To create an inclusive learning environment, instructors should strive to generate an intentional and reflective classroom community in which all students feel valued. Some strategies for community building include:
- Co-creation of course expectations. Enhance students’ sense of belonging and generate increased transparency by co-writing community standards or discussion guidelines with your students. For example, in her Course Design Equity & Inclusion Rubric, Dr. Melissa Ko asks instructors to reflect on “how interactions between students and instructors are structurally encouraged and defined” — are policies actively co-constructed by all members of the learning community, or are they “exclusively owned and shaped by the instructional team without student input” (Ko, 2021)? Spend time discussing your students’ expectations and creating guidelines at the beginning of the semester, and intentionally revisit/revise them as the semester unfolds.
Sustained interaction. While dialogue-based courses can foster academic engagement between students as they discuss course content, it is also important to weave informal icebreakers and getting-to-know-you activities throughout the semester. Ask students to share non-course related interests such as their favorite foods, films, or books, or to share which objects they would bring to a deserted island. Topics that ask students to learn more about each other on a personal/creative level can lead to an increased sense of community.