Often, inclusive classroom practices focus solely on what takes place in the learning environment itself, or in the act of teaching. Equally important to pedagogical practices, however, are curriculum design—the content, policies, and expectations that guide the course —as well as assessment practices, or how students are asked to demonstrate their learning. Inclusive curriculum design encourages us to ask:

  • Do the policies take into account the different challenges students may encounter, especially during a pandemic?
  • Does the content provide diverse perspectives, including those that are often marginalized?
  • Do students have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in more than one way?
  • Are the assessments designed for improvement or only to evaluate mastery of content?

In this section, we will offer key strategies to help you answer these questions so that you can design curriculum and implement assessments that center inclusive practices in the remote, hybrid, and face-to-face learning environment.

Curriculum Design: Crafting an Inclusive Syllabus

Consult syllabus review resources before redesigning a syllabus for inclusivity.

Evaluate classroom policies and expectations for inclusivity.

  • Convey a commitment to inclusion by offering flexible policies that allow all students to succeed. For example, build in multiple ways students can participate and be explicit about how they will be evaluated on their contributions.
    • For the virtual learning environment, are you requiring that all students have their video cameras on? Not all students will be comfortable with or able to turn on their video cameras for the whole class session, for a variety of reasons, including access to high bandwidth, not being out (as part of the LGBTQ+ community) to their families in the same ways as they are with their peers, differing cultural norms about privacy, early morning or late night time zone differences, etc. Consider allowing students to choose from a variety of participation options, such as audio-only, through chat, or through reactions and polling tools on Zoom.
  • With deadlines and late work, aim to provide some flexibility so that students can plan ahead of time for particularly busy times in the semester and can alert you to any anticipated challenges.
  • Use a positive and supportive tone, rather than a punitive one. For example, instead of saying “No late work will be accepted” you could write “All assignments are expected to be handed in by the stated deadline. If you anticipate any challenges meeting these deadlines, please reach out to me so that we can consider your options together.” Aim to strike a balance between structure and timeliness and an understanding of the competing demands on students’ time.
  • Solicit student feedback on any policies and expectations outlined in the syllabus to gather information about what they might need more clarity about or where they might have other ideas to contribute.

Consider adding a statement about your commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

Invite students to inform you of any learning needs that may arise for them and include information about how students can connect with the Moses Center for Student Accessibility.

Sample syllabus statement
Disability Accommodations: I am committed to creating an inclusive and accessible classroom environment for students of all abilities. Students who may need academic accommodations are advised to reach out to the Moses Center for Student Accessibility as early as possible in the semester for assistance. Knowing that ability status may shift during our time together, please let me know how I can best support your learning needs. If you need any support in connecting with the Moses Center or other resources, please also let me know.

Consider how much work is assigned.

While it may seem that students now have more time on their hands to focus on school, many of them are providing care for younger siblings, elder relatives, or community members; actively searching for employment opportunities; working (either remotely or in-person) while attending school; navigating mental health challenges; trying to make sense of an uncertain world; grieving the loss of loved ones. All of this means that faculty should assign only as much work as needed to help meet learning goals and should consider adjusting that workload as needed.

Provide a combination of synchronous and asynchronous assignments and activities.

  • Consider which aspects of the course require synchronous instruction and which can be done asynchronously: How will you maximize the time you spend together online to allow students to collaborate, ask questions, and test out ideas? How will the asynchronous assignments help them synthesize their learning, identify gaps, and engage in collaboration? Often, asynchronous assignments—such as discussion posts, problem sets, and data visualizations where students can comment on each other’s work—can help students meet the same learning goals as synchronous class time, so strive to strike a balance between the two.
  • Since some students may not be able to always participate synchronously, consider adopting a policy such as the following:
    • “Our class is designed to meet synchronously to best meet the learning objectives articulated and to create a shared learning environment for all of us. Synchronous meetings will allow us to discuss your questions more deeply, identify any challenges you are running into, and to maximize collaboration. Your attendance within this synchronous format is therefore highly encouraged (or required). If you will be unable to meet synchronously, however, please reach out to me so that we can explore other arrangements together.”
  • Also be sure to record any synchronous sessions for students to review at a later time.


Ensure representation of diverse perspectives.

  • Ask which voices and perspectives are usually included in your syllabus and discipline. Then work to intentionally incorporate perspectives that are often marginalized or left out of the conversation.
  • Consider including contemporary scholars who hold diverse social identities through videos, articles, and guest lectures. When students see themselves represented in a discipline, they feel motivated and strong feelings of belonging.


  • Talk to students about barriers to inclusion, invite them to investigate and add new perspectives, and encourage them to contribute their own perspectives to the course.

Help students see the relevance of the course and field of study.

  • Students may not always understand the connection between your course and their own curiosities, their lived experiences, and current events. Making these connections clearer to them provides them with a better understanding of how what they are learning in your course will provide them with unique skills and insights to analyze the world around them.
  • Often, faculty have inherent notions about why their fields of study and subfields are relevant and important to the world, and it’s encouraging for students when these notions are made explicit. For example, how might the course you are teaching help students understand the impact of COVID-19 in a new way? Or the relationship between humans, the earth, and/or the larger universe? 

Implementing Inclusive Assessment Practices

Build in more opportunities for formative assessments throughout the course.

Formative assessments are assessments for learning and development instead of for evaluation. These types of assessments help faculty check for students’ understanding of concepts and progress towards skills development and provide students with an opportunity to track their own learning.

  • In the virtual learning environment, consider using polling tools and breakout rooms to implement formative assessments.

Suggest multiple options for students to demonstrate their learning.

Are all students expected to demonstrate their learning in the same way? Offering multiple options for students to showcase their learning ensures that each student can successfully meet the course objectives.

  • Examples:
    • Writing-based assignments - offer creative writing, video essays, or podcast options with short analysis in addition to academic papers
    • Problem-based assignments - allow for collaborative hands-on projects, simulations, chalk talks, multimedia projects in addition to standard exams.
  • If you are unsure of what kinds of assignment options to include, or want to give students more autonomy, share the criteria with them and ask them how they would like to demonstrate their learning in alignment with the criteria.

Provide timely and consistent feedback on student work.

  • In order for students to learn from faculty input on their work, they must receive timely and consistent feedback.
  • When designing assignments, be sure to break them into smaller parts so that you can provide feedback along the way that students can incorporate into the final product.
  • Consider assigning shorter, more frequent tasks so that both you and students have a sense of how they are progressing with their learning.
  • Use an encouraging and supportive tone when writing feedback—identify 2-3 areas for improvement, convey your confidence in students’ ability to improve, and follow up with any additional resources or support they might need.

Address imposter syndrome and stereotype threat.

Many students, especially those who are underrepresented in the classroom, struggle with feelings of imposter syndrome, or not feeling like they belong in a particular class or at NYU in general. They may also struggle with stereotype threat, or the fear of confirming stereotypes about their social group. Faculty can help mitigate both of these phenomena by helping students understand their strengths, engaging students in values affirmation writing before taking tests, reshaping narratives of success, and encouraging students to develop a growth mindset.

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