we plan and teach, describe reasons for our choices, review the impact of our choices, unearth our underlying assumptions, and potentially identify areas for revision.
As we look at our underlying beliefs about our subject, who we are as educators, and who our students are, we assess how these ideas align with our classroom practice. Once this is complete, we are better able to strategize for inclusion.
Consider writing about your inclusive teaching goals and learning outcomes. Ask yourself:
- Why is inclusion important to you, your course, or your discipline?
- How does intentionally engaging in inclusive pedagogy support disciplinary learning, skills, and habits of mind?
- What are you trying to accomplish in this course in terms of inclusion? For example, do you want to ensure that all students demonstrate a high level of engagement? Do you want to increase students' understanding of the diversity of knowledge produced in your field?
- Who are your students?
- How do you want these students to work with you, their peers, and your discipline? Why?
- Given the potential for a large variety of students in your class, how can you teach to overcome variations in engagement and approaches to learning?
- Are there specific ideas about diversity or difference that students should know? What are they? Why do you want students to learn them?
- How will you learn and introduce values and ideas you have not previously considered in order to make your course content more diverse?
Thinking about a single class or interaction with a group of students, respond to the prompts below.
Review your learning outcomes and inclusion goals.
- What did you intend for students to be able to do, know, or value?
- How will you know if students have accomplished these goals?
Review your intentions for student interaction.
- How did you expect students to interact with you, one other, and the content?
- What opportunities did you create for this kind of interaction?
- How did these intentions build upon what you know about your students' interests, strengths, challenges, and identities?
Review your assessments and student performance.
- How did you assess students’ learning? How were criteria connected to your learning goals?
- How did students perform?
- What form of feedback did you give?
Consider feedback from students.
- What did students tell you about their learning?
- How did you learn this information? Did you use a brief classroom assessment technique (e.g., a minute paper), a survey, a course evaluation, or verbal feedback?
Record your reactions to this feedback.
- Are you validated in your approach?
- Are you surprised by any of your students’ comments?
- Did students seem affected by the intentional, inclusive actions you made?
- Do student comments or your reactions bring to mind particular students or types of students? Why?
- Are your reactions tied to preconceived ideas or biases about students or populations of people? Should you make steps to adjust these ideas?
Reflect on the entire process.
- Do student comments align with your recollection?
- If you intentionally tried a new, inclusive activity or approach, what changes in student behavior or learning did you notice?
- Which parts of your plan may have produced positive reactions and expected learning from students? Which ones resulted in a negative or surprising reaction?
- What can you do differently?
- How can you change your behavior in order to make better progress toward your goals?
- How can you change your plan to make better progress toward student learning outcomes?
- What specific steps do you need to take in order to continue refining your understanding of inclusive teaching?
Take time to further reflect on a course.
This model for critical reflection is adapted from the Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning (DEAL) Model for Critical Reflection developed by Patti Clayton and Sarah Ash. Following this model for critical reflection can help you reflect on your experiences in the classroom and develop new approaches for teaching inclusively.
First: Describe Experience(s)
Reflect on the “big picture.” What have you done differently or tried to implement to further your inclusive teaching practice? Focus on two or three key experiences. For these experiences, describe the following in detail:
- When did this experience take place? Was this during a lecture, seminar, lab, discussion section, or office hours?
- Who was there? What was said? What did you/others do?
- If you are recalling the process of varying course content, perhaps think about the process used to get there or the students’ reactions when you shared your syllabus or revised readings.
- What did you do to change the syllabus? With whom did you consult? What did they say?
- Describe how students read a new selection. What was the effect? What were their questions or responses?
Second: Describe Your Progress
- Review your goals and learning outcomes.
- What specific changes did you make?
- To what extent were you successful? How do you know this?
- What obstacles—internal and external—hindered you?
- What factors made you more effective?
- If you tried this before, in what specific ways is your understanding of your conclusions changing?
- How can you change your behavior or attitude in order to make better progress toward your goals?
First: Examine Experience from an Academic Perspective
- What specific elements of literature on general pedagogy or inclusive pedagogy relate to this experience?
- How did you apply a skill, perspective, or concept related to some practice you learned?
- What similarities and differences are there between perspectives on the situation or topic offered by academic literature and the classroom experience?
- How does this experience enhance your knowledge of a specific reading, theory, or concept? Does it challenge or reinforce your prior understanding?
Second: Examine Experience from a Personal Perspective
- Think about how the experience affected you and why. Try not to think of the experience as only positive or negative, but rather, explore in it all of its dimensions.
- How have past experiences influenced the manner in which you acted or responded to this situation? Are you comfortable with the influence past experiences have on you?
- What personal strengths/weaknesses of yours did the situation reveal? In what ways did they affect the situation positively and negatively? What might you do to build on strengths/overcome weaknesses?
- What personal skills did you draw on in handling this situation? What personal skills would you like to develop in order to handle it better in the future, and how might you develop them?
Third: Examine the Experience from a Social Location Perspective
- Taking a critical look at an interaction, think about how the experience may have revealed your attitudes or biases toward your students or toward the subject matter. For example, if you added a new text by a theorist from an underrepresented background, did you give it adequate time and attention?
- Did you reinforce or challenge an assumption or a stereotype by the way you acted? How does this experience highlight the relationship between your classroom and larger social or cultural systems?
- What assumptions did you and others bring to the situation? Are these assumptions appropriate, understandable, and shared? How are these assumptions related to larger social or cultural issues?
- What privilege did you or your students bring? What are the sources of such privilege? How are you, or others, disempowered by lack of privilege?
- What changes does this experience suggest are needed within your class, the department, the University, or your discipline more generally? How can these changes be accomplished: with individual action or collective action, working within the system, challenging the system, etc.?
Considering your reflections on the prompting above, write full responses to the questions below. They will help capture the knowledge you have gained as a result of this experience.
- What did you learn from this experience and from the examination process?
- Why does what you learned matter? Why is it important?
- How might you integrate this learning into your next class session or in future iterations of this course?
- How might you adjust your goals and benchmarks?
Try to repeat this process of careful examination at the end of a quarter and/or at the conclusion of a particularly rocky class session. Learning to construct an inclusive classroom environment is a cumulative process, and by critically reflecting on your experiences as they happen, you can create lasting change in your courses.
Think about asking your students a set of questions halfway through the quarter and at the end of the term to determine if their intentions toward inclusivity are being realized.
Perhaps ask students these questions mid-quarter:
- Considering how you learn, what should I start doing to further encourage your learning?
- Considering how you learn, what should I stop doing that limits your learning?
- Considering how you learn, what should I continue doing to further encourage your learning?
- What elements of this class are particularly welcoming?
- What elements could be changed to make it more welcoming for you?
At the end of the quarter, you might consider asking students to complete a survey that mirrors the questions above. Suggested questions include:
- Which parts of this course helped you learn?
- Which parts of this course presented challenges to your learning?
- What elements of this class are particularly welcoming?
- How do you suggest that I improve the learning environment for all students in this class?