Inclusive Excellence Teaching Tips

Creating an inclusive classroom is one of our most important goals as faculty. On this page, you will find approaches that can help to make your classroom environment resonate with students from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, abilities, and learning styles. Doing all we can to insure that each student feels valued in our learning spaces is both a cornerstone of inclusive excellence and fulfills PLU’s mission of care.

Inclusive Excellence Tips & Resources - Faculty Newsletter Series

Dean of Inclusive Excellence Jen Smith features inclusive excellence tips and resources as part of a regular series in the Faculty Newsletter. Peruse the archive and look for new content every Tuesday.

Embracing Silence

While silence in our classrooms sometimes feels awkward or unproductive, it can actually be essential to creating a climate where more students are comfortable participating in the discussion and the responses that students share have more depth and complexity. The article “Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions” (linked below) provides three easy-to-implement tips to help utilize silence to create more robust and inclusive class discussions.

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Diversify Research Opportunities

We should ask ourselves, “How is diversity and inclusion in scholarship defined at your institution?” This webinar–“Defining Diversity and Inclusion: Models that Augment Undergraduate Research across all Spectrums“–will provide the viewpoints of three faculty panel members at various stages of their academic careers. The panelists will address diversity as it relates to the educational and scholarly role at their respective institutions, including curricular content, scholarly methodology, and the research mission. The panelists will provide an overview of the impact of diversity initiatives on student competencies and knowledge; and why diversity should inform the scholarship and pedagogy of every academic discipline.

Webinar hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research

Establish Guidelines for Class Participation

Setting clear expectations for participation is key to creating a classroom climate where all students feel comfortable and encouraged to share their thoughts. Doing so can emphasize the need to respect others’ perspectives, discourage the use of generalizations, and foster active listening.

You can outline these expectations for the class or include your students in the process; developing them together increases students’ investment in maintaining an affirming learning environment and their sense of accountability to it.

While doing this early in the semester is best, it is never too late to have a conversation with your students about their role in creating an inclusive classroom climate.

For additional information and examples of guidelines for general class participation, participation in STEM classes, and dialogue/community expectations, see this resource from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

View online

Craft the First Five Minutes of Class with Care

Many students spend the first day of class braced against various types of disrespect—professors who mispronounce their names, call them by the wrong name entirely, misgender them, and so on. Students who are worried about not being treated with respect experience difficulty concentrating on what faculty are saying. On the Faculty Resources link on PLU’s Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Resources page, you will find a few reliable techniques to establish mutual respect with students in the first class meeting.

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Create Transparent Assignments/Projects

Explicitly communicating the purpose, task, and assessment criteria for assignments is a relatively easy practice that can have a significant impact, particularly on students from marginalized backgrounds. The Transparency in Learning & Teaching project (TILT Higher Ed) has conducted extensive research showing how transparency is key to improving student outcomes; this 15-minute video outlines this research.

The website for the Transparency in Learning & Teaching project provides excellent resources for how to make your assignments as accessible to your students as possible. It has some great before-and-after assignment examples across many disciplines, and the Transparent Assignment Template is an easy-to-follow guide for writing instructions that explicitly outline the purpose, task, and criteria for any assignment.

Have a teaching tip about creating an inclusive learning environment that you would like to share with other faculty? Please submit it to Jennifer Smith, Dean of Inclusive Excellence (

The below quick links will redirect you to other PLU or external websites. Right click to open links in a new tab or use the browser back arrow to return to the Inclusive Excellence Resource for Teaching website.