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5 Tips for Supporting Inclusive and Open Pedagogies

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IT, academic technology, and library units can support open pedagogies across different learning modalities as one way to promote and sustain an inclusive campus.

Student common area on a college campus
Credit: Helioscribe / Shutterstock © 2018

This post is the third of three blogs authored by Amanda McAndrew, Caroline Sinkinson, and Deborah Keyek-Franssen of the University of Colorado. Together, these blogs explore the intersections of inclusive and open practices to inspire conversation about how we might use these pedagogies to enhance learning opportunities and experiences at our institutions.

Read the first blog here and the second one here.

Inclusive and open pedagogies make intuitive sense to many of us. Open pedagogies are based on a core belief that we can create better learning materials through iterations of individual or collective development combined with frequent feedback and adaptation cycles. Inclusive pedagogies have at their foundation a desire to ensure that everyone across the spectrum of social identities is welcomed to—and feels welcome in—academic and learning communities. And, as emphasized in our earlier posts, inclusive pedagogy is inherently open, and open pedagogies are indeed inclusive.

Recent research shows that inclusive pedagogies can promote a sense of belonging among students, which in turn leads to learning and persistence. Unfortunately, many of our students from historically underrepresented groups and students with disabilities do not experience that sense of belonging. Because of this, we feel an ethical responsibility to encourage the broad adoption of inclusive and open pedagogies. Libraries, IT, and academic technology units can play a critical role in supporting that adoption.

In my colleagues' previous posts, Amanda and Caroline highlighted practices and commitments associated with inclusive and open pedagogies. I've chosen two examples to illustrate how those practices and commitments can be adapted for different modalities:

  • The community and connection commitment of open pedagogies (Caroline referred to the work of Robin DeRosa—this interview with her speaks to the importance of connected learning)
  • From the CIRTL Inclusive Pedagogy Framework, practices that foster inclusive learning, including the creation of a welcoming environment and co-construction of classroom norms for dialogue and work

The adoption of these practices sometimes requires a shift in both faculty mind-set and behavior. Even in (idealized) seminar courses, many instructors must facilitate difficult discussions or challenge racist, sexist, or other prejudicial remarks. They may need to practice coordinating and preparing students for assignments that take them across boundaries of culture or community.

Teaching a large-lecture course changes the dynamics of that adoption. For instance, instead of speaking intimately with students in a seminar to set classroom norms, an instructor of a large course may instead opt to remind students of the inclusive words and behaviors to use every time small-group discussions accompany in-class student response system questions.

The use of online tools, especially if they are unfamiliar to faculty, adds another layer of complication. In addition to acquiring new tech skills, faculty have to adapt practices that seem to have been developed with face-to-face instruction in mind. The distance—both temporal and physical—inherent in online tools necessitates a different approach to community, for instance. When implemented well, digital technologies can encourage participation from students who might otherwise be reluctant in face-to-face discussions. And since online conversations can take place at any time of day or night—and without the moderating influence of a faculty member—norms for engaging in inclusive dialogue become critically important.

Here are five tips that can help libraries, IT, and academic technology units support the broad adoption of inclusive and open pedagogies across any number of educational delivery modalities:

  1. Create a mini advisory team: You might be surprised by how many people on your campus are invested in and working on student success and inclusivity. Invite a handful of them to coffee and conversation as a way to identify cross-campus expertise. You might look across libraries, IT and academic technology groups, and also to faculty development, instructional design, advising, diversity, accessibility, and student success units.
  2. Choose a few practices for initial support: Use these expert advisors to identify a few easy-win inclusive and open practices that might align well with campus goals or might be straightforward for faculty to understand and implement. CIRTL's Inclusive Pedagogy Framework is an excellent place to start the discussion. Collect research on the effectiveness of those practices and examples from peer institutions that have experimented with them.
  3. Adapt those practices for different teaching modalities: Invite your experts and some faculty members for an interactive discussion in which they consider all the ways a particular method (for instance, creating a welcoming, inclusive environment) might play out in hybrid or online courses or in face-to-face classes of all sizes.
  4. Create messaging and resources to encourage experimentation with those practices: Use the results of those discussions to create an inclusive and open teaching "tip of the week" that pops up for faculty—either in your LMS or in whatever community messaging you use. Topics could include a reminder to send a welcome message to students the week before classes begin, or words to use to encourage respectful online interactions between students. If you have a repository of teaching resources on campus, a slide template that describes appropriate words and behaviors for students may help instructors of large-lecture classes feel more comfortable with small group discussions. Reference research on the effectiveness of the practices in your tips and resources.
  5. Provide joint training sessions: Instead of going it alone, IT and academic technology units that provide educational technology training can weave inclusive and open practices into their faculty sessions. Invite your experts to give concrete examples of how those practices play out in the digital world, and encourage faculty to use their newly acquired technology skills to experiment with them.

Even if we do not directly work with students, we risk failing them if we do not promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The above five tips can help libraries, IT, and academic technology units support the broad adoption of inclusive and open pedagogies across any number of educational delivery modalities, and thereby contribute to student success. Let others know how you are supporting inclusive and open pedagogy on your campus by posting your experience and ideas on one of the EDUCAUSE community groups' listservs (we're fans of the Instructional Design and Instructional Technologies groups). We look forward to the ensuing discussions.


Deborah Keyek-Franssen is Associate Vice President for Digital Education and Engagement at the University of Colorado System Office.

© 2018 Deborah Keyek-Franssen. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 International License.