Inclusive Teaching Resources for UBC Science Instructors

This page provides suggestions and resources for different ways in which you can make your course and classroom environment more inclusive. If you have any questions or need support, please don't hesitate to contact you departmental Science Education Specialist or Maï Yasué, Equity Strategist, at mai.yasue@ubc.ca.

Getting started

These key resources can help you start to make your STEM course and classroom environment more inclusive. They provide some overarching suggestions and information related to Inclusive Teaching and can help you identify priority areas where you might adjust your pedagogical approaches. 

Creating inclusive syllabi in STEM

Why are inclusive syllabi important for students? Inclusive syllabi can help communicate a culture of inclusion and equity, and they can support a shared understanding about important policies and procedures that support success for all students. By providing a diverse range of resources in syllabi to enhance student wellness and success, instructors can communicate that they value students as individuals and that they are committed to creating a safe and inclusive learning environment.

Why are inclusive syllabi important for instructors? Detailed syllabi that carefully lay out policies, procedures, and assessments can provide important resources for instructors and help reduce cognitive load during busy teaching schedules. Instructors can, for instance, point to the syllabus rather than responding to many one-off questions. Once developed, syllabi details can be carried over from course to course, providing a record of changes in teaching practices and policies to help the instructor reflect and improve their own teaching practices.

  • See this shorter document created by the CTLT about Writing a Learner-Centred/Inclusive Syllabus.

  • For a more in-depth exploration of inclusive syllabi, see this resource on syllabus design, created by the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

  • This document has some tips on how to create a trans-inclusive syllabus and learning environment.

  • The following UBC resources on student academic support might be worth including in your syllabus:

Building community within classrooms

Why is building community important for students? In 2019, fewer than 30% of first and fourth year Science students reported feeling a sense of community within UBC Science (UBC Undergraduate Experience Survey, 2019) . Instructors can play a role in helping to build a sense of community within the classroom. Creating a respectful learning environment can help enrich students’ academic success, retention, and wellness.

Why is building community important for instructors? When there is greater social capital and when structures are in place for building community, there are lower costs for students to access academic and emotional support from peers. Greater social capital within a class may lead to fewer conflicts in group assignments that might require time-intensive, instructor intervention. It may also reduce the time instructors spend responding to student enquiries. Further, when students feel emotionally supported by and connected to their instructor, they may be more likely to seek help in a timely manner and less likely to resort to less effective strategies such as academic misconduct that may end up taking lots of time.   

Creating inclusive course assessments

Why are inclusive assessments important for students? Designing assessments carefully is important for the retention, learning, and well-being of students. The resources in this section can help instructors decide on the frequencies, types, and assessment and grading policies in your course to enhance engagement and academic performance for all students.

Why are inclusive assessments important for instructors? By designing accessible assignments that use principles of universal design before a course begins, instructors may be able to avoid numerous time-consuming and time-sensitive requests when they may have less cognitive space. Making changes or linking to different materials when a course is in full swing may be more challenging than developing inclusive assessments at the start. Further, taking the time to create assessments with diverse students in mind before the beginning of the class may communicate care to the students, which can help to build rapport and social capital with the students and enhance student success and the teaching experience. 

  • Apply principles of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) to develop course assessments that move beyond single, high-stakes exams.  

  • Complete this Inclusive Assessment checklist, created by Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at Tufts University, to identify potential areas of improvement for your course assessments. 

  • The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative resources on assessments may also be of interest.

Working towards decolonization and Indigenization in classrooms

Why is it important to support decolonization for students? Working towards decolonization can help to create a greater sense of belonging and inclusion for Indigenous students in science. This can also support the well-being and academic success of Indigenous students. For other students, learning about decolonization and Indigenization within STEM is critical learning that will likely be necessary in their lives and future professions. 

Why is it important for instructors to support decolonization and Indigenization? Educational institutions have played and continue to play a significant role in past and ongoing harm to Indigenous people. University educators across all disciplines are now key players who are collectively accountable for their work towards decolonizing universities.

UBC is the first university to commit to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in North America. The UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan responds to the UNDRIP, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Action, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action

Enhancing course accessibility

Why is this important for students? In 2019, 17% of UBC Science undergraduate students indicated that they had physical disabilities, learning differences, and other exceptionalities. The resources in this section can help instructors implement practices and develop content that are more accessible, especially for students who are consistently and persistently marginalized in university.

Why is accessibility important for instructors? Investing time to proactively design courses with inclusion as an underlying thread can ensure a smoother term for both students and instructors. Courses designed with diverse student needs in mind from the start reduce the need for retrofitting the course to be more inclusive later on. For example, adding alt-text (descriptions of images) on your lecture slides and/or structuring a handout or web page using heading levels will help students who use a screen reader follow and grasp the material.

Creating spaces for marginalized groups in STEM

Why is it important to create space for marginalized students? Students of colour, 2SLGBTQ+ students, women, and other marginalized groups continually face barriers to succeed in STEM fields. Within UBC Science, over 60% of our students identify as IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) and 18% identify as 2SLGBTQ+ (Undergraduate Experience Survey 2019). With UBC’s commitment to creating inclusive and diverse spaces, it’s important for instructors to create classes that offer all students the opportunity for success.

Why is this important for instructors? Designing your assessments, readings, and course content to create space for marginalized groups in STEM may not only save time during the term, it may also help to enhance engagement from a broader group of students and therefore lead to a more positive teaching and learning experience. In addition, when space is created, these students may bring in new perspectives that could help deepen learning for all students and thereby improve your teaching experience. 

Resources for supporting students in a crisis

Why is it important to support students in crisis? Instructors may be the first person to detect a student who is struggling for non-academic reasons. In class, this may look like a disengaged or tired student, or a student missing major deadlines and assignments. Early interventions may help to reduce the academic and well-being impacts of a crisis.

Why is it important for instructors to support students in crisis? By ensuring that students have the support they need (e.g., including links to support services in syllabi), instructors may have fewer time-sensitive, one-off requests from students and see greater student performance. This may help improve your teaching experience.

Here are some tips and resources for supporting students in distress:   

  • Assisting Students in Distress is an online version of the physical green folder that has been shared with instructors over the past few years. Information specific to Supporting Students in Distress in a Virtual Learning Environment was recently added.  

  • UBC’s Disability Accommodation Policy describes the process for students to assess and obtain an accommodation. 

  • The UBC Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office has released updated teal guides for faculty and for staff about their services and suggestions on supporting students. 

  • If you are concerned about a student in your course, you can submit a request to Early Alert. Staff members will follow up with the student. 

  • This handout from the CTLT Institute session "Supporting Student Wellbeing in an Online Learning Environment" provides resources related to student health and well-being within face-to-face and remote learning environments. 

Suggested reading

For instructors who want to deepen their understanding of inclusive pedagogy, here are a few accessible books that might be of interest. Depending on your identity, where you have lived, and your academic background and interests, different books will feel more meaningful, relevant, or necessary to you. Set a goal and start with the most accessible book to you and work through some of the books. Feel free to contact Maï Yasué, Equity Strategist, at mai.yasue@ubc.ca if you want any tips or books on specific topics.

  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

  • Conversations with Canadians, Lee Maracles 

  • 21 Things you may not know about the Indian Act, Bob Joseph

  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor, Layla Saad

  • So you want to talk about Race, Ijeoma Oluo

  • Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks

  • An Inclusive Academy, Abigail J Stewart and Virginia Valian

  • Small Teaching, James Lang

The following award-winning memoirs and works of fiction were written by authors with identities that are marginalized in STEM. These books (in no particular order) may help you better understand the historical and current context of racism and help you build a greater sense of empathy towards groups who may not be in your social circle. 

  • Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

  • Mamaskatch, Darrel Mcleod

  • Everything I never told you, Celeste Ng

  • Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead

  • Five Little Indians, Michelle Good

  • I know why the caged bird sings, Maya Angelou  

  • The Bluest eye, Toni Morrison

  • The Nickel boys, Colson Whitehead

  • They said this would be fun, Eternity Martis

  • The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen