The Backlash Against Inclusive Teaching

Yet another backlash against student diversity was discussed this past week in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In this case the assault came against pandemic-era inclusive teaching measures designed to mitigate the risk of student disconnection and failure –– methods such as group work, deadline flexibility, enhanced faculty interaction, and Universal Design for Learning. However, critics argue that these measures have led to a lax academic environment and decreased student motivation. What is needed, the critics assert, are stricter and more difficult courses to force students back in line.

In an article, “Why Calls for a Return to Rigor Are Wrong,”  Chronicle columnist Kevin Gannon counters this perspective, contending that a simple increase in workload, tougher grading, and heightened standards do not equate to academic rigor. He argues that these conventional methods often serve as a veneer for practices that raise barriers to student success, rather than tearing them down.

Critics of the pandemic-era teaching efforts often focus on metrics such as the volume of reading per week, the number of writing assignments, or the duration to complete an academic program. According to them, these have fallen far too low. In essence, they attribute “rigor” to logistical challenges in course delivery. However, Gannon emphasizes that higher education needn’t be prohibitive, and introducing practices that stifle student motivation and engagement is counterproductive.

In the midst of this debate, the University of California, Irvine (UCI), has taken a progressive step towards educational inclusivity with the launch of the Inclusive Course Design Institute (ICDI). This post will explore the transformative initiative of ICDI at UCI, which serves as a beacon of inclusivity and equity in the shifting landscapes of higher education.

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