Inclusive Teaching Professional Development

As the U-M Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan was formed in 2015, one of three overarching strategies was to “support innovative and inclusive scholarship and teaching.”

The U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) was already engaged in providing training and consultation around diversity and inclusion in teaching and learning environments; now they would expand these efforts, both broadening and deepening the scale and scope.

Founded in 1962, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching was the first teaching center in the country. Its mission is to promote excellence and innovation in teaching in all 19 schools and colleges at the University of Michigan.

CRLT offers campuswide as well as disciplinary programs on teaching methods and strategies for faculty and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), and consults with both individual instructors and units on a full range of pedagogical and curricular matters.

CRLT’s professional staff – all of whom have PhDs and college teaching experience in one or more disciplines – consult with faculty and staff in academic units across campus, providing professional development programs that reflect specific pedagogical needs as well as evidence-based practices that cut across disciplines. In addition, CRLT offers inclusive teaching workshops for new and experienced graduate student instructors.

While some offerings focus specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion, CRLT attends to DEI in all of its programs and services. CRLT has provided leadership on campus and nationally in terms of inclusive teaching and making DEI an integral part of professional practice and research on teaching and learning.

While the core audience for direct involvement in the Inclusive Teaching Professional Development programs offered by CRLT are U-M faculty and GSIs, the audience ultimately served by the programs are students – all students – undergraduate and graduate level and from all fields of study.

CRLT collaborates with administrators, faculty, and staff from all of U-M’s 19 Schools and Colleges, and maintains an office on both Central Campus and North Campus.

The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) was initially a partner in leading the Inclusive Teaching Liaisons program, which engaged representatives from each school and college in regular meetings to form a community of practice.

In consultation with the U-M Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the U-M Provost, CRLT has expanded their offerings and their reach in support of the five-year campuswide DEI Strategic Plan.

CRLT’s Inclusive Teaching Professional Development Program advances a teaching culture that attends to diversity in all its forms and fosters positive learning climates for students and instructors of all backgrounds and social identities, including:

  • attending to student differences, including social identities, background experience, physical and cognitive ability, and native languages

  • deliberately fostering classroom dynamics and pedagogical practices that effectively support the learning of all students

  • understanding and alleviating patterns of inequity in teaching and learning environments

  • leveraging student diversity to maximize learning, including skills in working effectively with diverse peers

  • assessing student learning outcomes and experiences to discern effectiveness across different student populations

As the DEI Strategic Plan Implementation continues, CRLT will (1) continue to offer campuswide programs about inclusive teaching for instructors in multiple disciplines and (2) work with schools and colleges to create faculty professional development programs that reflect their particular pedagogical needs to make learning more inclusive and equitable across a diverse student body.

In addition, CRLT will continue to offer inclusive teaching workshops for new and experienced graduate student instructors.

Discussions about advancing inclusive teaching practices campuswide started well before the launch of the U-M DEI Strategic Plan. A 2014 Provost’s Report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which played a role in the decision to develop the campuswide plan, had recommended increased attention to inclusive teaching.

A task force with representatives from CRLT, the Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) and the School of Education (SOE) was charged with developing a model for inclusive teaching professional development for all U-M faculty.

Faculty focus groups informed the task force proposal for a flexible model that would engage each school and college, meeting the needs of instructors with a vast range of experience and expertise.

Each Dean was asked to appoint one or two faculty members to join the task force as inclusive teaching liaisons for their respective academic unit. Monthly meetings engaged the inclusive teaching liaisons in information sharing, training, and discussion.

Once the U-M DEI Strategic Plan was launched in fall 2016, inclusive teaching liaisons were encouraged to collaborate with their school or college DEI Leads to include efforts for inclusive teaching in their unit’s DEI Strategic Plan. 

With the launch of the U-M DEI Strategic Plan, it became clear that the demand for services and support from CRLT would be significantly increased. Some of the resources to support the DEI Strategic Plan allowed for an increase in staffing, yet there remained a significant challenge – to stretch the resources of this small unit to meet expanding expectations. 

To help achieve the goal of reaching as many faculty and academic units as possible in meaningful ways, CRLT offers a combination of campuswide programs, customized workshops, and written resources. Their portfolio of programs and services that address DEI issues and inclusive teaching methods includes:

  • New faculty and new GSI orientations

  • DEI-focused pedagogy workshops (seminar series) for faculty of all ranks

  • A year-long inclusive teaching professional development program for faculty lecturers

  • Liaisons for Inclusive Teaching program with representatives from all U-M schools and colleges joining meetings for professional development and sharing best practices

  • Custom inclusive teaching workshops and retreats in schools, colleges, and departments

  • Workshops and learning communities aimed at instructors teaching courses fulfilling race & ethnicity requirements

  • Web based resources, research articles and blog posts

  • One-on-one consultations with faculty instructors focusing on inclusive teaching

  • CRLT Players theatre program offers educational experiences to groups of instructors on topics related to inclusive teaching and campus climate, such as addressing faculty support for first-generation college students and building unit cultures resistant to sexual harassment

CRLT facilitates a series of Teaching Academies, for new faculty in 10 different schools and colleges; has reached all schools and colleges with campus and custom workshops; and provides instruction on inclusive teaching to over 1400 graduate student instructors (GSIs) and instructional aides annually.

In addition to offering a slate of DEI-focused workshops in their fall and winter program series, they provide additional workshops through the annual Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series, offered in Spring and reaching hundreds of faculty and graduate student instructors. 

As the reach of CRLT’s DEI-focused services expanded and the number of workshops increased, it became clear that it is very important to appreciate and acknowledge the amount of self reflection and support educational development professionals need in order to do this work well, especially as a primary responsibility.

For those engaged in this work, it is fulfilling but also emotionally draining. CRLT has worked to provide regular opportunities for facilitators to debrief and to network with communities of practice and support. 

CRLT programs and services are evaluated through a range of participant surveys (collected both in sessions and many months after) and focus groups, and through follow up discussions with collaborating units.

Participation rates and the number and type of academic units and departments utilizing services are tracked, as well as the number of individuals utilizing CRLT services.

At this point, all U-M Schools and Colleges have incorporated inclusive teaching into their unit’s DEI Strategic Plan, as a required element.

CRLT attends to diversity, equity and inclusion in all of its work, while also providing focused educational sessions, consultations, and customized workshops specific to inclusive teaching, regarding both classroom environment and course content.

In 2018-19, CRLT presented 61 inclusive teaching programs, including 35 customized workshops and retreats for faculty and GSIs in ten schools and colleges.

Overall outcomes and impact related to DEI resulting from CRLT’s efforts are harder to measure – e.g., improved learning experiences for students, student academic success, and persistence.

The focus is on direct assessments that help document impact, such as faculty and GSI norms of practice shifting towards widespread adoption of inclusive teaching strategies, signaling that dialogue around inclusive teaching is becoming normalized rather than it being unusual.

An increasing number of schools and colleges are including DEI in teaching evaluation and reward structures which embeds inclusive teaching efforts in instructional policies and practices. The evidence for these shifts continues to build.

  • Partner with respected, credible leadership from schools, colleges, and departments across campus; find allies and collaborate to develop best practices on your campus

  • Work to build inclusive teaching efforts into the regular academic work of the institution, from department based faculty orientations, to course proposals and course evaluations, to faculty goal setting and evaluations

  • CRLT has the benefit of being a well resourced, well respected teaching and learning center at a major research institution. Some may not have the same capacity to replicate the scope of their efforts. However, you can do something impactful, something more than what you are doing now. As a first step, assess the needs and interests of students and faculty on your campus. Identify ways to leverage existing programs and resources. Collaborate with departments, schools and colleges to provide tailored examples and case scenarios for discussion

  • If this work is already a part of what you are doing, don’t lose that as you start to take on new efforts or projects, have to do more, scale up, document and report more

  • Avoid thinking, “I’ve got this” — as that’s when you likely need to be more reflective about your approach, how you are engaging your audience, etc.

  • Consistently communicate that inclusive teaching is a pedagogy for social justice and supports all students’ learning across all disciplines. You don’t have to be teaching a women’s studies class to be incorporating inclusive teaching



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