Inclusive Learning

Inclusive Pedagogy and Intercultural Competence

Luther College is committed to fostering inclusive teaching so that we can support all members of our community in their efforts to be engaged with diversity, committed to equity, and focused on inclusiveness.

Inclusive pedagogy describes a high impact practice for teaching and learning that systematically considers diversity as part of the course content, instructional strategies, and course delivery. Inclusive teaching uses course design, teaching strategies, and assessments of student learning to help all students’ master skills that involve communicating across differences in opinions, viewpoints, aspirations, perspectives, and learning styles. In the inclusive classroom, the environment fosters a sense of belonging for everyone, even as difficult topics are explored.

Intercultural competence is a set of cognitive, affective and behavioral skills that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.

Inclusive Teaching Fosters Intercultural Competence

The instructor needs to be equipped to help students from different cultural backgrounds and intersecting social identities navigate the complexities and tensions involved in learning together. Students’ opportunities for academic and social successes in the classroom often depend on an instructor’s ability to foster cultural self-awareness, empathy, and open mindedness in the class.

Instructional Strategies that Foster Inclusive Pedagogy

Inclusive teaching brings students' experiences into the classroom to help them think through the complexities, contradictions, and possibilities inherent in a complex understanding of the world. Typical teaching strategies that promote inclusion involve: inquiry-based instruction, group work, student-led discussions, simulations, service learning, fieldwork, demonstrations and multimedia approaches to teaching.

Inclusive pedagogy also uses varied assessment strategies so that students have a number of ways to demonstrate their mastery of the course content.

Benefits of Inclusive Teaching

  • Inclusive teaching creates responsive learning environments
  • In an inclusive classroom, students know that their perspectives and viewpoints, learning styles, cultural backgrounds, social identities and exceptionalities are considered as valuable resources for teaching and learning.
  • Inclusive teaching develops culturally competent, global learners who can effectively communicate across differences and commonalities.
  • Inclusive teaching leverages the educational benefits of diversity in ways that help students become more informed about different perspectives and identities and more engaged in serving others for the common good.
  • Inclusive teaching fosters classroom interactions that help students become more flexible in their views without sacrificing their deepest commitments.
  • Inclusive teaching helps students take responsibility for their own learning by fostering environments that are relevant to their needs, skills and interests.
  • Inclusive teaching equips students to engage in the difficult conversations about identity, power and privilege whether they occur in class or outside of class in conversations with individual students.
Learning environment/course design Teaching preparation/ instructional strategies Strategies for intercultural competence/responding to cultural differences
Learning environment is responsive to differences because rather than being ignored, they are treated as assets that deepen learning for all students.

Syllabus clarifies the important of inclusive teaching in the class. Syllabus states the importance of collaborative learning and respect. Content explores multiple perspectives on class topics.

Classroom activities, assignments, and materials have a diverse group of students in mind.

Instructor assesses his/her own unconscious biases regarding student behavior in the classroom (Is there an alternative explanation for what I’m observing)?

Instructor encourages student voices both inside and outside of class.

Professors build a classroom community where students and professors explore controversies related to the course and the disciplines involved. Discussions are framed using side-by-side comparisons of views on a topic. To foster non-judgmental approaches to class discussions, professors ask students to ‘try on’ and defend points of view that differ from their own perspectives.
Instructors use empathy, build trust, and encourage flexibility to reduce barriers to honest conversations. Prepare ‘mentally’ for discussions that might become charged. Design opportunities to foster learning even if we don’t ‘agree’. Remind class of the ground rules related to respect. Professors continue to promote a climate of respect, tolerance of ambiguity, risk, and perseverance. Instructors foster group cohesion by having students work together on short-term assignments in different groups .
Instructors introduce complexities and contradictions in course content to foster critical thinking in the class. The class engages students using multiple assessments, including prior learning assessments, experiential learning, simulations, reflective assignments and anonymous feedback.

Instructors provide opportunities for students to take appropriate risks by exploring other cultural points of view.

Instructors place some demands on students to explore their experiences as part of the learning process.

Intercultural Competence (Revisited)

Intercultural competence is the capability to accurately understand and adapt behavior to cultural difference and commonality. Intercultural competence reflects the degree to which cultural differences and commonalities in values, expectations, beliefs and practices are effectively bridged so that an inclusive environment is achieved. Specific differences are addressed from the perspective of adaptation, a mindset that allows one to shift cultural perspective and change behavior in authentic and culturally appropriate ways.

Challenges to Inclusive Pedagogy

  • Instructors lack information about conditions, situations and identities that affect our students before they step onto our campus.
  • Instructors have few resources for gaining the cultural specific information they may need to develop learning environments that are relevant and responsive to all students.
  • Campus climate may not engender the sense of belonging that students need to persist and achieve. Additionally, campus leaders may not understand how belonging differs based on cultural backgrounds, social identities or conditions that students may experience on campus.
  • Instructors may have unconscious bias that can result in deficit thinking about the motivations and abilities of students from different backgrounds.
  • Instructors are not equipped to transform potentially tense classroom discussions into positive learning experiences.

Resources for Inclusive Pedagogy and Intercultural Competence