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Strategies for Inclusive Teaching

Below, you’ll find a collection of practical tips for adapting your coursework and teaching style to meet the needs of multilingual students on our campus. These methods are indicative of inclusive teaching and benefit students across the board. Visit our page on inclusive teaching to learn more about this educational model. Many of the insights shared in the Faculty section of this website were developed by Gail Shuck, Coordinator of the English Language Support Program at Boise State University. Our thanks to Dr. Shuck and Boise State University.

Convey Content Clearly

Create opportunities to understand the language of the lecture

  • Enunciate clearly and pause between phrases to allow time for processing.
  • Add redundancy using examples, anecdotes, expansions and paraphrases.
  • Limit the use of idioms and culturally-based references. Explain culturally-based examples.
  • Use visuals, gestures, and props to clarify key concepts.
  • Summarize key points of the lecture again at the end of the class period to help clarify any miscommunication.

Use Multiple Modes

  • Present information in multiple ways (say it, write it, model it).
  • Consider writing an outline on the board or provide another visual means of understanding how the lecture or class period is organized.
  • Provide clear step-by-step instructions and model procedures for new tasks.

Make course content as accessible as possible

  • Put lecture notes, charts, visual aids, course outlines, and details of writing assignments and projects on Blackboard.
  • Record your lectures and provide students access to them through Blackboard. Alternatively, allow and/or encourage students to record lectures. This is also an excellent, inclusive strategy for native English speakers who simply require time to absorb information.
  • Give students opportunities to interact in small groups and ask questions of peers.
  • Preview readings to activate students’ prior knowledge about a topic.
  • Check out the National Center on Universal Design for Learning to learn more about the importance of accessibility.

Classroom Discussion and Collaborative Learning

Establish discussion ground rules early on in the quarter

  • Establish ground rules for discussion and group work. This should include both why this work matters and how to go about doing it well.
  • Expect all students to participate and call on them in an equal manner. When responding to student comments, ask native English speakers to rephrase, repeat, and clarify, too.

Provide students structured preparation for participation.

  • Precede class discussions and activities with some form of prepared participation (a free-write, forming a question about a reading, or review of lecture notes).
  • Consider a homework assignment that prepares students to participate in class.
  • Provide opportunities for written participation, not just speaking.

Treat diversity as a resource.

  • Use differences as learning experiences. Avoid making someone responsible for representing their entire ethnicity, language, or culture. Remember that two students from the same country don’t necessarily have the same experiences or world view.
  • Find commonalities in life experiences, cultural practices, social spaces, and educational experiences.
  • Discuss cultural norms (the whys) of literacy, research, education, etc.
  • Be sensitive to different cultural responses.
  • Make a list of the languages that everyone in the class speaks. Learn a word in all the languages represented in your classroom (e.g., “to write”).

Provide Meaningful Support

Identify those who need language support.

  • Early in the semester, ask all students to let you know if they have any particular needs you should be aware of; do this in class, as a statement in the syllabus might go unnoticed. That simple step lets students know they are all welcome in your class while it also can assure native English speakers that you do not give “special treatment” to a few students.
  • Highlight the reason for office hours. Let all students know that you are happy to talk with any student who feels he or she needs some extra help.
  • Have students turn in a writing sample in a low-stakes activity done in class.

Give permission to use electronic dictionaries and translators.

  • Students are far more likely to look up words like “analyze,” “exception,” “subsequent,” or other typical academic words than they will to look up words they’re being test on. If they don’t know what a discipline-specific term, such as “oxidation” or “Habeus corpus,” means in their native language, a mere translation from their native language wouldn’t help them anyway.
  • If you are concerned about cheating, have the students who want to use an electronic translator sit in the front row.

Provide opportunities to clarify and explain.

  • Periodically during the semester, invite students to register concerns or ask questions about the class.
  • Have students do “muddiest-point” writing at the end of a given class period. Bear in mind that writing anything on the spot will take most English learners much longer, so allow for that time. This may be done in small groups as well.
  • Be willing to offer extra explanations occasionally. Throughout the semester, stress the importance of office hours as a time for students to get additional help.