How Do You Know If You’re Teaching Inclusively?

I know we’re all tired of assessments, but I have some serious questions for everyone to consider:

Q1: If you’re trying to teach ambitiously and equitably and be inclusive and welcoming in your classroom, how could you determine if you’re successful?

This is a pragmatic question aimed at helping us practitioners improve. But then there’s a related research question:

Q2: What does ambitious and equitable mathematics instruction look like and can you measure it?

I hope my math ed friends will correct me if I’m wrong, but my sense is that we have some understanding of what ambitious instruction (most associated with cognitively challenging tasks) looks like but we don’t have ways of characterizing that equitable part yet, let alone measure it. A friend told me that Niral Shah and Daniel Reinholz are trying to connect ambitious instructional practices with student participation patterns–I’d be interested to know who else is working in this area.

So back to Q1…

I think there is overlap between ambitious and equitable teaching strategies that promote the learning of all students, and teaching strategies that are Just.Plain.Good(TM): those that promote students’ reasoning and sense-making, encourage students to communicate mathematically, or get students to think deeply about mathematics, etc… If some of my attempts at teaching inclusively also lead to better learning outcomes, then measuring student outcomes could be a way to answer Q1.

But, I would like to dig deeper. After all, “we assess what we care about,” right? So if we really want to change the atmosphere in our classrooms on our campuses, we need to provide instructors with a way of measuring their own progress. <DreamingBig>Maybe one day evidence of ambitious and equitable instruction might become required, important components of promotion, reappointment and tenure decisions at colleges and universities!</DreamingBig>

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with to address Q1:

  • Add some custom self-assessment questions to the usual mid/end-of-course teaching evaluation. (See examples below.)
  • Have an instructor that you trust observe your class (…but then you run into Q2).
  • Have a colleague come in to do Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (more about SGID here and here) to elicit student experiences in and out of the classroom.

Here are some self-assessment questions that I’ve drafted to augment our end-of course teaching evaluations at Mudd.

Inclusivity Survey for Students in <<course name>>

Your responses on this optional survey will help me, your instructor, be a more inclusive in my teaching and better support the learning needs of all students. I will not review these comments until grades have been turned in. Thank you for your constructive feedback!

(For each questions 1-4 there is a place to circle “Yes”, “No”, or “Unsure” and a prompt/space for students to elaborate.)

1. Students have an equal opportunity to participate in class.

2. The instructor is respectful and encourages sharing of different perspectives.

3. The instructor models gender and multicultural sensitivity.

4. The instructor, consciously or unconsciously, shows a preference for certain groups of students.

5. What could I, your instructor, do to make this class more welcoming and inclusive for everyone? What could you do?

6. (Optional)
Your gender:
Your ethnicity:

What do you all think? If you were going to design a similar survey instrument, what questions would you use?

I’ve tried the form a few times and I’ve gotten a little bit of useful information, but not a lot. Many of my Mudd students don’t really notice these things or think about them much so a lot of them leave the whole thing blank or say that things are okay.

I understand that there are limits to assessment and that it’s difficult to capture all of what happens in a classroom and try to distill it down. But, I think we should attempt to measure our attempts to teach inclusively and equitably, even if it is only just for our own growth as teachers.

What have you tried? What ideas do you have?

4 thoughts on “How Do You Know If You’re Teaching Inclusively?

  1. I think these are great ideas. I love your questionnaire and your ideas about having a colleague observe.

    Re: your question about who is trying to “measure” ambitious and equitable instruction: Melissa Boston (http://www.duq.edu/academics/faculty/melissa-boston), Chuck Munter (https://www.education.pitt.edu/people/profile.aspx?f=CharlesMunter) and Annie Wilhelm (https://www.smu.edu/Simmons/AboutUs/Directory/TeachingLearning/Garrison%20Wilhelm) are all working on this issue. I also think Alan Schoenfeld’s TRU Math rubric is trying to get at a lot of these issues (http://map.mathshell.org/trumath/trumath_dimensions_alpha.pdf)

    When it comes to our own classrooms, we can certainly benefit from tools developed by these scholars, but we can really dig into the qualitative evidence, like survey results over time, classroom climate, student feedback, student persistence on hard problems in our class, as well as students’ mathematical engagement over time.

    Final thought: never ever </DreamingBig>

  2. Thank you so much for these wonderful thoughts. This is an extremely important topic in math education today. We just had a full department conversation about this topic and it was difficult to articulate what “inclusive teaching” was for many colleagues, so I agree with your statement that we have not found a way to “characterize the equitable part yet.” I’d love to hear more abut researchers and writing about that area.

    I believe that the idea of the the SGID is a wonderful idea. I have done discussions similar to what Carol Rodgers has described in her work in “Attending to Student Voice: The Impact of Descriptive Feedback on Learning and Teaching” in which students are given the opportunity to give descriptive feedback on their experiences in the class – what is working or not working for their learning. These conversations have been most useful.

    thanks again for your thoughts –

  3. You’ve given great ways to assess teaching inclusively, but what does teaching inclusively LOOK like in a math classroom? As an aspiring secondary ed math teacher, what more can I do instead of gear word problems towards different cultures in my classroom?

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