What is inclusive pedagogy?
Inclusive pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning that seeks to remove barriers for all learners by paying close attention to the diversity of backgrounds, abilities and interests of learners. With inclusive pedagogy, instructors learn with students in a class environment that is reciprocal, supportive and open. Social justice, equity and diversity are at the core of inclusive pedagogy which results in all students feeling invited to bring their whole selves to the learning space because they feel seen, valued and heard.
The “inclusive” part of inclusive pedagogy is grounded in culturally responsive teaching. It recognizes, honours, values and respects all learners in the classroom. It also recognizes that everyone can learn from each other—this includes the instructor learning from or with their students. At its core, inclusive pedagogy:
- Embraces cultural differences;
- Actively constructs welcoming environments to share a variety of cultural perspectives;
- Creates assignments that ask students to think critically about issues of social justice; and
- Empowers or prepares learners to act critically in their life circumstances and develop agency.
Why this matters
Inclusive pedagogy opposes the banking model (Freire, 1970) of education, where instructors deposit information into students’ brains while students passively accept what is said and then regurgitate it. Instead, inclusive pedagogy draws on Freire’s (1970) view of knowledge as co-constructed by students. It is an active exchange between students and instructors. These types of exchanges enrich the learning for everyone, including the instructor, who may gain insights into a range of topics.
Because inclusive pedagogy is learner-centred and focuses on equity, students feel invited to and included in the learning environment and activities. Research on inclusive pedagogy shows that when its principles are applied, learning outcomes are improved for everyone (Spratt & Florian, 2015). Educators attend to student differences by taking deliberate steps to ensure that students across all differences in academic and social background, and physical and cognitive abilities feel welcomed, valued, challenged and supported in their academic pursuits.
Supporting inclusive teaching, learning and research is one of the three pillars that came out of the 2019-2020 EDI consultations and final report. The pillars that address five areas of discrimination and harassment reported by community members during the consultations.
Where to start?
To begin adopting inclusive pedagogy, first, examine your own personal beliefs about how students learn and how students achieve. Consider this:
- What is your perspective on the purpose of education?
- What assumptions and perspectives do you hold about a student’s role in their learning and in the classroom?
Other elements to attend to are a) the variety of perspectives represented in the course content, b) the way content is presented, and c) how students are expected to demonstrate learning. Consider, therefore:
- To what extent is there a diversity of perspectives in the content and do students have opportunities to examine these critically?
- How does the mode of interacting with the content (and of demonstrating learning) advantage or disadvantage students with specific abilities?
Inclusive pedagogy also recognizes that the social identities of both student and instructor directly impact the learning experience. Self-awareness is therefore an essential point of entry into inclusive pedagogical practice.
- Why are you interested in bringing inclusive pedagogies into your practice?
- How might your social identity shape your approach to teaching and learning and your understanding of student social identities?
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (MB Ramos, Trans.) New York. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Spratt, J., & Florian, L. (2015). Inclusive pedagogy: From learning to action. Supporting each individual in the context of ‘everybody’. Teaching and Teacher Education, 49, 89-96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.03.006.