Diverse Learners Awareness Week: CU professors learn to create inclusive classrooms

On Wednesday, Vanessa Roberts, a doctoral candidate in sociology at CU Boulder, guided professors through a presentation on how to create and implement an inclusive environment in the classroom as part of CU’s 2017 Diverse Learners Awareness Week.

Roberts began her presentation, titled “Inclusive Classrooms: What it is and how do I do it?”, by establishing ground rules of handling difficult situations in her classes. Some of these rules include seeking to understand an opposing view and learning to listen instead of becoming defensive.

The introduction of ground rules transitioned into a discussion that Roberts referred to as “Think/Pair/Share,” a technique she implements in which students think about a question Roberts presents, discuss the questions in small groups and then share resulting ideas.

Roberts emphasized to the group of seven that discussions dealing with inclusivity require paying attention to a spectrum of diversity.

“When we think of diversity, we instantly think of gender and race,” Roberts said. “Often, it’s so much more.”

For example, Roberts said, she had to adjust her syllabus for a student who had recently returned from Iraq and had been struggling with PTSD.

To address the question in the event’s title, Roberts defined an inclusive classroom as a place where “you are able to actively engage with a classroom with multiple views.” When it comes to making that idea known to students, she suggests using the syllabus as a “foundational guide to set that tone.”

Along with urging her audience to utilize a syllabus to address diversity, Roberts also promoted icebreakers in the classroom to pinpoint “cultural markers” amongst students.

According to Roberts, her takeaway tool in creating an inclusive classroom is critical thinking.

“[Critical thinking] allows them to be less defensive about their opinions,” she said. “They have a way where you’re not shutting down students. You’re allowing them to take a step back and learn.”

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sydney Worth at sydney.worth@colorado.edu.

Sydney Worth

Sydney is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.

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