Teaching and Justice

Creating Inclusive Environments to Encourage Classroom Civility

by Kristin Broussard, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning

At the Reinert Center, we often get questions from graduate students and faculty about how manage classroom incivility.  At the Reinert Center, we prefer to focus on the positive – how can we create environments in which classroom incivility is prevented? One of the best ways to prevent incivility and student misbehavior is to create inclusive classroom environments.

What is an inclusive classroom?

There are a variety of definitions of an inclusive classroom, such as this one from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT):

Classrooms in which instructors and students work together to create and sustain an environment in which everyone feels safe, supported, and encouraged to express her or his views and concerns.

Or Yale University’s Center for Teaching and Learning:

An environment where all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom regardless of identity, learning preferences, or education.

Some of the common elements you should identify in these definitions of inclusive classroom environments are equity, safety, respect, diversity, and a sense of community.

Why is an inclusive classroom environment important?

Research on inclusive classroom environments demonstrates several positive outcomes for both students and teachers. In inclusive classrooms, every student has the opportunity and access to learn, which leads to better learning experiences and outcomes for all students (Milem, 2003; Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005). Inclusive classrooms also create safe and welcoming environments for all students (and teachers!), which encourages rapport, communication, and a sense of community both between students and their teachers, and among students (Milem, 2033; Milem et al., 2005). Because inclusive classrooms are safe and respectful environments where communication is encouraged, multiple perspectives and ideas are more likely to be experienced (Milem, 2033; Milem et al., 2005). Additionally, inclusive classrooms tend to curb classroom incivility because when the classroom environment is a place of shared values of respect, students are less likely to misbehave or act out because it would violate the norms of the inclusive environment (Milem, 2033; Milem et al., 2005).

How can you make your classroom an inclusive classroom?

There is no one “right” way to make your classroom more inclusive, but there are plenty of resources to help you reflect on your own teaching practices and how to make them more inclusive. A good place to start is with the syllabus, which is typically the first point of communication teachers have with their students and where the expectations for the classroom are set. Debra Lohe’s Notebook blog post on the elements of an inclusive syllabus is a great place to start. You may also want to review your own syllabi with an eye towards inclusivity by using this survey by Brantmeier, Broscheid, and Moore. Another great resources for reviewing and reflecting on incorporating inclusivity into your classroom and teaching practices is this inclusive practices reflection from University of Michigan’s teaching center [LINK].


Additional Resources and Readings:

The Reinert Center’s page of links: http://www.slu.edu/cttl/resources/inclusive-teaching.php

University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning’s resource page for Inclusive Teaching Strategies: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/multicultural-teaching/inclusive-teaching-strategies

Armstrong, M. A. (2011). Small world: Crafting an inclusive classroom (no matter what you teach). Retrieved from https://ldr.lafayette.edu/bitstream/handle/10385/1036/Armstrong-ThoughtandAction-2011.pdf?sequence=1

Booker, K. C., & Campbell-Whatley, G. D. (2018). How faculty create learning environments for diversity and inclusion. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching13, 14-27. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1184935.pdf

McGuire, J. M. (2011). Inclusive college teaching: universal design for instruction and diverse learners. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All1, 38-54. doi:10.17411/jacces.v1i1.80

Mino, J. J. (2004). Planning for inclusion: Using universal instructional design to create a learner-centered community college classroom. Equity & Excellence in Education, 37, 154-160, doi: 10.1080/10665680490454011.

Salazar, M. D. C., Norton, A. S., & Tuitt, F. A. (2010). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. To improve the academy28, 208-226. doi:10.1002/j.2334-4822.2010.tb00604.x



Milem, J. F. (2003). The educational benefits of diversity: Evidence from multiple sectors. Compelling interest: Examining the evidence on racial dynamics in higher education, 126-169. Retrieved from http://faculty.ucmerced.edu/khakuta/policy/racial_dynamics/Chapter5.pdf