Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Faculty recognize the need, as well as the opportunity, to design courses to be as inclusive as possible. A proactive approach is essential to ensure that interactions are designed for the greatest number of students to participate fully without the need to request adjustments or modifications. Furthermore, attention must be paid to fostering a course climate that is welcoming and free of discrimination. 

This page outlines teaching strategies that have been curated by members of the CEU community as a starting point for creating accessible and inclusive learning environments. 


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 

Designing accessible course content, activities, and assessments requires careful instructional considerations. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles that can be applied in all areas of course design, with the goal of removing barriers from the outset. This framework centers learner diversity and aims to provide flexibility and choice while maintaining high expectations of all students. The following are the three principles of UDL (CAST, 2018).

Multiple means of engagement. Students are motivated to learn in different ways. Therefore, faculty can vary the ways in which students engage with the course content and with others in the course. For example, one area where students often have diverse needs and preferences involves group work. While some students find group collaboration energizing, others, including neurodivergent students, may find it overwhelming and ineffective (Spaeth & Pearson, 2021). 

Multiple means of representation. Students may require different ways of accessing information and course materials. Faculty should ensure that course content is presented in multiple formats, including alternatives for audio and visual information (e.g. video captions or transcripts, OCR scanned PDFs). More details on how to make your digital course materials accessible can be found at CEU IT Accessibility. 

Multiple means of action and expression. Students vary in the ways they navigate learning environments and express what they know. For example, some students may struggle with sitting still for prolonged periods, so incorporating breaks or creating a space in the back of the classroom for moving and stretching may be helpful (Black & Moore, 2019). Faculty may also consider differentiating aspects of assessments, such offering flexibility for how students prepare for final assessments or providing written, verbal, and multimedia options.  

What can I as a faculty member do?

The UDL approach may be best applied by viewing accessibility as an iterative process where you and colleagues create more course content and interactions to be progressively more inclusive as you repeatedly teach the course (Tobin & Behling, 2018). You may wish to start by identifying areas of your courses that may have the greatest impact on student learning, or where students have traditionally struggled or had questions. In these areas, consider giving students one more way to engage with the course content, access information, or express their skills and knowledge. Incorporating student feedback loops, through anonymous surveys or otherwise, is crucial throughout the process.    

Learn more by downloading the full UDL guidelines from CAST or reviewing the materials at UDL on Campus and AHEAD UDL Guide. Additionally, the Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) offers individual consultations on course and syllabus design, observations and feedback on teaching, and tailored support for programs’ curricula. Email ctl@ceu.edu to schedule a meeting with CTL faculty. 


Responding to Ableism and Ableist Microaggressions 

Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Central to the work of educators is recognizing that students and staff with disabilities experience both blatant and subtle forms of discrimination on campus (Lett et al., 2019). Therefore, it is necessary to actively work to address and eliminate ableism in all areas of university life. 

Ableist micro-aggressions are discriminatory statements towards or about members of the community with disabilities. Whether intentional or unintentional, they are harmful and can contribute to a hostile learning environment and negatively impact students’ beliefs about academic performance and mental health (Lett et al., 2019). 

Some examples of ableist microaggressions include 

  • Excluding people with disabilities from events, or not preparing adequately, such as not having a sign language interpreter or not having a chair removed for wheelchair space. 
  • Not allowing enough time in discussions, for people with slower or delayed processing, or for a person who stutters or speaks slower than average. 
  • Asking personal questions about or touching assistive devices or equipment, such as pushing a person’s wheelchair or petting a service animal without permission. 
  • Indicating that accommodations are a burden or are unfair, such as “You are not going to get extra time in the ‘real world.’”  
  • Minimizing, such as “You have a disability? It cannot be serious.” 
  • Challenging, such as “You don’t have a disability. You’re too bright” or “You don’t look disabled.” 
  • “Outing” students to peers, such as “I’m amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish despite your limitations.” 
  • Offering fake or condescending praise, such as telling someone how “brave” or “inspiring” they are. 
  • Using victimizing language or powerless terms, such as “suffers from,” “wheelchair-confined,” or “I could never do what you do.” 

What can I as a faculty member do?

Everyone commits microaggressions, whether intentional or not. Therefore, it’s helpful to plan for how to respond when ableist microaggressions occur or when you think you may have committed a microaggression. See Kevin L. Nadal’s three-step process to responding to microaggressions (2014) as a reference.  

Also keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible. Even though it may appear that there is nobody with a disability in a course or at an event, faculty can take proactive steps to ensure the environment is accessible. Examples might include offering alternatives to class activities that require movement, using intentional language, automatically using subtitles and captions, and including visuals, guest speakers and materials that showcase individuals with disabilities in a non-tokenizing manner (Kattari, 2015).  

Within the CEU community, there are many ways that faculty can be allies to students with disabilities. The Student Disability Committee, which includes faculty representation, examines student requests to decide and grant accommodations based on student requests. Furthermore, training sessions, including study skills workshops, are regularly held to raise awareness and promote disability rights at CEU. If you have ideas or concerns about equal opportunities at CEU or would like to explore ways to get involved in the community, please contact Aniko Kellner (kellnera@ceu.edu), Equal Opportunity Officer, or Natalia Nyikes (nyikesn@ceu.edu), Student Disability Services Officer. 

References

Black, J. & Moore, E. J. (2019). UDL Navigators in Higher Education: A field guide. CAST, Inc. 

Kattari, S. K. (2015). Examining Ableism in Higher Education through Social Dominance Theory and Social Learning Theory. Innovative Higher Education 40 (5), 375-386.  

Lett, K., Tamaian, A., & Klest, B. (2019). Impact of ableist microaggressions on university students with self-identified disabilities. Disability & Society 35, 1441-1456.  

Nadal, K. L. (2014). A Guide to Responding to Microaggressions. CUNY Forum 2 (1), 71-76.   

Spaeth, E., & Pearson, A., Dr. (2021, October 11). A Reflective Analysis on Neurodiversity and Student Wellbeing: Conceptualising practical strategies for inclusive practice. 

Tobin, T. J. & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. West Virginia University Press.