Teaching With Care: Creating Inclusive Course Documents

Workshop Session 2
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

Join the Teach With Care (TWC) podcasters for a lively session where we take standard academic artifacts and make deliberate changes to them, making them more inclusive. Based off of TWC Season 1 Episode 2: “The Syllabus,” this session will incorporate facilitated discussions and guided activities to make learning artifacts more inclusive.


Kate Sonka is the Executive Director of Teach Access and the Assistant Director of Inclusion & Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. She holds a Master’s degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and more than 10 years of experience in higher ed. She improves teaching and learning with technology through course design and support, experiential learning, and training and mentorship for faculty members and students. In exploring how accessibility exists in professional and academic spaces, she helped establish the Teach Access Study Away Silicon Valley program, implement the Teach Access Faculty Curriculum Development Grant program, and founded the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.
Jeremy is Director of Learning Technologies at Broad College of Business. In that capacity he oversees accessibility, instructional design, and pedagogy initiatives for online, blended and face-to-face courses. Prior to joining the Broad College, he served at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as the Assistant Director of Academic Technologies. Prior to that he worked for 11 years as a high school English and journalism teacher in Mid-Michigan. He has also served as chair of the Big Ten Academic Alliance Teaching and Learning Liaisons committee, and as a board member and as president of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Master's in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University, a Master's in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University, and a BA in English education from Michigan State University.

Extended Abstract

As with most good things in life, the Teach With Care (TWC) podcast was born out of conversations held over a BBQ dinner during OLC Innovate 2018 in Nashville, TN. As the TWC podcast hosts started talking about accessibility and inclusive practices in teaching and learning in higher education, they realized that more people needed to be brought into the conversation to share expertise, frustrations, and lingering questions.

This interactive Innovation Lab session builds off of Season 1 of TWC and invites participants to consider some important questions:

  • How do the documents and activities we use in our teaching establish the classroom culture?
  • Is the culture we establish as inclusive as possible?
  • How are standard course documents and artifacts exclusionary to various populations of students?
  • How can we improve our existing documents to make them more inclusive?

In this session, the presenters seek to answer these questions, then draw from the collaborative energy of the participants to create a reusable set of guiding questions that any teacher can use to ensure that all classroom documents and activities serve to establish an inclusive environment.

During the quick-start introductory conversation, session facilitators will lay out some ways in which the syllabus has historically been exclusionary, and will also define how the syllabus is a culture-setting document for a course. The next step will be an interactive challenge and demonstration where session participants will collaboratively identify design thinking-inspired questions, the answers to which lead to a more inclusive syllabus. Finally, participants will be asked to choose one of their own typical teaching and learning artifacts that they have used (e.g. assignments, projects, exams, grading rubrics, etc.) and apply the same set of thinking and questions to revise and make more inclusive.

Attendees will come away from the session with a tangible set of guiding questions and actions to move the conversation around inclusivity forward at their own institutions.