Inclusive Teaching and Course Design

Why Inclusive Teaching and Course Design?

No matter the medium of learning, whether online or in person, students should feel a sense of inclusion and sense of belonging within his/her coursework. The full student experience should include the idea of social belonging and feeling welcome, valued and respected inside and outside of their classes regardless of their backgrounds, socioeconomic status, or physical, psychological, intellectual, and linguistic abilities. Inclusive teaching and course design asks faculty to take sociocultural factors, psychological, intellectual, and physical abilities into considerations when teaching existing courses and designing new courses. Inclusive teaching and course design is increasingly important for meeting diverse students’ learning needs. This concept is considered DEI pedagogy (diversity, equity and inclusion).

What is Inclusive Teaching and Course Design?

To implement inclusive teaching and course design, faculty need to use diversified course materials, a variety of teaching strategies that adapt to students’ learning preferences, and taking inclusive course design approach.

Diversifying course materials is essential for inclusive teaching and course design. Faculty need to think about their learner characteristics and then whether multiple identities and communities are represented and respected in their assigned readings, videos, audios, examples, and other resources. 

Employing varied teaching strategies is also important for all students to succeed in one course. Direction instructions through lecture videos or class sessions might work best for some students, while discussions might work best for other students. A range of teaching strategies can be used in courses. Among these strategies, active learning strategies are widely used in online courses because these strategies can help promote student engagement in online courses. A range of active learning strategies can be found in this blog post “Active Learning and Student Engagement.”

Taking an Inclusive course design approach. We may not realize that each of us has our own biases. Faculty might not realize that their identities and background shape how they interact with their students, which might create a non-inclusive learning environment. When designing a new course or redesigning an existing one, faculty and instructional designers need to avoid stereotypes, reflect on unconscious biases, and keep in mind that students have varied levels of experience, knowledge, and physical, psychological, intellectual, and linguistic abilities. For instance, captions for lecture videos should be provided to ensure videos are understandable for students whose language is not English. For instance, varied types of assignments should be provided to students since one type of assignments might work well for some students, not others.

Steps for Inclusive Teaching

To further help you implement inclusive teaching, the article titled Inclusive Teaching and Course Design by Gamrat (2020, February 6) (an Instructional Designer) provides 16 steps that faculty can take to make sure of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their classes. The following diagram lists each step. You can reflect on whether you have taken some or all the steps in your online courses or on-campus courses.

The INCLUSIVE ADDIE Model for Course Design

ADDIE (link) is an instructional design model used to develop an effective learner experience. The steps of ADDIE include Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. But a major critique of the ADDIE model is that it does not take cultural issues into considerations. The INCLUSIVE ADDIE model proposed by Gamrat et al. (2022) tries to address cultural issues, diversity, and inclusion within courses. As the infographic shows, this model ties the original five stages with an additional nine sub-processes. The following briefly describes how the author interprets this model based on her work experience.

Analysis: identify course learning outcomes, Learner characteristics, learning gaps, required resources, ideal desired learning environment
Introspection: 1) Reflect on your personal identity and professional identity, identify the privileges and social support associated with them; 2) reflect on your cultural influences that are from your educational background, religion, geography, socioeconomic status and life experience, reflect on cultures you influence that are from your positions, meaning your influences as a faculty member at a higher education institution; 3) reflect on your teaching philosophy that often influences your communication with students, your course design and teaching. Your deep reflections will help you better understand your diverse students, understand where it comes from when one student makes a statement, and develop empathy for your disadvantaged students.
Needs: 1) Identify students’ diverse identities in terms of gender, race, etc. based on student body metrics provided by your department and your knowledge of previous student identities in the same course you are about to teach; 2) analyze students’ learning needs, meaning the gaps between whom they are and who they want to become in future. For instance, a student takes one course to increase their knowledge in clinical psychology to become a psychologist in the future.
Context: 1) Reflect on the big contexts for this course, including “the climate of the program, institution, and the field of study” to recognize some biases or inequity towards diverse student populations (Gamrat et al., 2022); 2) identify your course elements like critical thinking and concepts like positive psychology that will benefit students in the long run; 3) identify required resources including university resources addressing accessibility and inclusiveness; 4) identify ideal desired learning environment for one course, like whether the course is online, hybrid, or in class; 5) identify learning needs and trends regarding industries that you students will possibly enter after graduation; 6) consider the impacts of geopolitical contexts on your students and course and strategies to accommodate these potential impacts.
Design: identify module-level learning objectives, assessments, activities, and design the learning environment
Lessons: 1) Identify diverse course materials (e.g., lecture videos, audio files, webpages) that should represent different identities and perspectives; 2) consider 33 percent as the minimum benchmark for representing diversity in your course materials, meaning at least 33 percent of subjects in your course materials should come from underrepresented groups; 3) consider accessibility and cost for technologies used in your course; 4) consider your students’ diverse educational backgrounds to determine additional support resources such as tutoring and refresher on the course prerequisites.
Understanding: 1) Identify module-level learning objectives that should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely; 2) determine a variety of assessments in alignment with learning objectives since some students might struggle with certain types of assessments such as exams; 3) consider advantages and disadvantages of each assessment method to determine what assessments are formative while others are summative; 4) consider how frequently will you provide feedback on each type of assessments, consider peer assessment and self-assessment.
Development: construct and refine content based on OSCQR guidelines, develop assessments and activities, and finalize learning materials
Supporting Structures: 1) Include institutional policies that address accessibility and disability accommodations; 2) reflect on the difficulties that your students in previous courses have experienced to determine scaffolds within your course. You can provide scaffolds by using a course calendar, reminders, announcements, and detailed course expectations including expectations of collaborative learning between students as well as regular and substantive interactions (RSI) between faculty and students.
Implementation: pilot the developed course, ensure all functions of the system are running, and do minor modifications if needed
Interactions: 1) When implementing the course online or in class or hybrid, clarify all course polies and institutional policies especially related to accessibility upfront so that disadvantaged students feel included; 2) provide students with multiple opportunities to share their struggling, concerns, and ideas by using discussion forum “Q &A Discussion Forum” or the Conversations feature on Blackboard Ultra; 3) ensure equality and equity regarding interactions in your course, for instance, consider when your students should follow a one-size-fits-all policy to create a collegial learning environment and when your students should follow a different policy give special circumstances; 4) when assigning groups, you might consider how to form groups given student’s diverse backgrounds and how to deal with challenges arising in group projects; 5) include peer review activities in which each student see how their peers respond to prompts and assess others based on a clear rubric; 6) monitor the course to make sure all functions of the course are running and students are treated fairly and appropriately.
Evaluation: Conduct formative and summative evaluations for further improvement
Values: By conducting formative and summative evaluations on your course, you can reexamine your assumptions and reflect on whether you effectively create an inclusive learning environment for your students. You can obtain students’ feedback on your course through a course survey you can create and course evaluations sent out by your institution.
Evolution: The INCLUSIVE ADDIE model encourages iterative course improvement, meaning that you are encouraged to continuously update your course to ensure inclusiveness. You are also encouraged to increase your knowledge of inclusive teaching and course design by attending workshops, conferences, reviewing online resources, and building a network of advocates for inclusive teaching and course design.


Using the INCLUSIVE ADDIE model is important to meet students’ diverse needs and create an inclusive learning environment. It not only helps establish inclusive teaching, but also supports the learning by the student population of all modalities within higher education. The goal is to encourage respect, representation, access, and communication, and recognize students with varying abilities. If you work with instructional designers to develop your courses, you can take the same collaborative course reflection process recommended by Sellheim and Weddle (2015) to ensure inclusive design. 


Gamrat, C. (2020, February 6). Inclusive Teaching and Course Design. EDUCAUSE. Retrieved February 2023, from

Gamrat, C., Tiwari, S., & Bekiroglu, S. O. (2022, March 10). Inclusive addie: Initial considerations for Dei pedagogy. EDUCAUSE. Retrieved February 2023, from

Sellheim, D., & Weddle, M. (2015). Using a collaborative course reflection process to enhance faculty and curriculum development. College Teaching63(2), 52-61.

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