Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Designing Inclusive Courses for Diverse Learners

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I’ve been asked to design a brief online learning experience on Designing Inclusive Courses for Diverse Learners. I thought I would blog my plans.

The term inclusion is both problematic and ambiguous. Ambiguous in that it might mean like, including people with disabilities (accessibility circles), but it could also mean include diverse learners more broadly. It could also have a broader social justice stance as in inclusion of diverse cultures, especially marginalized cultures, in our syllabi and academic endeavors such as presentations and writing. The person who asked me (Sundi at Davidson) said she wanted me to include both.

The term “inclusion” is problematic because it can be, and often is, taken to invite different, marginalized “Others” into spaces pre-created by the dominant, reinforcing dominant ideologies, without “parity of participation” of the marginalized individuals/groups such that they have power to influence the process and outcomes of the spaces.

This writing above just gave me an idea for how to run the live workshop 😁 I do indeed think while I write and it still amazes me.

So this is my Blurb:

How do we go about designing our courses to be inclusive for diverse learners? The first step is to think about our curriculum from a social justice perspective and recognize that we are not neutral. If we do not make intentional efforts to make content and pedagogical choices that promote equity and amplify the cultures of marginalized groups, our courses are likely to NOT be inclusive. Participants in this session will explore different approaches to curriculum theory, and think critically about what the purpose and underlying principles of their courses are, and consider specific steps they can take in order to recreate their courses as more inclusive of learners from diverse cultural backgrounds and with diverse learning needs and interests, not only because this is more enriching for their courses, but because it serves a social justice goal. All of this also includes creating spaces within our courses to nurture learner choice and agency in their own learning.

Please note I am including lots of readings by myself because they’re easier to digest and probably more practical than the longer references I include in the further reading.

Required lean version of the session

Prepare by watching one video and one reading. Inclusive can mean:

  1. Addressing diverse learner interests and needs. Watch this video by Sherri Spelic on how to create a course that is NOT inclusive, and ask yourself, even though her video is quite extreme, how much of this do I actually do? Sherri Spelic’s video provocation of how to design a course that is not inclusive [note to self: this is a kind of asynchronous TRIZ Liberating Structure format with someone else doing the provocative first step].
  2. Including the cultures of diverse people (whether or not your students are diverse, but definitely if your students are diverse!). Read: Tips for Inclusive citation by Maha Bali and think of how this can be extended to readings on your syllabus. Taking this step will not only enrich your course, but also make it more socially just.
  3. Participants submit questions on a Google doc (and +1 if someone else has already asked the question they have). If they post their questions more than a day before, I can respond in text ahead of time as well as during the session
  4. (No time for this one to be done ahead of time) Participants can prepare the Purpose to Practice activity individually or in pairs ahead of time. What do you think, Sundi? They would need to think about what the most important purpose of their course is, and what their underlying principles are.

Live Session

  1. Maha – checking in with everyone (15 mins – now 25)
    1. How are you feeling?
    2. [Newly added] Where in the world do you belong? Map annotation activity using alternative map.
    3. Can you share something in Sherri’s video that you found yourself doing?
    4. Can you share something in the “tips for inclusive citation” that you can start doing to have a more inclusive syllabus? What else might you do to do this?
    5. [Newly added possible activity: discuss term inclusion and problematic nature of it… images of tables. This would take 10 more mins]
  2. Maha discusses curriculum theory & different dimensions of social justice a la Nancy Fraser’s economic, cultural and political (10 mins, now 20). [Newly added: I could also do a small activity using the paper I co-authored w Catherine Cronin and Rajiv Jhangiani of how to analyze an open educational practice into one that is more socially just in more dimensions. This would take 10 more mins].
  3. Purpose to Practice activity (10 mins): 
    1. This can be done individually or in pairs or groups. Focus on the underlying purpose of your course, principles that should underpin your teaching, and then think of how to ensure your teaching practice aligns with those principles (not content or measurable learning outcomes). Some people report back to the main group.
  4. Maha responds to questions from beforehand and live (summary of responses I’ve already given in text)

For those who wish to delve deeper

“Inclusion” can refer to:

If we start from Curriculum Theory and recognize that a curriculum need not be structured around content or predetermined outcomes (both of these hide values and agendas that we often are not explicit about but privilege certain groups, often already dominant, and marginalize/disadvantage other groups, often already disadvantaged) – and instead view curriculum as process or praxis, centering our values can help us design curriculum with social justice goals. If we think about Design Justice

Purpose to Practice activity. 

Can be done individually or in pairs or groups. Focus on underlying purpose of your course, principles that should underpin your teaching, and then think of how to ensure your teaching practice aligns with those principles (not content or measurable learning outcomes).

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