The Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments

The Innovative Instructor has featured several posts recently on inclusivity and diversity in the classroom. This is an important issue, and one that is very much on my radar screen as I have been involved in developing TILE–the Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments (see post here). On Wednesday, March 25th, we had our first session with interested faculty to explore best practices.

As part of the program, we introduced three examples of the types of course components we envision for the toolkit. These could be in-class activities, assignments, projects, case studies, role-playing, experiential learning, best practices or recommendations.


Screen shot from Twitter Feed of the PR firm StrangeFruit showing the two women founders explaining that they thought the term strange fruit could mean something different than it did historically. screen shot.

Pedagogical Approach: Critical Thinking Exercise 

Students can do this in class on their laptops, tablets, or smart phones.

In 2014 a food and entertainment PR firm was the subject of a media backlash because of their chosen company name. What is wrong with the name? What is the history of the name both past and more recently? How would you have advised the firm to remedy the situation? [By the way, you can find the full story here.]

 Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to discuss why basic research and information literacy skills are imperative to making business decisions.
  • Students will understand the negative consequences of 1) not doing basic research, and 2) not being culturally competent and/or sensitive.
  • Students will understand the importance of gaining cultural competence when it comes to issues or terms that they may not personally understand but may be a sensitive subject for others.
  • Students will have a broader knowledge of a tumultuous time in recent US history.
  • Students will be able to articulate the meaning and history of a song labeled “The Song of the Century” by Time magazine in 1999.
  • Students will be able to discuss the meaning of the term “strange fruit.”


Male crash test dummy in driver's seat.

Brady Holt

Pedagogical Approach: Case Study

Adapted from Stanford’s Gendered Innovations, Pregnant Crash Dummies Case Study. In 1949 the US military developed Sierra Sam, the first crash test dummy based on a 95th percentile male body. A female body type was introduced in the 1970s, children crash test dummies in the 80s, and babies in the 90s. There is one group/body type that is not required in vehicle crash tests and yet accounts for the number one fatality rate among a certain group. Any guesses?

“Conventional seatbelts do not fit pregnant women properly, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fetal death related to maternal trauma (Weiss et al., 2001). Even a relatively minor crash at 56km/h (35 mph) can cause harm. With over 13 million women pregnant across the European Union and United States each year, the use of seatbelts during pregnancy is a major safety concern (Eurostat, 2011; Finer et al., 2011).”

What are the dangers to the fetus with the current seat belt system? Could you design something better? Given what you know, what requirements or federal policies or disclaimers would you require that are currently not in place? Do the standard seatbelt and seat requirements leave any other segments of the population at risk? If so, who?

Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand the importance of a diverse team.
  • Students will be able to discuss the dangers in design when diversity is NOT considered.
  • Students will understand that a one-size-fits-all approach in design overlooks important segments of the population.
  • Students will understand the need for policies that require design for all segments of the population.
  • Students will create a solution that requires inclusive design considerations.


Eurostat. (2011). Fertility, Figure 1: Number of Live Births, EU-27, Legally Induced Abortions by Year, Country, and Mother’s Age, EU-27.

Finer, L., & Kost, K. (2011). Unintended Pregnancy Rates at the State Level. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43 (2), 78-87.

Weiss, H., Songer, T., & Fabio, A. (2001). Fetal Deaths Related to Maternal Injury. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286 (15), 1863-1868.


Image showing a number of faces of people, male and female, of different ages, races, ethnic, and cultural groups. The images are staggered and framed with brightly colored lines suggesting computer monitors.


Pedagogical Approach: Guest Lecture or Panel of Experts

Identify minority experts in your field and bring them in as a guest lecturer or for a class discussion. They should spend most of the time on their scholarship and area(s) of expertise and only speak about their minority status in the field when and if they themselves choose.

Potential Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will see someone as a role model for both minorities and non-minorities based on that person’s accomplishments and expertise in their shared area of study.
  • If the expert is respected by the student’s professor, the students will also show/gain respect for the expert.
  • Due to professor’s modeled behavior, students could also potentially treat minority experts as equals when they encounter them in the field.
  • Students may evolve into professionals who support and understand some of the challenges that minorities face in their field.

We have asked those interested in contributing their own examples to submit a PowerPoint slide with the following format: on a single slide, start with an image that is relevant to the example. We ask that the images be rights-free or have a Creative Commons license with attribution in either case. In the Notes section below the slide, describe the pedagogical approach, give the information necessary to implement the example, and list potential learning outcomes.

You are invited, too. If you have an example you’d like to submit, please contact me via the comments with a brief message and an email address. We are looking forward to sharing your contributions.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources


Case Studies for an Inclusive STEM Classroom

As part of our work on the TILE – Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments – project (see previous post) my colleagues and I have been uncovering some great resources for fostering diversity and inclusion in the classroom.  I am always on the lookout for sources for case studies (see Quick Tips: Using Case Studies) and the Gendered Innovations project covers both bases.

Screenshot of the Gendered Innovations science case studies web page.

Gendered Innovations is a peer-reviewed project developed by Londa Schiebinger at Stanford University.  “Londa Schiebinger is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science in the History Department at Stanford University and Director of the EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment Project. Over the past twenty years, Schiebinger’s work has been devoted to teasing apart three analytically distinct but interlocking pieces of the gender and science puzzle: the history of women’s participation in science; the structure of scientific institutions; and the gendering of human knowledge.” []

From the Gendered Innovations website we learn that research has shown that sex and gendered bias is counterproductive and costly.  It can result in human suffering and death in the case of drugs developed and released without proper testing on women, and leads to “missed market opportunities” when products don’t consider shorter people – women and men. For research, failing to recognize gender differences may yield faulty results. The goal of the Gendered Innovations project is to provide scientists and engineers with practical methods for sex and gender analysis.

As a means to that end, there are a number of case studies provided for science, health and medicine, engineering, and the environment. These include extensive bibliographies. There is also a wealth of information on the website that provides a framework for thinking and teaching differently in your classroom.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Screenshot of the Gendered  Innovations science case studies web page –

Quick Tips: Using Case Studies

Sometimes we see a link to a resource or hear of a teaching solution that we want to share. The Innovative Instructor provides the perfect place for this. In our Quick Tips you’ll be getting “Just the facts, ma’am.” Or sir, as the case may be.

Students in discussionOne of our CER colleagues, Mike Reese came across a link to a great online resource for case studies (also called case reports), the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS).

From the NCCSTS website. “[Case studies] can be used not only to teach scientific concepts and content, but also process skills and critical thinking.  And since many of the best cases are based on contemporary, and often contentious, science problems that students encounter in the news, the use of cases in the classroom makes science relevant.” (

If you want to know more about case studies and the value they can provide in your teaching, the Colorado State University Writing Guide to Case Studies is a good place to start.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art