Inclusive Teaching Tip | Spring 2021 WK1

All Learners Welcome – It’s never to late to apply an equity lens to your syllabus

A new quarter brings a new focus on the syllabus. There has been much written on this document and its purpose. But there is no debate on the importance a syllabus plays in any learning experience. The document communicates expectations, provides a roadmap, and is a shared community text.

For this tip, I am returning to one of my favorite inclusive teaching resources – the Inclusion by Design syllabus survey. This tool, created by Carl S. Moore, Edward Brantmeir, and Andreas Brocheild will guide you to take a critical eye to your syllabus in three important areas of inclusive teaching practice. I highly recommend the entire tool, but for this tip I want to focus on the last part:

Inclusion and Subtext

The final piece of the tool encourages a critical look at the subtext of the syllabus – the hidden curriculum. This important component to creating a welcoming and inviting space for learning is the one we overlook most often. Not because we want to hide parts of our practice but rather because we, as experts and expert learners, have lost our ability to see what isn’t explicit. We’ve got a backstory for every aspect of our syllabus – and we are just too good and drawing connections to tap into how a novice learner will experience the syllabus.

So, how might we uncover implicit rules or messages? Employ the perspective of a novice. Perhaps you have a family member, a former student, or a staff colleague you can turn to. Getting honest feedback from someone who doesn’t share your back story can really help.

Or you might ask students at the end of the quarter to reflect on the syllabus after they’ve had some experience and identify what was hidden. This activity has the added benefit of helping learners “see” their own growth.

If this tip has tickled your interest, I highly recommend you give the tool a try. The first section of the tool, Inclusion and Course Context, will guide you through the process of articulating situational factors that impact the learning community, such as student identities, perspectives in the content, and implicit values. The second section, Inclusion and “Text”, facilitates a deep dive across five dimensions using a series of Likert questions.

For many, many more inclusive teaching resources visit ALL LEARNERS WELCOME: Resources for Designing Inclusive Learning Experiences.


The Inclusive Teaching Tips are a series of simple, equitable teaching practices published in the Learning and Teaching Commons Newsletter. The tips are archived here.

For many, many more inclusive teaching resources and to add your own, visit ALL LEARNERS WELCOME: Resources for Designing Inclusive Learning Experiences.

You may also like...