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Inclusive Practices in Learning Environments

As the demographics of higher education across the U.S. shift to become more diverse, we must critically analyze our practices through a lens of inclusion. The philosophy that informs inclusive practices is rooted in the idea of emancipatory pedagogy. According to literature, "Emancipatory pedagogy is founded on the notion that education should play a fundamental role in creating a just and democratic society. The main educational aims of this approach are manifestation of humanization, critical conscientization, and a problem-posing education system. Emancipatory pedagogy accordingly seeks to invite both students and teachers to critically analyze the political and social issues as well as the consequences of social inequity" (Nouri & Sajjadi, 2014). 

In an effort to make emancipatory education our reality, we must start with the idea of inclusive practices and full participation. Inclusive practices are actions that instructors can take to make sure every person in the classroom is included. Full participation is an affirmative value focused on creating settings that enable people, whatever their identities, backgrounds, or institutional positions, to thrive, realize their capabilities, engage meaningfully in institutional life, and enable others to do the same. It seems simple enough, but some instructors are challenged when applying this concept in the classroom. For this reason we have curated a listing of both barriers and possible strategies and best practices that can be implemented in the learning environment to make sure all students feel valued and comfortable when opting to use their voice. 



Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Lack of representation in the content and in the room Diversification of the content & bringing in guest speakers
Asking a student to speak on behalf of their identity group regarding the concept being discussed Identify diverse examples and use data to support statements that connect an identity group to the concept being discussed
Perceiving nonverbal communication as a lack of engagement or commitment Travel and spend time with people who are different from yourself


Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Inaccessible content and spaces for learning Closed Caption, ASL services, office hours in an ADA compliant space. Utilize “Universal Instructional Design”
The expectation that all students must speak or be extroverted to participate. Conversely the assumption that a student who is non-verbal is not engaged Introduce different avenues of participation that could be auditory, written, verbal, nonverbal, small group, 1:1 or large group
Assuming students are embellishing their need for accommodations Become familiar with accommodations offered by the Goldman Center and encourage students to seek accommodations early in the course schedule

Syllabus is not designed in an inclusive or accessible format

Utilize recommendations around text, font, images, rhetoric and policies from: http://accessiblesyllabus.com/

Zero tolerance attendance policies and deadlines.

Build report with students and check in on their wellbeing when they are absent; allow for remote participation when needed, etc.

“Cold calling” or forced participation, triggering or traumatic content, etc.

Create community guidelines for class participation to create an inclusive environment, allow students to “pass” when called on, give participants a content warning about potentially harmful or triggering content.

Ordering food for class celebrations or end of semester “pizza parties”  etc. or using “scented” items in classroom.

Ask students ahead of time if they have any dietary restrictions based on allergies, etc. (e.g. peanut allergies, mushroom, hypersomnia, etc.)   


Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Assumption that sexual orientation and gender identity are the same or interchangeable

Do not assume that a student who shares their sexual orientation or gender identity with you, is willing to share that information beyond you

Misgendering or Misuse of Pronouns and deadnaming individuals

You can choose to set the tone by giving your pronouns, and name preference (Dr. T or Tina, or Dr. Tamburro and I use they/them/theirs) without forcing anyone else to give theirs and reminding everyone that it is a choice to offer this information


Class & Socioeconomic Status
Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Assigning texts, materials, trips, projects, that may be costly for students to complete successfully Seeking out open source content, setting maximums for projects, increasing access to materials needed to be successful in the course. This can include minimizing additional fees.
Judging students based on their appearance in the classroom or throughout campus Refocusing your attention on a student’s contribution rather than their physical presentation
Perceived attendance issues Sit down with a student and get a feel for their experiences, responsibilities, and obligations


Religion & Spirituality
Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Assuming a student is being dishonest about the impact of their religious obligations on their ability to fully participate in class Learning about the religious requirements of students and offering accommodations in the syllabus for students to take advantage of. 
Making remarks about religious affiliations that are different from the dominant religion in the U.S. Avoid commenting on religious affiliations you have no knowledge of and promote acceptance of diverse ways to practice and embrace spirituality or the absence of formal religious practice for students
Stereotyping students who practice any religion Avoid statements that paint any belief system with a broad stroke and recognize the diversity within various practices of spirituality and faith

Ordering food for class celebrations or end of semester “pizza parties”  etc.

Ask students ahead of time if they have any dietary restrictions based on religious practices (i.e. Kosher, Halal, Vegan, etc.)  


First Generation Students
Barrier(s) Best Practice(s)
Students who are the first in their family to attend college may not know how to navigate the college environment  Create a space where all students feel comfortable asking any type of question related to their experience in college.
Elitist ideas that promote exclusion and imposter syndrome Remind students that they can accomplish their goal of pursuing their degree and highlight their strengths
Conflating first generation status with socioeconomic status Avoid making any assumptions about the class status of any student. Do not inquire about the background of students as it is not necessary information outside of financial aid. 


Understanding & Addressing Microagressions

The term microaggression was coined by Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Chester Pierce in the 1970s. They were described as "the subtle racial putdowns that degrade physical health over a lifetime". The definition was expanded by Derald Wing Sue and colleagues (2007) "to include commonplace, daily exchanges that send denigrating messages to members of marginalized groups.". Today the definition of microaggressions is 

"The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people."

Some examples of microaggressions that have been heard throughout the campus can be found below. The messages that can be sent have a real impact on the mental health of those being targeted by these words and actions, regardless of intent. 


Microaggression Examples


Alien in One’s Own Land

The notion that the values and communication styles of the dominant/White culture are ideal/“normal”

“Where are you from?”

Assuming that all Asian Americans or people of Asian descent know each other.

Complaining that you can’t understand a specific professor because of their accent or not taking a professor because of their last name

You are not an American.

You have to heavily identify with your racial group.

You need to assimilate to American culture, and that your accent and language isn’t “American”.

Ascription of Intelligence Assigning intelligence to a person of color or a woman based on his/her race/gender

A professor questioning a students ability to be in their class based on their race or gender.

To be surprised if a student is within a “hard” major because of their race or gender

That the student isn’t as good as the normative (Whiteness)

Color Blindness

Statements that indicate that a White person does not want to or need to acknowledge race.

Requiring that students or color use statistical data to prove their experience (Questioning the credibility of their experience)

“We are in a post racial society” – “Racism is no longer an issue

That your humanity is dependent on data.

Denying a student of their racialized experiences

Criminality/Assumption of Criminal Status

A person of color is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant based on his/her race.

TUPD (Anyone affiliated to Tulane) asking Black and brown students whether they go to Tulane. (Harassing them)

Students weaponizing concerns reports against Black students

You’re dangerous.

You don’t belong here.

You’re too outspoken.

Denial of Individual Racism/Sexism/ Heterosexism

A person of color is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant based on his/her race.

“ Are you sure it was because you were Black? It was just a misunderstanding”

“I’m not racist. My Black (BIPOC) friends allow me to_____”

Denying the bias that Black students often face

I can’t be racist because I have other BIPOC friends.

Myth of Meritocracy

Statements which assert that race or gender does not play a role in life successes, for example in issues like faculty demographics

“You’re only here because of Affirmative action”

“Everyone has a equal opportunity in life”

The student is worthy of higher education.

That a persons struggle to navigate systemic oppression/racism is their own fault.

Pathologizing Cultural Values/ Communication Styles

The notion that the values and communication styles of the dominant/White culture are ideal/”normal”.

Dismissing students who bring up race/culture.


The students culture and identities don’t matter.

Second-Class Citizen

Occurs when a target group member receives differential treatment from the power group; for example, being given preferential treatment as a consumer over a person of color

Black students being mistaken as Sodexo workers or staff.

Using a racial categorization as a noun to reference that group of people. (Blacks versus Black people)

Not wanting to work with BIPOC students and excluding them from group discussions/work.

The only Black people on Tulane’s campus are Sodexo workers or staff.

Black students race comes before their humanity.

That Black students aren’t good enough to work with white students.

Sexist/Heterosexist Language

Terms that exclude or degrade women and LGBT persons.

Repeating what a female states in your own words. (Mansplaining)

Assuming the gender of a student

That ideas are only important/valuable if they come from men.

Traditional Gender Roles

Prejudicing and Stereotyping

Occurs when expectations of traditional roles or stereotypes are conveyed.

Assuming the ability of an individual is connected to their perceived gender.

Expecting feminine identified individuals to take notes, bake cupcakes, etc. 

Expecting masculine identified individuals to lift heavy items


That certain tasks or positions in society are reserved for certain genders. This also erases and excludes gender non-conforming individuals from the possibility of involvement 


Adapted Microaggressions_Examples Chart 

What Exactly Are Microggressions? 

Ong, A., & Burrow, A. (2017). Microaggressions and Daily Experience: Depicting Life as It Is Lived. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(1), 173-175.

Additional Resources and Unlearning Spaces

Bias, Discrimination & Your Rights

Anti-oppression trainings/ trainers in the city around racial justice and social justice

REST & Healing Program

Renewing & Empowering Spaces for Truth (REST) & Healing is a new program created by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Our goal is simply to provide spaces for students, staff, and faculty to build community and promote healthy emotional and mental wellbeing. We believe this should take place within communities of color through dedicated affinity group space focused on intragroup healing from racial trauma. This space will provide affirming and empowering counterspaces for BIPOC students.

White Antiracist Learning Community (WALC)

WALC is a space for

  • White people to do work to unlearn white supremacy culture, internalized racial superiority, and learn to be more effective accomplices in anti-racism work. 
  • Building community and cross-campus connections for more effective anti-racism work, and to improve the ways white people can show up in multi-racial spaces.
  • White people committed to anti-racism work to be collectively accountable to each other and to Black, Indigenous and People of Color on Tulane’s campus.
  • WALC is open to all faculty and staff (BIPOC staff are always welcome to participate or contribute feedback to the group). If you would like to be added to the mailing list and meeting invites, you can fill out this interest form. For more information about WALC meetings and work please contact Ben Brubaker.

An Incomplete List of Books, Podcasts, etc.

Me & White Supremacy

The Burning House by Anders Walker

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Condemnation Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan M Metzl

A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki

Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks

How We Get Free by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Perspectives on Gender) by Patricia Hill Collins

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Unapologetic A Black. Queer, And Feminist Mandate For Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

The Good Ancestor Podcast, by Layla F. Saad 

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks

Uprooting Racism: how white people can work for racial justice by Paul Kivel 

White By Law: the legal construction of race, by Ian Haney Lopez

The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese Singh 

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem


Academic Ableism by Jay Timothy Dolmage

Straddling Class in the Academy, by Sonja Ardoin and becky martinez

The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, by Anthony Abraham Jack