Research on Inclusive College Courses

Three American academics who study education and learning set out to examine college courses from an inclusion standpoint, and came up with a tool by which instructors can measure inclusion in their own courses. The team of professors started their research by asking their sample of college faculty to examine their course outlines, the subtexts of their courses, and to ask themselves thought-provoking questions about their teaching style and unconscious biases. Their questions included “What are the implicit rules and messages of your course and are they stated on the syllabus? What are the hidden/implicit/unconscious biases and stereotypes?” “Have you, the instructor, made your philosophy of teaching and learning explicit, or is it hidden?”

As they went on in their research, three areas of exploration emerged: inclusion and course context; text; and subtext.

  • Inclusion and course context: In terms of inclusion, the researchers wanted to know how a course supports inclusive learning. Their questions included “What are the situational factors surrounding your course? Who will be in the class? Who will not be there? Whose voice is heard? What perspective dominates; what is omitted?”
  • Inclusion and text: The researchers argue that a transformation of how one thinks about learning and course design should be the greater aim. How do learning outcomes, assessment and content support inclusion for all? Is the tone of the course outline inviting? Do they use “culturally responsive” teaching approaches?
  • Inclusion and subtext: The researchers wanted to encourage instructors to dig deeper into the subtext of their courses, and make the learning process more inclusive. For example, is the tone of the syllabus contractual, inviting, or authoritarian?

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