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8 Actions to Improve Equitability in the Classroom

This list of simple actions to improve classroom equity is intended to help faculty make small changes that may make a big difference. It was created by CASTLE Faculty Fellows Christy Love and Alonzo Flowers in order to encourage change by saving the time and effort of faculty members.

1. Help students succeed

Provide resources and recommendations. Use clear rubrics with swift and constructive feedback. Communicate your expectations multiple times.


  • After doing a basic example, say to the students, “If you are struggling with this problem, please drop in to my office hours to go over it.” Encourage students to seek help early by reiterating all the different resources they have like office hours, TAs, study groups, etc.
  • If students are writing a lab or paper, assess them on their performance on the content in your course. Tell them that you'll be evaluating their work for the quality of their thinking as opposed to focusing on their grammar or vocabulary. 

Sample Student Success Strategies

Create a list specific for your course and introduce it to the students on the first day. Make it easily accessible such as an appendix to the syllabus.

1. Understand the course expectations

2. Ask for help. Ask questions

3. Study in a way that works for you

4. Actively participate in your own learning

  • Research shows that knowledge has to be actively constructed by the learner. This construction happens when you connect new ideas to what you already know.

5. Be kind to yourself

  • You belong here. You have worked hard and Drexel University accepted you.

6. Learn to explain your ideas in simple language

  • The language that you use shapes your thinking; thus, being clear in your language will help you be clear in your thinking.

7. Pay attention to how you learn

  • You may understand better if you draw a picture or represent a process with a diagram. Perhaps you need to go over things several times. Maybe you need to check your math to avoid mistakes. People learn in different ways.

8. Work collaboratively

  • Research shows that students working together in study groups can solve problems none of them can solve on their own. Through this collaboration, they can increase their skills individually.


2. Put it in the syllabus

Provide clear expectations and detailed schedules. Consider adding a statement about diversity and inclusion. This can signal to your students that you are committed to providing a supportive climate for all students.


  • If students are working in groups and experiencing inappropriate behavior, they might feel comfortable bringing that to your attention after seeing a diversity statement in your syllabus.
  • If a student is a first generational college student, rubrics and even a brief explanation of what we mean by 'office hours' and 'recitation' can make a big difference.

Sample Diversity Statement

Respect for Diversity

It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you.

If you have been impacted by discrimination, harassment, bias incidents, or sexual or gender-based misconduct, The Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture is here as a resource for you. They can be reached at For more information, please go to the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusive Culture website.


3. Teach with a variety of methods

Encourage peer discussions and feedback in real-time. Help students determine their learning style.


  • Students often suffer from the impostor syndrome and that can affect their confidence and anxiety. Giving students a variety of assessments can help boost their confidence and reduce the stakes per assessment.
  • Incorporating peer learning in your class can help students who are struggling but do not feel comfortable asking questions or are not sure how to get help.

Sample Active Learning Techniques

Active learning is anything that involves students in doing things and engaging in the content. Research suggests attention wanes after 15-20 minutes in lecture.

Here are techniques to use:


4. Share your humanity

Be approachable and authentic. No one knows everything and everyone is fallible. Recognize that each student may be going through something different at this time, don’t assume to know exactly what that is. Be aware of students’ possible traumatic experiences.


  • When going over challenging problems, admit that they are challenging and maybe share a story about a challenging problem you remember struggling with when you were in school.
  • Use images in your slides from your personal life, such as vacations, home renovations, family etc.
  • If a student tells you that they are struggling financially, be compassionate and helpful. Direct them to Drexel resources like the textbooks in the library.

Sample Counseling Center Resources


5. Build confidence and belonging

Illustrate concepts with multiple and diverse examples. Make sure a variety of student voices are heard in class. Students from diverse backgrounds may suffer from the impostor syndrome or struggle with stereotypes. Give each student the benefit of the doubt. Get to know your students as individuals. Communicate confidence in students through feedback.


Use icebreakers throughout the semester. These can be activities or questions that are directly pertinent to course learning goals but give students opportunities to share from their individual experience.

Sample Resources for Students

Cultural identity is part of a person's self-concept and is related, but not limited, to nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, religion, social class, generation, or any social group that has its own distinct culture.

Here are some cultural identity resources:


6. Language matters

If you have trouble pronouncing names, then communicate that to the students. Tell them that you want to be corrected and that you want to know what they like to be called. Avoid calling students “kids” and instead say something like "scholars" or "fellow dragons". 


  • Say this: Some of you may have attended a school that did not offer calculus, but we can work together to make sure that won't negatively impact you in this course. Don't say this: There are some underprepared students in our class.
  • You can use phrases such as, “For those of you who have been on an airplane,” or “If you grew up with siblings to whom you were biologically related...” This can help normalize and destigmatize experiences that are possible points of marginalization for your students.

Sample Phrase Charts


  • Sczesny, S., Formanowicz, M., & Moser, F. (2016). Can gender-fair language reduce gender stereotyping and discrimination? Frontiers in psychology, 7.
  • Stout, J. G., & Dasgupta, N. (2011). When he doesn’t mean you: Gender-exclusive language as ostracism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(6), 757-769.

7. Don’t single out students

This can happen overtly. Do not ask individuals to speak for an entire group. This can happen unconsciously. Do not make excessive eye contact for sensitive topics. Be careful of the assumptions you are making about your students.


If you feel certain students aren’t participating, invite other perspectives or other voices to contribute to the discussion, rather than singling out individuals. “Let’s take X minutes to think about this problem from this angle.”

Sample Video about Unconscious Bias

This video is an introduction to unconscious bias discussing the following questions: How does unconscious bias manifest itself? How do we identify unconscious bias? What can we do about unconscious bias?


  • “Make Sure Students Do Not Feel Pressured to Speak for an Entire Group”,
  • Lord, C. G., & Saenz, D. S. (1985). "Memory deficits and memory surfeits: Differential cognitive consequences of tokenism of tokens and observers." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 918-926.
  • McLoughlin, L. A. (2005). Spotlighting: Emergent gender bias in undergraduate engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(4), 373-381.

8. Be aware of microaggressions

Even “well-meaning” microaggressions can happen consciously or unconsciously. Microaggressions are the everyday interactions that communicate negative messages to specific groups. Work to eliminate them from your own behavior, but also, do not stand idle when students are guilty of microaggressions too. Respectfully challenge comments when they marginalize people or experiences. You might say, "You might not realize how those words sound, but here's what I hear when you say them...".

Example microaggressions

  • Saying something like this to a woman of color: " I would have never guessed that you were a scientist." This sends the message that it is unusual for a woman to have STEM skills.
  • Continuing to mispronounce the names of students after they have corrected you time and time again. This sends the message that you are not willing to listen closely and learn the pronunciation because they are too exotic or they don't belong.
  • Saying something like, "Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough." This sends the message that if someone does not succeed it is because they are lazy or incompetent

    Sample Response Model

    This model is for someone who has committed a microaggression and it guides the person through a series of steps to take after the microaggression has occurred.


  • Setting the Tone for an Inclusive Classroom: Some Practices to Consider ;
  • Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send, UCSC

    Learn even more