Inclusive Pedagogy

How to implement inclusive pedagogical practices? Inclusive pedagogy requires a good  understanding of the differences among students, teachers and any other person that might be involved with a teaching environment. These differences include but are not limited to: identity, interests, background knowledge, and much more.  Understanding these differences is fundamental in order to incorporate and integrate teaching practices that make everyone feel safe and incorporated. One of the greatest challenges within pedagogical practices is that they often tend to be monotonous and structured in a way that does not seems natural, engaging or interesting. Having an understanding of where your students are at in terms of class material and fundamental concepts that are considered “background knowledge” or things that they “should know” because they took “x” and “y” class, is crucial to develop lectures. Students will not only meet the requirements of the class but will also improve their learning experience. Additionally, taking the time to get to know who you are working with or instructing can promote learning experiences that are more relatable to students which can enhance their sense of belonging and make them feel more included.

Having inclusive pedagogical practices can break barriers in the classroom. Students are more prone to participate and feel like they can contribute to class when they feel welcomed and encouraged to be there. Having students that feel motivated and eager to take part of class discussions is beneficial for both the instructor and students. Increased student participation opens the opportunity for further discussion of topics because being scared of being wrong is less of a dominant feeling, which opens a window for a more active participation and learning.

The ongoing journey to finding our authentic teaching self

Our perspectives on teaching are often shaped by our experiences as students, which can later nurture from what we go through as instructors and aspiring academics. When thinking about who I aspire to be as a teacher I cannot help but think about the many instructors I have had and the way each of them ran a classroom.  From instructors that simply read what was on a presentation slide to instructors that went above and beyond to make sure students were understanding and following along what was being explained. There are a variety of ways from which one can adapt or develop teaching practices. Who we are when in front of a classroom feeds off what we have seen before and have identified as relevant, useful, and valuable. Pedagogical practices tend to vary, not all the same techniques or structures work for everyone.

My journey with teaching started during my first semester of graduate school. I was a laboratory instructor for an introductory biology course. I had never formally taught before and I must admit I feared not “meeting the expectations”, which at that time I was not sure what those even were. However, I took this opportunity to challenge myself and further question what I valued and considered to have the most significance in a classroom. To me, having an instructor that is genuinely excited to discuss topics every week and open to questions is key to increase and facilitate student engagement, which can often be challenging. One of the very first lessons I got during my first few months of teaching was that I did not have to know it all. This may sound obvious to some, but to me being open and accepting that I did not know everything was crucial to be open to change and evolve as the course progressed each semester. It served as an opportunity to invite my students to learn with me. This also made me feel more human and connected to my students. Whenever a question I did not know the answer to was asked, I would write it down to further investigate and come ready to address it the next time we had class. This sort of exercise allowed me to be honest to myself and recognize my limitations and the areas I needed to strengthen.

I think honesty plays a big role in finding our authentic teaching self. If we are honest about the things we need to improve and what is not working in the classroom we can work towards improving the areas where we are lacking. To me acknowledging early on that there were going to be concepts and questions that I needed to review and learn more about has enhanced my enjoyment of teaching. Additionally, along with honesty we need to recognize that finding our authentic teaching self is a continuous exercise that needs to be revisited often to make sure that our teaching practices are not being done mindlessly and instead we are being mindful of our actions as instructors and their impact in the academic formation of our students.