Inclusive communication

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Inclusive communication refers to discourse that encourages students without preferentially encouraging specific students or groups of students. When teachers use non-inclusive communication in the classroom, often times underrepresented students are less likely to participate and contribute in the classroom.

How to Promote Inclusive Communication

  • Make a specific effort to call on all students equally. Do not often call on the first hand that goes up.
  • When you ask a question, add wait time for a response and look at all students. Making eye contact can help you elicit responses from students.
  • "Assume an attentive posture when responding to women's questions or listening to their comments."
  • Use praise as a deliberate strategy, coupled with feedback about the quality of work and suggestions for improvement. Give criticism in the form of a question, where possible. ("How would your answer be different if you took into account ____" rather than "Your answer is wrong because you did not mention the impact on the environment.")
  • "Use the same tone in talking with women as with men students"
  • "Note patterns of interruption to determine if women students are interrupted more than men-either by yourself or by other students."
  • "Use parallel terminology when addressing women and men students in class, or referring to men and women in classroom examples."
  • "Watch for and respond to nonverbal cues that indicate women students' readiness to participate in class."

These recommendations are based on Bernice R. Sandler's "Eighteen Ways to Warm Up the Chilly Climate".

Examples of Non-Inclusive Communication

Who: Roberta M. Hall and Bernice R. Sandler

What: Compiled information demonstrating the impact of non-inclusive communication in the classroom.

How: An example of non-inclusive communication practiced in the classroom is the use of non-parallel terminology. Often times, faculty may refer to males in a classroom as "men" whereas they refer to femalesas "girls" or "gals". The use of such terminology provides the implication that women are "less serious and less capable" than men, in turn marginalizing women in the classroom. Another example of such behavior is apparent in faculty members' use of "coaching" for men to a higher degree than for women. For instance, a professor may be more encouraging to a male student to elaborate on a topic by stating "Tell me more about that", but not do the same for a female student.

Evidence: Sandler and Hall's research demonstrated that biased language used by faculty resulted in low rates of participation by women. Female students stated that when attempting to communicate with faculty, many times they were interrupted, provided little eye contact, and offered little guidance or criticism in the classroom. Hall and Sandler provide a number of recommendations for undergraduate professors in order to avoid non-inclusive communication.

The study can be found here.