Creating Inclusive Classrooms

Shelley Wong, Anne Marie Foerster Luu, Julie Owen, Esther Yook, Darlene Smucny, Graziella McCarron, Aoi Yamanaka, Sharrell Hassell-Goodman

Session Information

Year: 2017 | Time: 2:45pm-4:15pm | Location: WORKSHOP: Johnson Center (Room D)




FULL ABSTRACT: Teaching and learning is made more relevant in the lives of our multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-national community of students through the use of Testimonios in the classroom. Participants will explore several examples of the use of Testimonios as a way of bridging student lives and university content. What are we teaching? Who are we reaching? Students bring immeasurable prior knowledge and experience to our classrooms that informs their dynamic approach to the content being taught. What are ways we can enhance their voices, reveal their stories, understand their motivations, and embrace their perspectives? Participants will brainstorm ways to bring testimonios to their classroom and work together to complete a basic plan of action.

This panel conversation addresses the conference theme of Creating an Inclusive Classroom: Understanding and Supporting Diverse Student Populations. This session will address approaches to engaging diverse students, strategies for helping students to discuss challenging issues and think critically about diversity and inclusion, and ways to modify assignments or feedback to make learning more broadly accessible.  This session is inspired by an engaging conversation that occurred among participants at the Spring 2017 Office of Digital Learning and the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence’s Faculty Conversations About Inclusive Teaching workshop. The proposed session follows a similar format to the Conversations About Teaching workshop where panelists (faculty and graduate students from multiple disciplines and departments) offer brief reflections on strategies for inclusive teaching and then invite participants to share and discuss teaching and learning experiences with peers, and collaboratively explore new ways to address common challenges and opportunities related to identity, intersectionality, and inclusion. George Mason University is one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, with students of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, and gender identities, so creating inclusive spaces is paramount. Strategies for face-to-face, hybrid, and digital learning environments will be discussed. Handouts containing resources and strategies will be distributed.

One of the defining characteristics of George Mason University is the diversity of the student body. A diverse student body can lead to opportunities to interact with different others, and learn about other cultures, as well as themselves (Triandis, 1995). 

One specific project encouraging intercultural understanding between international students and domestic U.S. students through interaction is to implement a video creation project "A Day in the Life of an International Student / U.S. Student". A small group of students from both backgrounds get together to meet 4 - 5 times for informal interviews with prepared questions. The students can present their videotaped interview excerpts, focusing on what surprised them most. This would point out stereotypes that international students may have had about U.S. students. Through presentations, the entire class could benefit from learning about the other cultures involved, but also in learning what kind of stereotypes other cultures may have of the U.S. 

This project is ideal for learning through digital communication between domestic U.S. students and students living abroad as well, either U.S. or from another culture, to learn about their cultural environments and possible stereotypes. A digital form of on-line interviewing between students, using Skype, or group software applications such as Kakaotalk or WhatsApp is currently being used in two intercultural communication classes, with students from Mason Korea and GMU Fairfax campus.


mindfulness; international students; student engagement


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