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Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Inclusive teaching strategies refer to teaching approaches that address the needs of students with varied and diverse backgrounds, modalities, and abilities. These strategies contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment in which students feel equally valued and creates a more positive teaching environment for faculty.

Implicit bias (aka racism) refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. It exists when we unconsciously hold attitudes towards others or associate stereotypes with them. An example: harboring negative stereotypes about others without consciously realizing it.

The information on this page does not constitutes a comprehensive list of needed learning, care and clarity around these areas though they are critical to creating inclusive learning environments and to avoiding unintended harm to our learners, colleagues, and patients.

Be sure to check out this section on inclusive teaching strategies from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (CATE).

Inclusive Teaching Strategies Heading link

Inclusive teaching refers to pedagogy that strives to serve the needs of all students, regardless of background or identity, and support their engagement with subject material. Diverse experiences shared by students and faculty can stimulate further discussion.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Incorporate diversity in curricular content in how images are displayed and case studies are described
  • Include a commitment to diversity statement in the syllabus (we do this at UICOM for Phase 1)
  • Incorporate Universal Design (UDL) where possible: UDL helps instructors present information both orally and visually to accommodate student visual or auditory impairments, while recognizing student preferences. You can learn more about UDL here:
  • Solicit student feedback on their perceptions of efforts to expand inclusive teaching and learning strategies
  • Ensure there is adequate support for students at the macro (university and beyond) and micro (college / campus) levels
  • Review the literature on diversity and inclusion to stay current
  • Check out the NBOME short guide on using appropriate language when crafting MCQs.

Pearls for Equity

  • When introducing yourself to students, consider sharing your preferred pronouns. For example, “Hi, my name is [name] and my preferred pronouns are [preferred pronouns].”
  • When presenting race as an epidemiological risk factor, be prepared to discuss why it is thought to be a risk factor
  • Generally, present race as a sociopolitical identity and not a genetic one
  • If referring to genetic risk factors (e.g., for CF or sickle cell), discuss them as geographic ancestry rather than race
  • Acknowledge limitations and potential harms of using race in clinical algorithms and formulas
  • Avoid centering whiteness, equating the white experience as ‘the norm.’ An example of this is showing rashes that are common in all patients on darker skin.
  • Avoid the use of race in multiple choice questions on exams where discussion is not possible
  • If multiple-choice questions (MCQs) discuss race in flipped classroom interactive activities, the faculty must be prepared to answer questions and put discussion of questions in text on the slide, not just in verbal response
  • Avoid the use of race in the opening statement of a case presentation
  • If patient has self-identified race, it may be included in the social history
  • Use stereotype negation. When presenting images of patients or standardized patients, try to subvert the traditional stereotypes associating race and low SES or low health literacy (e.g., present a Latinx woman doing a job that requires advanced education)
  • If teaching an online class, consider opening it 10-15 minutes early for students to join and have conversation with instructors. Ensure recording is only turned on at the start of class so students feel more comfortable having conversations
  • Be mindful of terms that have meaning to one group but perhaps not to another
  • Gender identity includes a diverse spectrum; binary categories of man/woman; boy/girl are woefully inadequate in representing the gender identity of all individuals

Pearls for Discussing BMI


  • BMI is a very reliable, if imperfect, measure of adiposity, which cannot be directly measured. For example, extremely muscular people with high BMI but low adiposity exist but are rare
  • At a population level, increases in BMI above 25 and certainly 30 are highly predictive of morbidity and mortality, independent of blood pressure and lipid levels
  • Adiposity, in particular central adiposity, is connected with medical diagnoses for many reasons, including inflammation. Measurement of weight circumference adds another dimension of information
  • There is great controversy about the “metabolically healthy obesity phenotype”. It appears to be a transient state that converts to metabolically healthy obesity
  • BMI is modifiable
  • Illnesses, or risk factors for illness, are not “bad” or “a patient’s fault”
  • BMI will continue to appear in the curriculum as a risk factor. We will not always have the ability to caveat the discussion

Examples of (from Yale)

  • Instructors may assume that certain students know to seek help when they are struggling, although students at higher risk for struggling academically are often less likely to seek help and support.
  • Instructors may assume that students from certain backgrounds or social groups have differing intellectual abilities and/or ambitions. For example, an instructor might assume that a student from a certain background will be satisfied with lower achievement levels.
  • Instructors may expect students who speak with certain accents to be poor writers.
  • Students with substandard writing abilities may be stereotyped as lacking intellectual ability.
  • Instructors might treat students with physical disabilities as if they may also have mental disabilities, and thus require more attention.
  • Students who are affiliated with a particular identity group may be treated as experts on issues related to that group.
  • Instructors may assume that students will best relate to the historical, contemporary, or fictional character who resembles them demographically.
  • Students of certain groups may be expected to have certain participation styles (quiet, argumentative, agenda-oriented).

Recommendations to Address (from Yale)

  • Self-Assess Implicit Biases
  • Cultivate Inclusivity
  • Solicit Feedback from Outside Observers
  • Solicit Feedback from Students

Microaggressions are subtle statements and behaviors that consciously or unconsciously communicate denigrating messages to individuals or groups based on some aspect of their identity.

Here are definitions of three main types of microaggressions:

Micro-assaults: intentional and explicit derogatory verbal or non-verbal attacks.

Micro-insults: rude and insensitive subtle ‘put-downs’ of someone’s heritage or identity.

Micro-invalidations: remarks that diminish, dismiss, or negate the realities and histories of groups of people.

Additional Resources to Check Out