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Black Inclusion in the Classroom & Curriculum

A Toolkit for Course Instructors

The Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change is committed to supporting the pedagogical needs of black students across the faculty. This Toolkit offers strategies related to (1) course syllabus, (2) course content, and (3) classroom facilitation to guide instructors on how to effectively demonstrate commitment to anti-Black racism in their teaching practice, enhance content reflecting Black scholarship, and create classroom spaces that are inclusive and sensitive to race-based dynamics.

The course syllabus sets the tone for equity, diversity and inclusion. Consider the following elements:

Include an anti-racist vision statement that shares your priorities as an anti-racist instructor. It should highlights key values or agreements to cultivate anti-racist learning, for you and for your students, as a means of building trust, respectful communication, constructive conflict, and decentring whiteness. You may also wish to share how this anti-racist learning experience will look and feel like by the end of the course. Check out these examples from Queen’s University and Albright University.

Acknowledge your positionality and that you are a work in progress when learning to be anti-racist and teaching in an anti-racist frame.You may wish to include a personal introduction that shares your positionality with regard to privileges and oppression (based on race, class, gender, ability, orientation, and other aspects of identity), and education with regard to learning principles taught to you (we teach how we were taught).

Acknowledge student positionalities and that everyone’s experiences in education are not the same based on aspects of their identity. Commit to providing assistance for all student learning and success.

Include explicit statements noting your commitment to

  • Understanding and recognizing racism in its myriad forms
  • Addressing unconscious bias in the classroom and in assessment
  • Inclusive and respectful classroom discussions
  • Tools and approaches for diverse learners and learning styles
  • Religious/cultural accommodations (e.g. Juneteeth, Kwanzaa, Eid/Ramadan)
  • Accommodations for life circumstances (e.g. primary caregiver students, parent students)

Include resources and policy links from the York University Centre for Human Rights Equity and Inclusion CHREI, Human Rights Policy & Procedures, and Counselling Services.

Course content reflects the scholarship and perspectives most valued as foundational to learning about a particular topic or area of study. Consider the following elements:

  • Ensure ‘diversity of voices’ in that embrace principles of inclusivity and equity.
  • Practice citational justice with recommended readings authored by black people from across the globe.
  • Include diverse geographical case studies (e.g. Latin America, Africa, Asia) as a basis for learning.
  • Encourage students to acknowledge traditionally overlooked people, perspectives, places, and experiences as legitimate sources and sites of knowledge production.
  • Ensure assignments and assessments are anti-racist and considerate of unconscious bias.

Classroom facilitation of race-based dynamics is a key in addressing anti-black racism and ensuring that pedagogical practices shape a safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment. Consider the following elements:

Strive to make your classroom a safe space. Give opportunities for students to interact with and learn from one another. Celebrate students’ differences by encouraging them to share their perspectives and experiences. Draw on resources to consistently build an anti-racist classroom.

Pronounce student names correctly. Names are a part of one’s story, cultural heritage, and family history. Honor the identity of your students by making an effort to learn pronounce their names.

Avoid making Black students spokespersons for the Black community. When teaching to all the students, do not signal out a Black student to comment on issues affecting the Black community. Recognize that the Black community is richly diverse given intersectional categories of class, gender, orientation, creed, ability, etc. Do not burden Black students with defining or explaining racism and its impact, or countering this oppression.

Recognize micro-aggressions and address explicitly when warranted.

Consult further resources as you design and teach your course. For example: