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‎5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom‎

It is not only complicated but also complex.‎

Key points

  • Social inclusion is a basic human need and, therefore, a precondition to learning.
  • Teachers have the power to create an inclusive or an exclusionary classroom learning environment.
  • We need to adopt teaching strategies that are reflective of students' dynamic natures and diverse abilities.

Does the social and structural system reward teachers for including all students? Unfortunately not. Does the social and structural system punish teachers for excluding certain students? Absolutely not. Therefore, we need to address the problem from a systemic perspective.

Many teachers aim to create a classroom environment ‎where all students feel included. Social inclusion is a basic human need and, therefore, a precondition to learning. So many teachers want to include all students because a diverse discussion is inevitably rich and because excluding students is a form of social punishment that ‎should be avoided at all costs.

But human beings are not only complicated ‎but also complex. I am using the adjectives ‎‎“complicated” and “complex” rather specifically. For example, going to the moon is a complicated task, but it is not complex. We surely need a detailed list of tasks, but they ‎are clearly delineated. Raising a healthy child is complex ‎because it is an inherently uncertain process. There is no ‎checklist to check. Likewise, creating a classroom ‎community is complex because we ‎are dealing with people who bring complex history to the ‎classroom. ‎

We are ‎dealing with systemic forces playing at the individual level. ‎For example, to make an environment inclusive for women, ‎we have to consider the patriarchy and its associated ‎formidable history; for ‎nonnative speakers of English, we have to study the ‎dominating history of the English language; for Black students, we ‎have to study the dark history of slavery in the United ‎States; and for international ‎students coming from developing countries, we have to ‎reckon with the record of colonization and of ‎orientalism.‎

There are at least two ways to approach the question of inclusion: from an institutional perspective, where we interrogate the structural and hierarchical power set in the system, and from a student perspective, where we integrate their perspectives by granting them agency. In other words, we need to adopt teaching strategies that are reflective of their dynamic natures and diverse abilities. As such, teachers are encouraged to experiment with the following five strategies that could foster an inclusive environment:

1. Exude positive energy. ‎

Being present and emanating positive energy is a ‎prerequisite to having a collegial classroom. The teacher ‎should exude a friendly attitude because if the teacher is not ‎approachable, students will feel excluded from the ‎classroom. Besides, we ‎gravitate toward positive emotions because they make us feel ‎good and, therefore, included. ‎Many students may feel reluctant to confide in or seek support from their teacher because they are considered the dominant force in the classroom. By eliminating the hierarchy or power dynamic within classrooms, it may make students more inclined to engage. In other words, having approachable manners encourages students to connect with teachers.

‎2. Ask students to write and then share. ‎

The relationship between writing and ideas is well established. That is why humans invented writing: to ‎document ideas. Asking students to write their comments ‎down is important because they will have a foundation from ‎which to share. Also, there are two types of students: ‎internal and external processors (introverts and extroverts). Therefore, asking students to write down ideas will allow ‎the internal processors to navigate their introversion better. ‎With many students suffering from trauma, we ought to give them the opportunity to reflect, write, and then share.

‎3. Do not cold-call quiet students. ‎

It is not cool. Why run the risk of embarrassing a ‎quiet student, who might then disengage altogether? Quiet ‎students may learn from listening better than from speaking. ‎There is more than one way to learn, and we ought to ‎embrace the quiet mode of learning. Nonnative ‎English speakers might especially feel too overwhelmed to participate ‎and talk. They may need silence to absorb the ‎information thrown at them in a totally foreign language. We ‎should not presume to know how people learn. And we should ‎consider different ways to measure human intelligence. ‎

‎4. Have small group chats. ‎

They are helpful in getting students not only to talk but also ‎to socialize, which is a legitimate goal of any inclusive classroom: If students are not clicking with each other, they are not going to perceive the class as inclusive. ‎And here is a bonus tip: Have each member of the group report on what the other member has said because students feel less nervous when they are merely reporting the contributions of their classmates. ‎This is an exercise in humility, which is essential to learning.

‎5. Design fun games. ‎

Learning and having fun are somehow seen as adversarial. But learning is not only a cognitive experience—it is also a social activity. We learn from and with each other. ‎Learning does not occur in voids. And the power of playing ‎cannot be overstated: We learn our first life lessons through ‎playing with our peers. And we can continue to learn through the power of fun games. We have to get rid of the notion that suffering is positively correlated with ‎learning—it is not. Especially with so many students struggling with loneliness, fostering a positive social atmosphere through games will facilitate an inclusive classroom environment.


Teachers have the power to create either an inclusive or an exclusionary classroom learning environment. However, the process of creating an inclusive classroom is uncertain. Even so, teachers can play a meaningful role in fostering a positive learning environment for all students. When minority students (both first-gen and zero-gen) feel excluded, they will not engage with the material. When they feel included, they will have a transformational learning experience, which is the ideal of an effective relationship between teachers and students.

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