Second year of inclusive classroom training focuses on belonging

The first year of inclusive classroom training provided a base for instructors. The approach in 2021-22 will be more individualized to each department.

The training began in 2020 after President Wendy Wintersteen addressed student concerns of racism and discrimination on campus. The goal is for participants to understand why teaching inclusively is important and to identify course-specific improvements that can be made to encourage inclusiveness.

The second year focuses on the theme, "Our students: Creating a sense of belonging."

"There is a need for our students to feel like they have a place, and that place of belonging helps support their work and learning," Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) program specialist Laura Bestler said.

CELT director and Morrill Professor Sara Marcketti said as her staff researched topics for training, it became clear that belonging is a foundational idea for students.

"Sense of belonging is very closely tied to recruitment and retention," she said. "If a student feels like they belong on campus and in a classroom, they will be more motivated to try to do well and persist through graduation."

Belonging became more important during the COVID-19 pandemic when feelings of isolation set in for many.

"As we were trying to deal with the pandemic, time and time again we heard building community, engaging with each other, engaging with the instructor and making sure you show who you are with your students is critical to the idea of belonging," Bestler said.


CELT will conduct training this fall with the goal of concluding by the end of the semester. The pandemic forced a scheduling shift with training flipping to each fall and assessment and preparation for the next year occurring in spring. CELT will contact department chairs and departmental facilitators in the next week or two to schedule trainings either in person or synchronously online.

The training focuses on active learning, with department leaders selecting from five scenarios to suit their faculty members' needs. The scenarios, drawn from real-life experiences, range from small or large classrooms to online or hybrid instruction. Training can last from an hour to two hours based on department preference.

"This select-from approach will allow the departments to tailor the training to their situations and provide even more time for collegial discussion,” Marcketti said.

Every faculty member is expected to take part in the fall semester training. CELT is expanding the training to include graduate student teaching assistants during the 2021-22 year. Faculty have readings to complete before attending a training, but the majority of the session will be discussion among faculty members in small and large groups. Providing examples and addressing issues with peers was something faculty asked for after the first year, Marcketti said.

The CELT Academic Equity and Inclusive Classroom Advisory Board and the CELT Advisory Board reviewed the training.

"Both boards were pleased with the structure and focus of the training," Marcketti said.

Second year

CELT staff sought opinions from those who deal directly with students to prepare for the upcoming training.

"We met with numerous student affairs practitioners across campus," Bestler said. "We asked them to tell us about their students and give us three to five things they would want faculty to know in regards to inclusion."

During the first year of training, the theme emerged that faculty should look inward to realize how their experiences impact their teaching. Many instructors benefited from reviewing student development theories and remembering to teach students, not just course content, Marcketti said.

Training also will alert faculty to resources on campus that help students through various issues.

Lasting impact

To keep the idea of an inclusive classroom close throughout the year, faculty will be asked to develop an individual inclusive classroom action plan. It allows them to take what they learn from the training and apply it, Bestler said.

"If the department chooses to do more with that, it would be up to it to determine what the next step would be," she said. "We want to continue the conversation."

CELT also developed more programming around the idea of equity and inclusivity, including a faculty and staff equity and inclusion speaker series.