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Your syllabus can be a powerful tool in creating an inclusive learning environment.  It conveys your priorities as an instructor and sets the tone and your expectations for the course.

Developing or revising your syllabus can be a form of reflection:

  • Why do I select the content I do?
  • What assumptions have I made about the learners in my class?
  • Are these the best teaching strategies for this course and these students?
  • Do I use examples and text throughout that are representative of my students?
  • Do I encourage and present alternative perspectives in my course materials?
  • Are there alternative or better ways to evaluate student work than I currently use?

Adapted from the University of Minnesota Center for Education Innovation

The syllabus can be a tool for socialization:

  • It can set the overall tone for the course and your expectations for participation and interaction with you and others
  • It can set the environment for co-constructing learning (Consider what input students might be able to have in shaping the syllabus).
  • It can convey your expectations of hard work with the possibility of all students achieving excellence

Some Effective Practices When Designing Your Course

  1. Make your goals and objectives explicit.
  2. Vary the ways students can demonstrate their learning.
  3. Include diverse names, images and examples throughout the course.
  4. Include multiple perspectives on each topic in the course.
  5. Build into the course calendar times when you will ask for feedback.
  6. Ensure your syllabus and course materials are accessible.
  7. You may also want to include diversity statement and a statement for students with disabilities on your syllabus


Whether reviewing a prior syllabus or creating a new one, most of us make some revisions. As mentioned above, the syllabus is a primary tool for helping to set an inclusive, supportive climate for learners. It reflects your tone and pedagogical choices that will make students feel supported and able to be successful, or not. This document contains an incomplete, but initial list of questions to help you make your syllabus more inclusive.


Inclusion by Design is a research-based framework for developing an inclusive syllabus

Make a More Inclusive Syllabus describes and links to Tulane’s Accessible Syllabus Project (ProfHacker)

Gender Inclusive Guidelines offers advice on using gender-inclusive/non-sexist language (University of Pittsburgh’s Gender, Sexuality. and Women’s Studies Program)

A Syllabus’ Worth of Difference suggests “points of entry” for making a syllabus more inclusive (Georgetown University)

In The Danger of a Single Story, novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns about the danger of a singular representations of groups of people. This is useful to understand the importance of diversifying course content.

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