Classroom Practices

Chemistry 110. First day of classes.

August 20, 2018. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.

Good teaching is inclusive teaching. When we take steps to make our teaching more inclusive, the changes tend to benefit all students. Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution that ensures your class is welcoming for everyone. Inclusive teaching will look different depending on the type and level of a course, number of students, instructor philosophy, and lots of other factors. We encourage you to think of inclusive teaching as a framework for self-reflection on your teaching practices rather than a specific set of practices. You can strive for inclusion by continually asking yourself, "Who is being excluded or disadvantaged in the current learning environment?" and adjusting to address those needs.

In addition to personal reflection, these two underlying principles can serve as a valuable foundation for developing an inclusive classroom environment:

Use a high level of structure in your course

A highly structured course makes it more likely that all students will be successful and is particularly useful for those who belong to marginalized groups (Eddy & Hogan, 2014). High structure courses provide students with many opportunities to practice before, during, and after class (Hogan & Sathy, 2022). Students know what is expected of them and there is a clearly defined pathway to success. In creating a high structure course, it might be helpful to consider the following components:

  • Give students clear goals. Be explicit about what you want them to take away from a reading, video, assignment, activity, or class period. Include learning objectives where possible.
  • Require students to prepare for class. Small low-stakes assignments such as a reading quiz or guided reading questions can help students better prepare to engage with content during class.
  • Actively engage your class. Active learning techniques can lead to more effective learning for all students and reduce performance differences between groups of students, and the more time spent on active learning the smaller the differences can become (Theobald, et al., 2020). This CTT resource has a number of different options you might consider including clicker questions, worksheets, case studies, or class discussions.
  • Include after class synthesis assessments. Have students reflect on what they learned, test themselves on course material, or synthesize what they learned. Timely feedback is important so students can quickly know whether or not they are meeting expectations.
  • Scaffold learning activities. Design assignments and learning activities so that students slowly learn more difficult material and practice more difficult skills as the course progresses. Be sure to intentionally connect concepts together so they understand how new activities build on what they already know.
  • Provide resources to assist student learning. Help students take better notes by providing guiding questions for readings and videos or having them create an outline of lectures. This helps them better understand the purpose and structure of those materials. Whenever possible, make these resources required for students to use so that all students can benefit from them. Consider providing recordings of lectures so students can revisit the material later.
  • Explain to students why you are providing high structure. Students can be resistant at first to high structure courses because it requires more work from them (Hogan & Sathy, 2022, p 33-38). Explaining to students why you are using a high structure course and its benefits for learning can help get students to be more open to these strategies.

Implement universal design for learning

Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework designed to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. UDL includes accessibility measures and considers ways to address a wide range of barriers students may face, such as motivation, background knowledge, and executive function. This framework focuses on providing different types of materials, engaging students using active learning strategies, and assessing learning using many types of assessments.

There are 3 different components of the UDL framework:

  • Multiple means of engagement: Try instituting a variety of learning strategies to help stimulate interest and motivation for students. For example, you may give students the option of working alone or in teams to solve a case study, complete a structured worksheet, or watch a video with embedded reflection questions.
  • Multiple means of presentation: Allow students to access information in a variety of ways. You might do this by giving students the option of reading an article, watching a video, or working through a virtual simulation.
  • Multiple means of action and expression: Give students multiple options for how they demonstrate their knowledge and skills. This might mean giving them the option of writing a paper, recording a podcast, researching a new idea, or creating an artistic project.

Following the UDL framework doesn’t mean implementing all of these guidelines for everything in your course. Look for places where you can make small changes to individual assignments, activities, or course materials that use some of these strategies to enhance engagement and learning. For more information on universal design for learning and how to implement it, see this resource on UDL at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Types of Classroom Practices

To help you reflect on the many different practices we use in our classrooms, we have divided this part of the resource into six sections: 


  • How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive: This advice guide from the Chronicle of Higher Education addresses frequent questions about inclusive teaching, discusses central principles of inclusive teaching, and shares strategies for making courses more inclusive.
  • influsifiED Resources & Links: Website that provides a variety of teaching resources and links to articles, podcasts, and videos related to inclusive teaching.


Eddy, S. L., & Hogan, K. A. (2014). Getting under the hood: How and for whom does increasing course structure work? CBE—Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 453-468.

Hogan, K. A., & Sathy, V. (2022). Inclusive teaching: Strategies for promoting equity in the college classroom. West Virgina University Press.

Theobald, E. J., Hill, M. J., Tran, E., Agrawal, S., Arroyo, E. N., Behling, S., Chambwe, N., L., Laboy Cintrón, D., Cooper, J. D., Dunster, G., Grummer, J. A., Hennessey, K., Hsiao, J., Iranon, N., Jones, L., Jr., Jordt, H., Keller, M., Lacey, M. E., Littlefield, C. E. …. Freeman, S. (2020). Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(12), 6476-6483.

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