Strategies and Practices for Inclusive Excellence

Inclusivity in education has never been more important or more possible. Use this guide to aid you in developing your courses as well as yourself to achieve more welcoming and effective learning environments.

A few of these strategies are supported by evidence-based literature. However, many of them are the synthesis of the best guess arising from the community. Some are even new ideas arising from the experiences of our students. As such, this represents the current snapshot of teaching strategies to which we should aspire. Hopefully, these strategies will evolve based on future evidence, new ideas, and the inclusion of more voices and perspectives.

  • Diversity Terminology: Take time to reflect on the UNL’s definitions of diversity, inclusion, equity, and inclusive excellence. To be an ally or an advocate, learn the language so that you can effectively communicate your commitment with students and other instructors.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Statements: Most directly, these statements set the tone for all members of the course as to how inclusion will be supported. In the event of an incident, they provide a reference point when unpacking and processing. Read examples from UNL classes
    • Land acknowledgment: Open your course with a short verbal and printed statement acknowledging the history that has led to the class meeting at this location. See an example in the bottom section of the mission page of UNL's writing center. An additional statement about how the land is valued from a native perspective may be added. 
    • Including pronoun preferences in your own introduction demonstrates your openness and commitment to varied gender identity and pronoun use of students in your course.
  • Active Learning: Use instructional approaches that have been shown to benefit underrepresented groups.
    • Talk less as an instructor and provide more time for student interaction, student thinking, and formative feedback on student learning.
    • Frequent formative feedback is for the instructor and for the students.
    • Think-pair-share is a gateway strategy for developing an active classroom.
    • Some strategies aggregate or anonymize student performance during formative feedback, which will encourage more students to provide feedback on their learning.
  • Use High Standards and Personal Assurance when Providing Critical Feedback: Before presenting critical feedback, first provide assurance to students that they have the ability to succeed, in part because they are in a given class/university/program. Second, provide a statement that high standards are what will allow them to excel. Providing these before providing critical feedback, buffers the stereotype threat that may be experienced by students who perceive they may confirm a negative stereotype of a group of which they are a member (from The Mentor's Dilemma). Fundamentally, this comes from having and communicating a Growth Mindset (as described in this Town Hall seminar with Claude Steele and Mary Murphy).
  • Long-term Investment: Over the long term, outreach to diverse and underserved populations in the community will increase the diversity of the students in our courses. In addition, recruiting and supporting diverse faculty and instructors will expand our capacity to support and mentor a diverse student population.