An Inclusive Ecosystem

In the beginning of the semester, we talked about ways to create an inclusive classroom. From a physical space perspective, one idea might be to have a wheelchair accessible doorway into a classroom, or a build a lab countertop at a lower height.  These ideas tend to be afterthoughts during the design process, so I feel one of my next steps in my search for inclusivity in the classroom is to go beyond the atmosphere, and step into the built environment. Inclusive design principles allow for the design of an environment to be accessible and usable by as many people as possible, regardless of age, gender, social or economic status, and disability. Architects and designers (both professionals and professors) are in position to be advocates for inclusive design and social equity. So, the question, for me, becomes how do the projects I assign in my classroom reflect inclusivity in terms of design? How can they change to future of inclusive classrooms?

Ultimately, my goal is to create this inclusive ecosystem, where the teacher’s mindset, the classroom, and the curriculum all work intersectionally and reflect an advocacy for inclusion either in terms of teaching methods or coursework. Basically, I want to create an inclusive ecosystem for my students while teaching them how to design for inclusion.

When we talked about PBL, I thought, yea, this what we do in studio. I get it.  The only difference was that the facilitation of the teacher is a little more abstract and is intended to provoke more creative thinking. I also think PBL, combined with experiential learning techniques, is of such benefit to the students. There’s no better way of learning then to do what you are trying to learn to do. I do think, however, that the content being assigned these days need to change to reflect inclusive design.

Obviously, there are barriers for wanting a whole ecosystem of inclusivity. One major one is, not everyone wants to be inclusive or even cares about it. When you’re an old white professor who has tenure and has been giving out the same coursework for 20 years, why change it?  I hope that over the course of my career I can put the idea of an inclusive ecosystem into motion, even if all the parts are always still coming together. Nothing will be perfect, and, like everything else, it will change with time; and I hope that I can change with it.

6 thoughts on “An Inclusive Ecosystem

  1. Thank you for pointing out the importance of inclusive physical spaces, along with inclusive non-tangible atmosphere. It is very important that in addition to using inclusive language, etc, that we consider the space that we occupy and how we can be more accommodating to people with varying needs.

  2. I agree that mindset is a huge factor here, because it definitely takes more care and consideration to build an inclusive environment. Details like using OCR software to embed copyable text (with some manual proofreading) into scanned documents may appear to be completely unnecessary, but it might make a huge difference for students who use accessibility software.

  3. “Ultimately, my goal is to create this inclusive ecosystem, where the teacher’s mindset, the classroom, and the curriculum all work intersectionally and reflect an advocacy for inclusion either in terms of teaching methods or coursework.”

    I love this sentence. I think one major problem for design students is just how expensive the whole thing is. One of my closest friends, who is an architect, struggled financially throughout all of college to be able to afford supplies for projects. He basically had to ask (in some cases) for his classmates for scraps of supplies in order to put his together. I think that one major step towards inclusive in design majors is to start eliminating these kind of barriers.This would be just one step towards including everyone in the classroom.

  4. I’m glad that you brought up disability. Disability is a very important issue that we did not talk about in the class, maybe because the perception is that it is already well considered in our inclusivity practices.

    An example of what I call a FAILED activity in a classroom is what I saw this week in a class. There was an activity that students had to use their hands to get “points”. The designer of this activity probably never thought that there might be a disabled student in the class.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your post! Your emphasis on physical spaces is so important, as too often, I think it is something that is not considered. In thinking of my own classroom, I have concerns about the accessibility and definitely have thought about asking for a change. I found your note regarding your pedagogical aim especially powerful: “Ultimately, my goal is to create this inclusive ecosystem, where the teacher’s mindset, the classroom, and the curriculum all work intersectionally and reflect an advocacy for inclusion either in terms of teaching methods or coursework.” I hope that more academics follow your lead and start creating inclusive ecosystems in their classroom.

  6. I really appreciate your post! I think most of us or all of us want to work towards a more inclusive classroom. However, sometimes it’s so hard to think about the tools we can use. I like that you mentioned several tools you want to apply in your future projects. The physical environment is still a critical point in many places and unfortunately, lack of accessibility is more common than we think.

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