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Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Diverse group of students walking
Because DePaul is a university that is committed to diversity by virtue of its mission and programs, its faculty are encouraged to establish learning environments that are welcoming to diverse communities of learners. At DePaul, diversity is seen as an asset and not a liability. Toward that end, you should consider adopting inclusive teaching and learning practices, which Hockings (2010) defines as a range of intentional strategies that “engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all.”

Here are some examples of inclusive teaching and learning practices:

  • Learn your students’ names, ask for correct pronunciation when you are unsure, and use icebreakers to help your students get to know one another. Taking the time to learn your students’ names shows you care about them, makes you more approachable as an instructor, and helps increase students’ motivation. 
  • Develop and hone your intercultural competency and help your students develop theirs as well. 
  • Faculty-to-student and student-to-student interaction has been shown to help students succeed; having students speak on the first day of class makes them more likely to continue doing so. Icebreakers are an efficient way to make sure each student has the opportunity to speak on the first day of class. 
  • Be very explicit about your expectations for student participation by laying out ground rules. Doing this collaboratively as a class can also help everyone feel responsible for and engaged in the classroom environment; however, you’ll want to think about any non-negotiables beforehand. 
  • Difficult discussions—especially those that involve issues which provoke emotional responses—can be some of the most fertile teaching moments, but also the scariest. Here are some tips on managing those kinds of interactions.

Course Design Considerations

Creating learning experiences that are purposeful, relevant and accessible to all your students requires some advanced planning. As you sit down to design (or redesign) your course, consider how the following two curriculum design frameworks can inform your instructional choices.

Backwards Course Design

Many professors tend to begin the course design process by outlining the content of their course. But it helps everyone when you are clear about your goals for the course: what do you want your students to be able to do after taking it? 

Backward course design video thumbnail
Watch this 5 min. video for an overview of the backward course design process.

Here’s an outline of how to design a course backwards:

  1. Identify the desired results by creating learning outcomes for your course. Specify what you want your students to know and be able to do by the end of the quarter. 
  2. Determine what is acceptable evidence of student learning: How will you assess what your students have learned?
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction. Much of how we learn is through application: practicing something and then receiving feedback on that practice. What opportunities will your students have to practice? How will they get feedback on their efforts?
For a comprehensive take on backwards course design, see Wiggins and McTighe (2005) and Hansen (2011).

Universal Design for Learning

The Universal Design for Learning educational framework, which grew out of the larger universal design movement, has been shown to be an effective approach to designing learning experiences that are accessible to all students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and students with differing educational and cultural backgrounds. The framework involves 3 domains, according to its authors

UDL at a glance
For an overview of the Universal Design for Learning framework, watch this 4 1/2 min. video produced by the researcher group who developed it.
  1. Engagement: Stimulate interest and motivation for learning. Some examples:
    • Make your first day of class matter.
    • Deep learning doesn’t happen passively. How does your course actively engage students? 
    • Encourage your students to adopt a growth mindset, which acknowledges that learning something new is difficult, but with hard work, smart practice, and feedback, their performance can improve.
  2. Representation: Present information and content in different ways. Some examples:
    • If you rely on lecture, supplement it with multimedia, and make sure the multimedia is accessible to all learners (enable closed captioning, provide captions and transcripts, etc.).
    • Be clear about the vocabulary and symbols that are important in your discipline and in the course you’re teaching.
    • Don’t rely on idioms or unnecessary cultural references that may confuse, rather than instruct, English language learners.
  3. Action & Expression: Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know. Some examples:
    • Provide opportunities for students to practice doing the things they’ll need to do in order to demonstrate their learning in your class, prior to any high-stakes assignment.
    • Make sure you include relevant support for your students as they work to demonstrate their knowledge, such as by providing examples of work, templates, opportunities for peer review, etc.
    • Provide a variety of ways in which your students can demonstrate their learning, such as through multiple media (video, text, speech, design, etc.).
You can learn more about this framework by visiting the National Center on Universal Design for Learning or reading Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, either on the web for free (requires registration) or through I-Share

It’s Bigger than Just Your Course: Internationalizing the Curriculum 

One of DePaul’s six institutional learning goals for students is intercultural and global understanding. Specifically, students who graduate from DePaul are expected to be able to demonstrate:
  • respect for and learning from the perspectives of others different from themselves
  • knowledge of global interconnectedness and interdependencies
  • knowledge to become a steward of global resources for a sustainable future
These goals are broadly compatible with what is known as “internationalization of the curriculum” in the field of higher education. According to Clifford (2013), the process of internationalization of the curriculum involves the integration of global perspectives, intercultural communication, and socially responsible leadership. The Center for Curriculum Internationalisation at Oxford Brookes University has produced a resource kit that includes a discussion of the concept as it has appeared in the literature as well as a number of practical considerations for faculty and curriculum developers. For more information on DePaul’s internationalization efforts, including resources for faculty, visit the Global Engagement website.

Addressing Academic Integrity 

Source attribution is not a universal practice. In many cultures, knowledge is seen as belonging to the community, so citing the sources of information or ideas is uncommon. As an instructor you should help your students learn the citation conventions within your discipline. International students especially will benefit from further discussion on how these practices have developed and what their functions are. Here are some examples of how to address academic integrity and discourage plagiarism:
  • Discuss citation conventions within your discipline and show examples of those conventions. 
  • Model correct citation practices in your lectures and course materials.
  • Scaffold your assignments:
    • Incorporate sequenced assignments that develop on and build upon one another, leading into a larger project. 
    • Give students appropriate time and information so that they can effectively manage their work and navigation of sources.
    • Build in opportunities for drafting and revision.
  • Design assignments in which students are producing original thinking or analysis. 
  • Request an in-class workshop for your students on citation practices. 
For a comprehensive look at issues involving plagiarism and academic integrity at DePaul, visit the Academic Integrity page of this website.

Feedback and Assessment

International students often come into our classes with different experiences of and expectations for receiving feedback and assessment of their work. For example, some international students may not have much experience with writing independently and having their work critiqued for originality or critical thinking. New challenges such as these can cause some students to be confused or distressed, to the point where they may not complete assignments or drafts in full. Some suggestions for action:

Set Expectations about Acceptable Levels of Performance

  • Inquire about your students' previous experiences with assessment, not only to inform yourself but also to alert students to possible differences in your class. For example, if students will be engaged in a lot of independent writing in your course, gauge how much experience they have had doing that in previous courses.
  • Be explicit about what you expect from your students. Let them know what knowledge, skills or abilities you are expecting them to be able to demonstrate in each assignment, and how you will assess their work.
  • Consider using rubrics when possible.
    • Rubrics can provide students with a breakdown of how individual assignment components are weighted and scored, along with descriptions of differing levels of achievement (e.g., exemplary, proficient, developing, unacceptable). 
    • Rubrics can also help you decide what to focus on in your feedback and how to gauge students’ performance. 
  • Provide students with a rationale for why you are assessing certain elements of their work, and make sure their is a mutual understanding of what those elements are.

Provide Examples and Opportunities for Practice

  • Offer a number of opportunities for students to practice applying the knowledge, skills or abilities that they will need to demonstrate. Opportunities for practice can include low-stakes assignments, in-class learning activities, and homework. 
  • Provide students with a range of examples or models of work that demonstrate various levels of achievement.
  • When possible offer students some kind of feedback before they encounter high-stakes assignments, and explain how your feedback can be used to prepare for future work and assessments.

Provide Helpful Feedback

  • In your feedback, identify whether students are on the right track or not and what they need to do in order to be successful. Point to areas in students’ work where they are successful and offer critical feedback that is constructive by including suggestions for improvement.
  • Avoid commenting on every error, but rather note significant patterns of error. 
  • Recommend resources where students can get additional support, as necessary.
  • Whenever possible, offer feedback that is “scaffolded” throughout the process. For example, before having students complete a research paper due at the end of the quarter, have them submit a proposal first, so you can ensure they are on the right track.
  • Consider having students provide one another feedback on their works-in-progress (peer review) in class or by using university resources such as the Writing Center.
  • Consider using tech tools such as audio or screen recording to give your students feedback efficiently.
For an in-depth look at assessment and feedback and what options are available for faculty teaching international students, download the Higher Education Academy's resource on Assessment and Feedback, which was developed as a part of their Teaching International Students project


Clifford, V. (2013). The Elusive Concept of Internationalisation of the Curriculum. Oxford Brookes University. 

Hansen, E. (2011). Idea-based learning: A course design process to promote conceptual understanding. Sterling, Va: Stylus.

Hockings, C. (2010, April). Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: A synthesis of research (Rep.)

International Student Lifecycle [Scholarly project]. Higher Education Academy. 

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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Programs and Support for Teaching in a Global Classroom

DePaul has a number of offices and support programs that are aimed at supporting both faculty and students in a global classroom.

Teaching Commons

Center for Teaching and Learning
25 E. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 362-8000