What is Inclusive Teaching?

Inclusive teaching describes the range of approaches to teaching that consider the diverse needs and backgrounds of all students to create a learning environment where all students feel valued and where all students have equal access to learn.

At Ohio State, we value diversity in our faculty, staff and student body and we recognize the importance of diversity in the learning process. While our university and department statements on diversity are inspiring, they often leave teachers wondering, “HOW do I foster a diverse and equitable environment? How do I really reach ALL my students?” Inclusive teaching principles can help you begin to answer those questions.

Why does Inclusive Teaching Matter?

Teaching is about much more than our disciplinary content. The learning environment we create has been directly correlated with learning outcomes: specifically, a student’s sense of belonging predicts motivation, engagement and achievement (Zumbrunn et al. 2014).  Incorporating inclusive teaching practices creates a learning environment where:

  • Teachers develop supportive relationships with students
  • Teachers decrease the potential for incivility and unproductive conflict
  • Student participation and engagement increases
  • Students are more likely to take intellectual risks, persist with difficult material and retain learning across contexts


How do I create an inclusive learning environment?

There are four dimensions of the learning environment to consider. Getting to know your students and reflecting on your own teaching persona are good first steps, but also consider the content and activities you plan.

“When we choose what content to teach and what to leave out, when we select examples, when we develop our teaching methods, when we design our assignments, we make decisions about what we value and we communicate those values to our students” (Rohdieck et al. 2012).

If you are troubleshooting a teaching concern or are interested in learning more about a specific topic related to inclusive teaching, please explore the FAQ or What Can I Do areas of this website. If you are interested in an overview of inclusive learning environments and how to shape them, our 3 video series is a good place to start.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL is one proactive framework for assessing and planning inclusive classrooms. We want as many students as possible to reach our learning outcomes, and the principles of UDL can help us move toward that goal. One great place to start is with this self-assessment, and then choose two or three manageable strategies you’d like to add to your existing inclusive practices.

Using Principles of UDL as Strategies for Inclusive Teaching

  1. Create a welcoming, respectful learning environment
  2. Determine essential course components
  3. Communicate clear and high expectations and provide constructive feedback
  4. Provide natural supports for learning to enhance opportunities for all learners
  5. Use teaching methods that consider diverse learning preferences, abilities, ways of knowing, and prior experience and knowledge.
  6. Offer multiple ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge
  7. Promote respectful interaction among students and between you and the students (e.g. student feedback)

-Principles for Good and Inclusive Practice in College Education Adapted from Chickering & Gamson (1999)


Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1999). Development and adaptations of the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. New directions for teaching and learning, 1999(80), 75-81.

McKeachie, W. J. (2002). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university professors.

Rohdieck, S., Plank, K., & Robinson, S., (2012, October).What students appreciate about teachers: Findings from a “Thank-a-Prof” Program. POD Conference, Seattle, WA.

Zumbrunn, S., McKim, C., Buhs, E., & Hawley, L. R. (2014). Support, belonging, motivation, and engagement in the college classroom: a mixed method study. Instructional Science, 42(5), 661-684.