Inclusive Teaching

Teacher with student

At the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning and across The Ohio State University, we value diversity and inclusion for teachers and students. We strive to provide resources and support that foster inclusive learning environments for our community, both on campus and online.

What is Inclusive Teaching?

Inclusive teaching describes the range of approaches to teaching that consider the diverse needs and backgrounds of all students to create a learning environment where all students feel valued and where all students have equal access to learn. Incorporating inclusive teaching practices creates a learning environment where:

  • Teachers develop supportive relationships with students.
  • Teachers decrease the potential for incivility and unproductive conflict.
  • Student participation and engagement increases.
  • Students are more likely to take intellectual risks, persist with difficult material and retain learning across contexts.

These additional resources may be of particular interest:


The Ohio State University is committed to fostering a culturally and intellectually diverse environment and encouraging all members of our learning community to reach their full potential.

- The Ohio State University Official Diversity Statement 


Planning an Inclusive Course

As the teacher, you have a great deal of agency in shaping inclusion within your courses. The identity and reflection you bring to the course, the choices you make about content and teaching strategies, the expectations you set and rapport you build are all powerful tools. We encourage each instructor at Ohio State to create inclusive classrooms through proactive planning before the semester begins. Some core strategies for incorporating inclusive practices in your teaching when planning a course and when responding to incidents include:

  1. Create a welcoming, respectful learning environment:
    • Get to know your students.
    • Set explicit expectations for civil discourse.
    • Model inclusive language on your syllabus and during classroom interactions.
  2. Use teaching methods that consider diverse learning preferences, abilities, ways of knowing, and prior experience and knowledge:
    • ​​Use multiple teaching strategies that allow students to access the content and demonstrate their learning in more than one way.
    • Don't conflate writing ability with thinking ability.
    • Incorporate texts and perspectives that help a wide variety of students connect to the content.
  3. Promote respectful interaction among students and between you and the students:
    • Respond to conflict or incivility.
    • Plan for controversial topics.
    • Collect feedback from students at multiple points during the semester.


University Resources and Policies

Responding to Conflict or Incivility

This is not a problem that can be solved with quick tips: if you are experiencing teaching-related conflict or classroom incivility that you need help addressing, please contact us for a personal consultation.

When tempers flare or controversial topics are raised, classroom conflicts can disrupt your learning environment and make students feel confused, anxious, or unsafe. Learning is a messy, sometimes emotional process. Just as we expect to see mistakes and opportunities for growth in writing or problem solving, it’s developmentally normal for students to need practice exploring emotional ideas and challenging their perspectives before they can grow as critical thinkers. Critical incidents can become powerful learning experiences when instructors are prepared to handle the situation:

  • Have a plan before teaching controversial topics to minimize conflict.
  • Learn more about stereotype threat and why responding to incivility matters.
  • When unexpected conflict occurs, acknowledge the situation and respond.

It is not always possible to prevent incivility, micro-aggressions or outright conflict from entering our classrooms. There are many acceptable approaches for responding to these classroom conflicts. Being prepared with one or two responses can help you regain control of the classroom when emotions are running high:

  • Slow things down with writing.
  • Stop everything to restate your expectations for respectful behavior.
  • Use the Open The Front Door strategies to model for students a way to process and move forward (Open Doors Training on responding to bias and conflict is available for individuals through the Office of Student Life).

Remember, responding to an incident after the fact is still better than ignoring it completely. If you have experienced a conflict that you were unprepared to handle, you can return to the classroom in the following lesson and describe what happened, why it is a problem, and what your expectations are moving forward.

Safety Protocol

The Department of Public Safety works hard to keep our university community safe. All employees of The Ohio State University should be familiar with the emergency safety protocol. Broadly speaking, this includes knowing where the emergency exits in the building are and what to do in case of fire, or in an active shooter scenario.

Buckeye Alerts

While not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that you sign up for Buckeye Alerts. These safety notifications will be sent as a text and/or email for anyone who activates the service. If a Buckeye Alert notifies you to take immediate action, you should follow the directions given, even if you are in the middle of teaching. If directions are given to “shelter in place” or “Run. Hide. Fight.” you need to stop class immediately and do so, even if there is no obvious threat.

If a Buckeye Alert interrupts class, students may become upset or worried, even if you do not feel there is a safety concern. There is no hard and fast rule about when to interrupt class when Buckeye Alert directions do not instruct you to do so. However, it is appropriate to acknowledge the emotions in the room and modify your instruction. You may be worried that talking about the alert will be more upsetting than ignoring it, but you are likely going to be perceived as the authority in the room.

Here are some strategies that can help students feel safe and refocus on learning after an alert:

  • Acknowledge you’re aware of the alert and will continue to monitor any updates.
  • Consider facilitating a short discussion of the emotions in the room.
  • Take a ten-minute break.
  • Do some silent writing to allow everyone to refocus.

If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others from a disruptive or distressed individual in your class, call 911 immediately.

Title IX and Sexual Harassment

In compliance with federal law (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972), Ohio State does not exclude individuals from or discriminate against them in educational opportunities based on sex or gender identity. Discrimination based on sex also includes sexual violence and sexual harassment. All programs associated with Ohio State, including academics, fall under the umbrella of Title IX.

University Policy 1.15 on Sexual Misconduct states that “members of the university community have the right to be free from all forms of sexual misconduct which impede the realization of the university’s mission of distinction in education, scholarship, and service.” Sexual discrimination includes sex- and gender-based discrimination, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and stalking.

How does this relate to the classroom?

  • In the average college classroom, men are given more speaking time than women.
  • Women and LGBTQ students are less likely to see themselves represented in course content and more likely to experience microaggressions or implicit bias from peers and instructors.
  • Women are more likely to withdraw from courses or change majors when they feel the classroom climate is hostile toward their participation.
  • The activation of stereotype threat for women has a documented negative effect on their cognitive performance.

You can use course design to increase equal opportunities for all genders in your classroom with the following strategies:

  • Use rubrics for grading so that students are evaluated fairly and equitably.
  • Gather feedback on the interactions in your classroom to become aware of any gendered trends in participation.
  • Set guidelines for participation that emphasize respectful interactions.
  • Use inclusive language such as “partner,” and include examples that feature women and LGBTQ people within the course content.

Disability Services

Roughly 3.5% of Ohio State students have documented disabilities; nearly 95% of those are considered “invisible disabilities". A visual survey of your classroom may not give you an indication of whether any of your students have disabilities. Yet, these invisible afflictions often impact a student’s ability to learn and perform in your class.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Ohio State University offers “reasonable modifications [to] policies or procedures” in order to avoid discrimination based on a disability and maintain an inclusive learning/opportunity environment for its students and employees. As instructors, we are required by federal law to provide “reasonable modifications” to ensure that an inclusive learning environment is maintained. These modifications will vary depending on your class structure and the student’s requirements. 

Student Life Disability Services (SLDS) provides students who document their disabilities with a letter outlining their specific needs. Accommodating a documented disability does not mean compromising the rigor of a course. Reasonable accommodations are those which still conform to course goals, learning objectives, expectations, and requirements. If you are unsure about how to best accommodate a student, contact SLDS.

Inclusive Best Practices for Teaching Students with Disabilities

  1. Use the following accessibility statement in your syllabi:
    • The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on your disability (including mental health, chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you register with Student Life Disability Services. After registration, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so that they may be implemented in a timely fashion. SLDS contact information:; 614-292-3307;; 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Avenue.
    • Note: We recommend taking some time to review this statement with the class. This may help students feel more comfortable making proactive requests.
  2. Promptly respond to accommodation requests.
    • Registered students will contact you to request accommodations. Students are trained on the accommodation process and should provide letters or forms to you. In addition to discussing the requests, you may also be:
      • filling out forms (e.g. exam proctor sheets, attendance/deadline modification agreements),
      • identifying students in class to be volunteer note-takers, and/or
      • corresponding with SLDS staff as needed (e.g. sending exams; discussing a student situation).
  3. Respect the student’s right to confidentiality.
    • Students are not required to disclose medical details, such as their diagnoses, to instructors. Disability Services keeps all students’ medical information and documentation confidential.
    • The student’s registration status should only be shared with others on a need-to-know basis.
    • We recommend discussing accommodations with students in a private, one-on-one setting such as during office hours or by appointment. 
  4. Consult with Student Life Disability Services when you have questions/concerns about a request. 
    • Each registered student is assigned an Access Specialist who is available to you for answering questions, brainstorming solutions, and determining whether or not an accommodation request is reasonable, given the design and learning outcomes of the course.
  5. Provide accessible course materials to students with sensory or print disabilities.
    • Whenever possible, choose course materials that are accessible from the get-go (e.g. searchable PDFs, captioned videos). When materials are not inherently accessible, provide the materials to the SLDS Accessible Media department with enough notice for conversion to an accessible format.
    • When creating your own course documents in Microsoft Office, there’s a handy built-in Accessibility Checker feature (File > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility) which you can use to ensure screen-reader accessibility.
    • When a student requests course material conversions (e.g. digital textbooks, screen-reader accessible documents, captioned videos), Disability Services will reach out to the instructor if coordination is needed. 


Faculty and Staff Accommodation

Faculty and staff are also entitled to disability accommodation. If your disability impacts your ability to teach or perform other job duties at Ohio State, please contact the Office of Human Resources: Integrated Absence Management and Vocational Services.

Mental Health on Campus

Over 75% of mental health conditions begin before age 24, which means college students are disproportionately more likely to be dealing with undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems. On Ohio State’s campus, 30% of undergraduate students feel their academic performance has been negatively impacted due to mental health issues. Mental health conditions negatively influence their academic performance due to feelings of depression, poor concentration, and difficulties studying and keeping up with coursework. For graduate and professional students, this number is even higher and populations at higher risk include LGBTQ, international students, minority students, students with disabilities, and veterans.

These behaviors are common in students who struggle with mental health:

  • Changes in behavior: lack of self-care, change in work quality, irritability.
  • Withdrawal: stops coming to class, does not engage with discussion.
  • Aggression: particularly in young men, depression and anxiety can result in irritability, anger or aggression.
  • Writes or talks about death, says goodbyes or gives away belongings.

You may feel it’s not your place, or none of your business to know about a student’s mental health, but it does affect the learning that takes place in your classroom. As a teacher, you are not a counselor, but you can connect students with the resources that will help them continue to learn, and may save their life.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for college-age students. About 90% of Ohio State students report that they know a fellow student who is contemplating suicide. Learn more on the REACH website and through their suicide prevention training program.