Inclusivity in Psychology and the Classroom

The importance of inclusivity has been well demonstrated in my field of Psychology, which is still trying to make up for past psychology researchers’ failure to recognize inclusivity’s value. The theoretical foundations of psychology are rooted in the experiences of the early psychologists, who were all White, Western men. Theory was shaped by their understanding of the world and the results of studies based on samples of, once again, White, Western men.

However, as more studies were performed in more diverse areas, many of the early theories upon which the current understanding of psychology was based were failing to replicate. In psychology terms, the theories were failing to generalize to wider populations. Thanks to the open-mindedness and work done by cross-cultural researchers and researchers with other backgrounds, psychologists began realizing the extent to which they made false assumptions about people because they had never known any differently. They had never thought to question that factor, this element, those interpretations. They had never understood the extent to which people perceive the world differently, and now they were starting to see the implications of those differences.

Similarly, fostering an environment of inclusivity in the classroom is important to gain multiple perspectives from people of different walks of life. They can enlighten you to differences that had never occurred to you could even be different. Silencing contrasting voices is a disservice to the pursuit of knowledge – as is the failure to encourage such voices. Many students won’t speak up if they’re not certain that their comments will be met with enthusiasm. Through increased interaction and support of all (topical) commentary, I hope to make my students feel comfortable in the classroom and confident in sharing their own, unique takes on the course material.

Discovering your teaching self

The greatest enemy in teaching is boredom. Sitting and listening, sitting and reading, sitting and pretty much anything – these are all generally boring activities. And when you’re bored, your mind wanders away from what it’s supposed to be learning. Yet this is the most common and certainly the easiest way to teach.

I’m no comedian, so I won’t be entertaining my students with lectures of laughs. I’m not much of a storyteller, nor did I appreciate it when my teachers went off on long tangents. I managed to be somewhat of a jokester when teaching elementary age kids, but older students don’t appreciate that energy from an adult. So, rather than changing who I am for my students, what I try to be is relatable.

When a teacher is relatable, the students can feel more comfortable in a classroom. Anxiety is another detriment to learning, so easing any nervous energy can help facilitate learning. Students are more likely to ask questions and participate in discussions. When the lecture becomes more like a conversation, students engage with the class content, turning the material over in their minds and looking for holes. Doing so helps them gain understanding and commit it to memory, even if they are not speaking up about it.

In this manner, I try to make my classes interactive. Not everyone will feel comfortable with speaking out, but it’s still possible to engage these students in a one-way conversation. I can ask questions, prompt ideas about the material without immediately answering, pause before the ends of sentences to make students fill in the blank. I like to use animations, pictures, and comics (I’ll let someone else write the jokes) in my slides to visually re-capture any students who lost track of the conversation.

Moving forward, I would like to build games into my classes. I feel like my current teaching style targets oral attention (through conversation) and visual attention (through animated slides), but hands-on learning seems the best way to combat boredom. Ideally, the games would keep the interest of the students who don’t like to be vocal and, of course, would be fun. More brainstorming is needed!