University Policies and Guidelines for Inclusive Teaching

Ohio State values the judgment and content specialization of our teaching faculty and staff. Most of the decisions you make in the classroom around issues of inclusivity are at your discretion. We hope that you’ll make intentional and thoughtful choices about what is important for students to value about your discipline, and create equitable spaces for all students. If you need support in shaping the learning environment or addressing specific incidents, contact UCAT for an individual consultation, or browse the FAQ within this site.

There are some areas related to inclusive teaching, however, for which the university has established clear policies and procedures. Being familiar with these policies and the Ohio State support units can help you make informed decisions should you find yourself in a teaching scenario where you are unsure how to proceed.

Safety protocol

The Department of Public Safety works hard to keep our university community safe. All employees of The Ohio State University should be familiar with the emergency safety protocol. Broadly speaking, this includes knowing where the emergency exits in the building are and what to do in case of fire, or in an active shooter scenario.

While not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that you sign up for Buckeye Alerts. These safety notifications will be sent as a text and/or email for anyone who activates the service. If a Buckeye Alert notifies you to take immediate action, you should follow the directions given, even if you are in the middle of teaching. If directions are given to “shelter in place” or “Run. Hide. Fight.” you need to stop class immediately and do so, even if there is no obvious threat.

If a Buckeye Alert interrupts class, students may become upset or worried, even if you do not feel there is a safety concern. There is no hard and fast rule about when to interrupt class when Buckeye Alert directions do not instruct you to do so. However, it is appropriate to acknowledge the emotions in the room and modify your instruction. You may be worried that talking about the alert will be more upsetting than ignoring it, but you are likely going to be perceived as the authority in the room.

Here are some strategies that can help students feel safe and refocus on learning after an alert:

  • acknowledge you’re aware of the alert and will continue to monitor any updates
  • consider facilitating a short discussion of the emotions in the room
  • take a ten-minute break
  • do some silent writing to allow everyone to refocus

 

If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others from a disruptive or distressed individual in your class: CALL 911 immediately. If you have a disruptive or distressed student who does not make you feel unsafe, read our FAQ for ideas about how to handle the situation through inclusive teaching practices.

Title IX and Sexual harassment

In compliance with federal law (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972), Ohio State does not exclude individuals from or discriminate against them in educational opportunities based on sex or gender identity. Discrimination based on sex also includes sexual violence and sexual harassment. All programs associated with OSU, including academics, fall under the umbrella of Title IX.

University Policy 1.15 on Sexual Misconduct states that “members of the university community have the right to be free from all forms of sexual misconduct which impede the realization of the university’s mission of distinction in education, scholarship, and service.” Sexual discrimination includes sex- and gender-based discrimination, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and stalking (read more for definitions of these acts).

How does this relate to the classroom?

  • In the average college classroom, men are given more speaking time than women
  • Women and LGBTQ students are less likely to see themselves represented in course content and more likely to experience microaggressions or implicit bias from peers and instructors
  • Women are more likely to withdraw from courses or change majors when they feel the classroom climate is hostile toward their participation
  • The activation of stereotype threat for women has a documented negative effect on their cognitive performance.

You can use course design to increase equal opportunities for all genders in your classroom with the following strategies:

  • Use rubrics for grading so that students are evaluated fairly and equitably
  • Gather feedback on the interactions in your classroom to become aware of any gendered trends in participation
  • Set guidelines for participation that emphasize respectful interactions
  • Use inclusive language such as “partner,” and include examples that feature women and LGBTQ people within the course content
  • Learn more about implicit bias and how it affects learning

 

Disability Services

Roughly 3.5% of OSU students have documented disabilities; nearly 95% of those are considered “invisible disabilities. A visual survey of your classroom may not give you an indication of whether any of your students have disabilities. Yet, these invisible afflictions often impact a student’s ability to learn and perform in your class.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Ohio State University offers “reasonable modifications [to] policies or procedures” in order to avoid discrimination based on a disability and maintain an inclusive learning/opportunity environment for its students and employees.  As teachers, we are required by federal law to provide “reasonable modifications” to ensure that an inclusive learning environment is maintained. These modifications will vary depending on your class structure and the student’s requirements. The Office of Disability Services provides students who document their disabilities with a letter outlining their specific needs.

Accommodating a documented disability does not mean compromising the rigor of a course. Reasonable accommodations are those which still conform to course goals, learning objectives, expectations, and requirements. If you are unsure about how to best accommodate a student, contact ODS for support.

Inclusive best practices for teaching students with disabilities include:

  • Include a syllabus statement that acknowledges diverse abilities in your class and makes your accommodation process explicit to students
  • Follow UDL principles to incorporate multiple modes of learning and multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning  (Meyer et al. 2016)
  • Make reasonable modifications for students with documented disabilities following the guidelines from ODS
    • Maintain their confidentiality
    • Do not ask for specific information about their disability
    • Provide modifications only when a student is registered with ODS
    • Keep the lines of communication open during the semester

Faculty and staff are also entitled to disability accommodation. If your disability impacts your ability to teach or perform other job duties at Ohio State, please contact Scott Lissner or the Office of Human Resources: Integrated Absence Management and Vocational Services.

 

Mental health on campus

Over 75% of mental health conditions begin before age 24, which means college students are disproportionately more likely to be dealing with undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems (NAMI, 2016). On Ohio State’s campus, 30% of undergraduate students feel their academic performance has been negatively impacted due to mental health issues (OSU REACH, 2017). Mental health conditions negatively influence their academic performance due to feelings of depression, poor concentration, and difficulties studying and keeping up with coursework (Mcgivern et al. 2003:221). For graduate and professional students this number is even higher and populations at higher risk include LGBTQ, international students, minority students, students with disabilities, and veterans (OSU REACH, 2017).

These behaviors are common in students who struggle with mental health:

  • Changes in behavior: lack of self-care, change in work quality, irritability
  • Withdrawal: stops coming to class, does not engage with discussion
  • Aggression: particularly in young men, depression and anxiety can result in irritability, anger or aggression
  • Writes or talks about death, says goodbyes or gives away belongings

You may feel it’s not your place, or none of your business to know about a student’s mental health, but it does affect the learning that takes place in your classroom. As a teacher, you are not a counselor, but you can connect students with the resources that will help them continue to learn, and may save their life. Learn more about how to handle distressed or disruptive individuals in your class.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for college age students (OSU REACH, 2017). About 90% of OSU students report that they know a fellow student who is contemplating suicide. Learn more on the REACH website and through their suicide prevention training program.