By Toni DiMella

Those who work in higher ed are “planners.” We start making the Spring schedule two weeks into the Fall semester. The final exam schedule for a semester is posted on the first day of classes. We can tell you on August 13 what we’ll be doing on December 2—by the hour. The ability to create and maintain a detailed schedule is at the base of all we do in education. This fact is just one of the things that made transitioning online in March 2020 so challenging.

Since the early 2000s, classrooms have continued to become more diverse, technology more integrated, and future careers have been requiring a wider variety of skills. Those who had been reluctant to accept the new landscape of education, particularly in higher education, can no longer ignore the changes that had occurred. Even before COVID-19 pushed it into the spotlight, inclusive pedagogy, or inclusive teaching, was gaining a lot of attention, but throughout the pandemic it has become the only way to ensure that all learners know what to do, where to go, why the material was important, and how it impacts their lives.

Two years later, we’re finally going to get to do what we did pre-COVID: plan ahead. But this time we have the opportunity to do it with first-hand experience about the positive impact of inclusive teaching and freshly revised courses. Over the past two months, CAIFS has explored three components of inclusive teaching in the Inclusive Pedagogy series.

While all of the materials and recorded sessions are in the CAIFS Professional Development course (log in to Blackboard before clicking this link), here is a short primer on what inclusive pedagogy is, its three key components, and what it really means for the classroom. Complete workshops and asynchronous activities to earn badges and ultimately the Inclusive Pedagogy Certificate.

Inclusive Pedagogy Pyramid. Transparent Design, Transformative Experiences, Just Representation

Inclusive Pedagogy (IP)

A pedagogical approach that aims to make learning accessible and welcoming to all students, regardless of individual identities or needs. At its core, IP focuses on increasing student engagement in the learning process by creating a sense of belonging among all participants. It requires moving from the mindset of serving the majority of students while providing additional resources for those who identify needs to ensuring all students can participate without needing to request accommodations.

What it means: You’re now creating courses to support all students instead of the most prepared ones. The result? Significantly fewer late night and weekend emails!

Transparent Design

Transparent Design is an approach to creating course materials and assessments that clearly state the overall purpose and connection to the program, other content areas, or society. Transparent courses provide directions on how to complete an assigned task or define the steps of the learning process and establish the criteria by which students will be measured. Transparent Design asserts that courses should provide:

  • Clear and concise directions and expectations,
  • Well-defined assessments and grading policies,
  • Connections to career and to the world outside of the classroom, and
  • Detailed and constructive feedback on assignments.

What it means: You no longer assume students know why they are doing things or how. If Project 1 is an application of Chapter 1 which supports Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) 2 and 3, you note that on the assignment. You also tell them how to submit the assignment and in what format instead of just telling them that it’s due Sunday.

Transformative Experiences

Transformative experiences aim to empower learners to critically examine their assumptions and ways of being in the world by developing spaces for self-reflection, often resulting in a more inclusive mindset. More than just “engaging,” they facilitate paradigm shifts in the student’s perspective and/or understanding of the topic and/or issue. Transformative Experiences

What it means: Applications are rooted in real-world situations that do more than just teach content. They spur conversation about the “why,” who is impacted, and how.

Just Representation

We know that completing a higher education degree is the key to social mobility, yet we often exclude students from our classroom by denying them representation in our curriculum and/or failing to present a comprehensive account of the material. We may further cause harm to our students by perceiving differences as deficits or making assumptions about their abilities by falling back upon stereotypes or implicitly held biases. By fully embracing students as their true selves, we provide them with the tools they need to be successful and with the positive reinforcement of seeing themselves in the curriculum and culture of the institution, empowering them to grow both intellectually and emotionally and to become more engaged learners and citizens. Just Representation:

What this really means: we diversify our curriculum, resources, and delivery so students can themselves in the course in positive and meaningful ways. We also shift from deficit thinking to asset-based thinking and foster a growth mindset.

Increased access means providing services to students who need a wider variety of supports, both personally and educationally, to learn both the hard and soft skills industry (and society) will require of them.

At CAIFS, we know that Upstate faculty have made amazing updates to their courses. Now that we (finally!) have some time to catch our collective breath and reflect, we can make sure those newly minted resources and assignments reach all of our students.

Ready to review your course? Contact or book an appointment with a CAIFS team member.