Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Education and Equity

Linda Hasunuma

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the CAT invites you to reflect on his legacy and impact on education, which was a core principle of the civil rights movement. As we begin a new year and semester of teaching, what lessons can we take from his leadership and principles as we think about our role in education and the purpose of education–not only on this important day of commemoration, but throughout the year? 

In an acceptance speech he gave when he was honored by the United Federation of Teachers in 1964, Dr. King shared that “For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground in the freedom struggle.” … “It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights” (Strauss, 2012). Education continues to be a “battleground” for contesting rights over free speech and critical perspectives of US history, book bans, vaccination and masking, gun violence, and gender issues–and, most recently, over trans student rights (Obeng, 2022). In 2023, Dr. King’s message about education, critical thinking, and the ability to evaluate evidence continues to have a strong sense of urgency and relevance.

“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” 

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” (from “The Purpose of Education,”)

Dr. King dedicated his life to addressing and fighting against structural and systemic inequalities, and we as educators can continue the work he began by reflecting on our own teaching practices. Do we consider how historical and structural factors impact our students’ lives, opportunities, and outcomes? How can we, as teachers, create more equitable and inclusive classrooms to honor his memory and legacy?

At Temple, we teach and learn in a vibrant intellectual community. There are many events on campus that give us and our students opportunities to engage more deeply with his ideas and legacy through discussions and acts of service on this day, and throughout the year. The new Center for Anti-Racism Research and IDEAL are hosting a critical conversation on intergenerational thoughts and actions to promote a more inclusive and socially just society for this year’s MLK 365: Keeping the Dream Alive; the Lewis Katz School of Medicine is featuring a talk by Linda Villarosa to honor his legacy of activism and service; the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry will host talks related to Dr. King from January 16-20; and there is a group reading of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Temple University Bell Tower led by Klein professors David Brown, David T.Z. Mindich, and Karen Turner.  

One of our most cherished resources on campus is the Blockson Collection, which houses an extensive collection of materials by and about Dr. King. The available resources include photographs and printed materials such as his speeches, letters, sermons, and articles. Next month the CAT will co-host a special workshop with the Blockson Collection for faculty interested in learning more about the Collection and resources they can use for more inclusive classes across the disciplines. Our Teaching for Equity Institute, the Can We Really Talk? series with IDEAL, and other workshops, book groups, and learning communities offer additional spaces for reflection and action as educators throughout the year. 

To honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s memory, we hope that you will choose one of these opportunities to engage with others in reflecting on ways to create a more equitable educational environment for our students, one that helps fulfill Temple’s historic mission to educate “acres of diamonds.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Use the Pronouns Right For Thee!

Cliff Rouder, Ed.D.

A nod to the late, great Aretha Franklin for inspiring the subject line of this post. Notice I used the pronoun “she” to refer to Aretha. Without giving it much thought, we typically refer to people by the pronouns we think match their appearance. Historically, these chosen pronouns have been the singular “she/her/hers” for women and “he/him/his” for men, and the plural “they/them/theirs” for more than one. Tidy and grammatically correct, the singular pronouns have created what’s referred to as the “gender binary.” The problem is, one’s sex assigned at birth may not reflect one’s internal sense of self, better known as gender identity, and that misgenders those whose gender identity is outside of that binary or is fluid.

In its commitment to providing a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students, faculty and staff, Temple is introducing two new initiatives to allow our community to indicate their pronouns and gender identity.

Our Two Newest Inclusion Initiatives

Faculty, students, and staff now have the option to indicate pronouns that reflect their gender identity, and choose from expanded categories to indicate one’s gender. Instructions for indicating your pronouns and gender identity are available on theTU Portal by clicking on Manage My Account and then Update your Pronoun/Gender. For pronouns, we’re now able to choose from He/Him/His; She/Her/Hers; They/Them/Theirs; Ze/Zir/Zirs; or Refer to me by my name only. For gender identity, in addition to indicating male/female, we’re now able to choose from Nonbinary and Does Not Apply to Me or Prefer Not to Share.

If you add your pronouns, they will now be visible to everyone in these university systems:

  • Cherry and White Directory
  • My Courses application in TUportal
  • Canvas learning management software
  • Residence hall resident lists

If you add your gender identity, it will only be visible to you as well as certain administrators in Self-Service Banner. It will not be visible in the Cherry and White Directory, My Courses, or in Canvas.

Getting the hang of it. If you’re a grammar stickler like me, using the plural pronouns “they/them/theirs,” if someone identifies that way, takes some getting used to. The practice has actually become common enough to warrant Merriam-Webster’s dictionary to give a thumbs up to its use in referring to the singular. That’s the wonderful (albeit challenging-to-keep-up-with) thing about language: it’s ever-evolving.

You can do this! It just takes a little mindfulness and practice. Here are some ways you can use and reinforce the practice in your teaching:

  • Add your pronouns to your email signature. You can also link your pronouns to a resource that explains why pronouns are important. Adding your pronouns may help others feel more comfortable in sharing theirs.
  • Refer to your students by the pronouns you have for them in Canvas. If you misgender someone by using the wrong pronouns, don’t fret. Apologize, let them know you care and are trying, and move on. You can also invite students to rename themselves with their pronouns in Zoom.
  • Remember that you can always call students by name. Giving students table tents on which to write their name and if they choose, their pronouns–especially in large classes–is a great way to get to know and demonstrate respect for your students.

For more information about the what and why of pronoun use, check out this resource and youtube video. If you’d like to learn more about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the classroom, check out this Guide to LGBTQIA+ Terminology and this video on the CAT website, and watch for our upcoming fall workshop offering: Inclusion in the Classroom: Supporting our LGBTQIA+ students. Don’t forget our Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership (IDEAL) offers a fantastic two-part workshop and certificate called the Safe Zone Certification. After completing the workshops, you are considered an Advocate which indicates acceptance of LGBTQIA+ identities and a commitment to working against discrimination directed towards the community. 

As always, feel free to make an appointment for a 1-1 consultation with one of our faculty developers at the CAT for further assistance.

Cliff Rouder is Pedagogy & Design Specialist at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Seeing and Welcoming Your First-Generation Students

Cliff Rouder, Linda Hasunuma and Jeff Rients

Going to college is an exciting opportunity for every student; It’s a time filled with pride and hope. Imagine how strong those feelings must be for our first-generation (first-gen) students, that is, students whose parents either did not go to or did not graduate from college. You might be surprised to learn that, according to the 2020-2021 Temple University Fact Book,16% of our students had neither parent attend college, and 31% had neither parent graduate.        

Along with feelings of pride and hope, however, some of our first-gen students may feel a sense of apprehension not knowing the “rules” of college that generational knowledge brings, and may face academic, economic, and emotional hurdles as well. For instance, Kamina Richardsonfaculty advisor to Temple First (the first-gen student org) and a first-gen college student herself, explains that first-gen students are more likely to be caregivers of the home, so they juggle the goals of an academic education along with family obligations. (To hear firsthand from the students themselves, check out #FirstGenTempleMade.)

Temple helps our first-year, first-gen students acclimate to campus culture with a host of resources. In addition to the Temple First student club, Temple offers the powerful First to Fly program, including a glossary of terms with links to resources.

Let’s look at what faculty can do in our learning environments to build on these efforts and welcome our first-gen students.

  • Send a message of welcome pre-semester and create an inclusive learning environment. It is important to introduce yourself, connect with them as a human being, and assure them at the start of the course that you have designed a learning environment that they can succeed in. If you were a first-gen student yourself, let them know! Throughout the semester, serve as a model by sharing how you felt as a first-gen student and your experiences and advice navigating the college experience. Be a resource for them by familiarizing yourself with campus resources.
  • Learn about students’ individual assets and needs and respond accordingly. In getting to know all of your students, why not do a pre-semester survey? Ask questions that assess demands on their time or other barriers to learning such as their access to technology.  Find out their comfort level with things like negotiating Canvas, coming to student hours (aka office hours), and with the content of your discipline. Then find ways to meet students’ needs, wherever possible. For example, because many students work or help their families in other ways, flexibility with due dates makes a real difference. Work with one of our research librarians in your field to investigate whether there are open educational resources that can reduce the cost of materials for your course. One way we can “see” our first-gen students is by explicitly asking them. Be sure that you describe exactly what you mean by first gen so they can answer accurately.
  • Make what you’re asking them to do (and why!) transparent. Help your students see the value of the course. That means writing and articulating clear, meaningful course goals and coming back to them throughout the semester to continually link them to the “what” and “why” of your course content. Organizing your Canvas course in a logical, consistent way, providing rubrics, and giving motivating and frequent, actionable feedback are other ways you can help students see the “whats” and “whys” of your course.
  • Provide opportunities for students to learn from and get to know each other. To reduce feelings of isolation and marginalization, be sure to incorporate multiple and varied activities that enable students to work together, everything from think-pair-share activities all the way up to sustained semester-long projects. Providing a class Zoom room where they can meet without you is another great way to build those connections.
  • Help them become self-directed learners. We often think students already know–or should know–how to take notes, study effectively, and reflect on and adjust their learning strategies when what they’ve tried isn’t working. So with your guidance, take some time to have them share effective note-taking and study strategies with each other. Use exam wrappers (aka cognitive wrappers) to help them formatively reflect on their performance and develop a plan for improvement.

You’ve probably noticed that all the strategies above will work for all kinds of learners, not just first generation students. In our in-person and virtual classrooms, we can take a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach to help everyone succeed. UDL asks us to consider how we can provide students with multiple ways of accessing and learning content, expressing their understanding, and engaging with you and their peers. Taking a UDL approach means that you’re proactively creating a course and learning environment that provides benefit to as many students as possible.

November 8 is National First-Generation/College Celebration Day. Watch for information from Jennifer Johnson, Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Human Development and Juliet Curci of the College Access Community of Practice group, who are spearheading various events in celebration of Temple’s first-gen students.

As always, if you’d like to learn more pedagogical strategies and educational technology tools that can benefit our first-gen as well as all students, reach out to a faculty developer or educational technology specialist for a consultation or email us at cat@temple.edu.

Cliff Rouder, Linda Hasunuma, and Jeff Rients are staff members of Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Discussing National Events in Your Classroom

Linda Hasunuma and Naomie Nyanungo

Discussing National Events in Your Classroom

When there is a major national event, such as the Chauvin trial and verdict or the mass shootings in Atlanta and Indianapolis, students may look to us to provide greater context and perspective as they process these difficult moments. Students appreciate when faculty acknowledge what has happened. Acknowledgement can come in many forms, and can range from a moment of silence or allowing space for written reflection to class discussions (Huston and DiPietro 2017). Even if you are not an expert on the issue or it feels like it is outside of your discipline, your acknowledgement of the event and the emotions around it signals to your students that you care about them. Engaging students in discussions about these events can deepen learning and contribute to your students’ intellectual and emotional growth as they consider perspectives different from their own, and learn how to engage in these dialogues in a productive way. To prepare for these deeper discussions, we recommend that you make a plan and create ground rules with your students for respectful discussion together. To make space for these critical conversations with your students, we offer some helpful practices about how to prepare for them and manage any hot moments that may arise in our Equity Blog Series.

We also recommend directing your students to resources at the Wellness Center and, Temple’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Leadership (IDEAL). IDEAL has several programs such as their Black in America series and Timely Topics, for those seeking deeper conversations and community on matters related to race and justice. Please see their latest email in response to the Chauvin verdict for more information.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues further and think through how you can create brave and inclusive spaces for such conversations in your classes, we invite you to make an appointment with one of CAT’s faculty developers for a one-on-one consultation.

Linda Hasunuma and Naomie Nyanungo work at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

#You are welcome here: Helping International Students Feel A Sense of Belonging in the Classroom

Hleziphi Naomie Nyanungo and Emtinan Alqurashi

The unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives that international students bring to the class can enrich the learning experience for everyone in the class. However, if the students do not feel a sense of belonging in the class, they are not likely to share their stories and perspectives. In this blog, we share some practices that will help you foster a welcoming learning environment for your international students. Please note that while the focus of the blog is on international students, the strategies discussed will foster a sense of belonging for students from all backgrounds.  

Being aware of our own assumptions is the first step in supporting a sense of belonging in international students, as they will often guide our interaction with them. Some assumptions we make about international students and their learning can do more harm than good. Here are some examples of assumptions we should try to avoid and what we can do about them: 

  • Language proficiency/Accents: While some international students have limited proficiency in English and will need your support, it is important not to assume that students with non-US accents are unable to articulate or produce high quality work. It is also important to keep in mind that the great diversity in the international student body comes with a wide range of proficiency with English, so do not assume all international students are English language learners.  To these students, statements such as “oh wow, your English is so good” or “when did you learn to speak English so well?” are actually not compliments. In fact, they can be seen as condescending.  
  • Culture: Don’t assume that everyone should understand US specific cultural references (e.g. pop culture.) Be sure to explain and clarify, and if appropriate, invite others to share examples in other contexts, if they are comfortable doing so.
  • Quiet participation: When international students have low participation in class discussions, do not assume disengagement. They might need some time to process language or new information. They may also feel shy about speaking aloud in a large group setting. Providing opportunities for brief reflection, small group or paired discussion, and alternative ways to participate can benefit not only international students but domestic students as well. You can support their learning by using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles (multiple ways for engagement, assessment, and providing information). You could, for example, provide closed captions during videos, or record lectures, put oral prompts on a slide, ask them to share their ideas or thoughts in different ways, use polling in class to check for understanding. 

A welcoming environment is where students feel valued, cared for, and a sense of belonging. It is the foundation for active engagement and participation for all students, including international students. Here are a few things you can do to create a welcoming environment for your students:

  • Be transparent: Communicate in both oral and written form that you value all perspectives and voices in the classroom. You could, for example, explicitly say at the beginning of every class that ‘every single person in this class’ is welcome in this space. Provide clear expectations for class conduct and class participation. This is particularly helpful to international students who may be coming from educational backgrounds that are vastly different.  
  • Get to know your students:  Your students will feel cared for when you are genuinely interested in them as individuals, and not just as international students. Ask your students to complete a survey at the beginning of the semester to get a sense of students’ backgrounds and interests, and any information they would like to share to help them engage better with the class. It is also a good idea to invite students to meet with you during your office hours before they need help. 
  • Learn your students’ names: While it is understandable that it may be difficult to pronounce names that are unfamiliar to you, your students will appreciate you making the effort. If you don’t know how to pronounce a name, ask the student to help you. This article explains why it is important to learn your students’ names and offers helpful strategies for learning names. 

When taking class attendance, some teachers will ask only students with names unfamiliar to them ‘where are you from?’ While often well-intentioned, this question does not create a welcome environment for international students (or other students from underrepresented communities). For the student who is asked this question, the message to them is ‘you are not one of us.’ To foster a welcome environment, you should learn the names and allow the story that comes with those names to emerge organically in the course of the semester.

  • Invite students to share their perspectives without singling them out: Singling out is when a teacher asks a student to speak for their race, religion, nationality or any other identity group. For example, asking an international student to respond to a question like ‘how does this work in your country or global region?’ puts the student in a position where they have to represent an entire country or region. You should instead frame discussion questions that invite all students to share their perspectives and experiences. This article provides helpful suggestions for engaging with international students in ways that would make them feel welcome.

Finally, learning in a diverse classroom prepares both domestic and international students to become global citizens. Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment can help us overcome learning barriers and bring all students together. If you’d like assistance with making your course more inclusive and welcoming, please contact us at cat@temple.edu or make an appointment with one of our pedagogy specialists.


Hleziphi Naomie Nyanungo and Emtinan Alqurashi are Director and Assistant Director, respectively, at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Fostering an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Learning Environment

Cliff Rouder

This blog post has been adapted from an article in Faculty Focus written by Cliff Rouder titled, Seven Ways You Can Foster a More Inclusive LGBTQIA+ Learning Environment.

In this time of social unrest and physical disconnection from our students, we need to be especially mindful of creating inclusive learning environments. For all students–especially those from underrepresented and stigmatized groups–feeling that sense of belonging matters. That includes students who identify (publicly or privately) as LGBTQIA+. Creating an inclusive learning environment gives all students the chance to challenge biases, critically think and respond in a productive manner, and succeed academically.

In 2011, Temple University contracted with a national leader in conducting higher education surveys to assess the LGBTQ (as it was then abbreviated) climate on Main Campus. Members of the Temple community were invited to participate, and 2,693 surveys were returned.

Here are some positive results from this 2011 survey:

“The vast majority of respondents would recommend Temple to an LGBTQ prospective student,” which appears to jibe with the general finding that “more than three-quarters of all respondents felt comfortable or very comfortable with the overall climate at Temple.”

So why the need to foster a more LGBTQIA+ inclusive learning environment?


  • Despite some proactive measures Temple has taken to address the need, including the preferred name rollout (see the bullet point under Modeling Inclusive Behaviors below), our and other campus and classroom climates are not as welcoming and inclusive as they can be. A 2012 article about the survey in The Temple News reported that, “13 percent of respondents said that they had experienced ‘offensive, negative, or intimidating conduct that interfered unreasonably with their ability to work or learn on campus, and 18% said that they had seen or heard actions that created an ‘offensive, negative, or intimidating working or learning environment’ on Main Campus.”
  • Intolerance, hate and violence persist, and depression and suicide are still at disproptionately higher rates than for heterosexual counterparts.
  • Living a lie every day by hiding one’s identity is stressful and exhausting. Deciding who to tell means repeatedly facing the possibility of rejection, ostracism, and potential violence. For those students who have started to live their truth after leaving home for college, having to return home for online learning could mean going back to hiding who they are.
  • All of these realities can be exacerbated if one’s LGBTQIA+ identity intersects with an identity from another oppressed minority group. They can also be exacerbated by an intersecting identity in a community/group that has historically marginalized people who are LGBTQIA+.

What steps can I take to create a more inclusive learning environment for students who identify (publicly or privately) as LGBTQIA+?

  • Include an open-ended question in a pre-semester survey, such as “What would you like me to know about your identity, background, or needs?” That gives students the opportunity to share whatever they’d like you to know about interacting with them in class. 
  • Familiarize yourself with terminology. Language is constantly evolving. For example, queer was used as a slur against people who were LGBTQIA+, but has more recently been reclaimed by some, but not all, in the LGBTQIA+ community. Remember that it never hurts to ask a student first. If you do use a word inappropriately, humbly correct yourself on the spot. Then help correct others, if need be, in a positive manner.  
  • Assess your own classroom climate for indicators of implicit bias (aka microaggressions–words and behaviors typically not intended to be hurtful but that nevertheless marginalize others) and explicit bias (overt expressions of prejudice) about gender and sexual orientation. Think about the language you and your students use. The well-meaning greeting, “Good morning, ladies and gentleman,” excludes people who don’t fit into the female/male gender binary. Are you addressing marginalizing language, and if so, how? 
  • Serve as a resource.
  • Model inclusive behaviors.
    • Put the pronouns you use on your email signature. Doing so signals to students that you are sensitive to identities outside of the gender binary. 
    • Refer to students by the pronouns they may indicate. Stay tuned for more details about Temple’s upcoming rollout of the new pronouns option within TU portal and Canvas! The new rollout will allow students and you to identify their pronouns more easily, and that will help you use them and get them right! In addition to being able to see what pronouns your students use, you might also encourage them to rename themselves in their Zoom window so that they are not misgendered by fellow students. Note that different plural pronouns like “they” are now commonly used in place of the singular “her” and “him” to refer to an individual who does not identify as female or male. 
    • Refer to students by their preferred first name. Students at Temple now have the option of providing their preferred first name to be used instead of their legal name in Canvas and on course rosters. They may also choose to include both their preferred and legal name, in which case use the preferred name.  
    • Assess your course content. Incorporate LGBTQIA+ history, current events, and people who have contributed to your field into course content and assignments where applicable. If you identify as LGBTQIA+, consider whether self-identifying would support course content and be a resource for your students’ learning. Remember that there can be risks as well as benefits to sharing this part of yourself, and thus should be done thoughtfully. 

To learn more about creating an LGBTQIA+ inclusive learning environment, watch this video created by the CAT’s 2018-2019 Faculty Learning Community members and featuring Temple faculty, students, and administrators.

Clifford Rouder, Ed.D. is the Pedagogy and Design Specialist, Center for the Advancement of Teaching

Opening Doors: Promoting Equity through Accessibility

Hleziphi Naomie Nyanungo, Linda Hasunuma

When hearing the term ‘accessibility,’ many immediately think about accommodations to meet the needs of specific individuals or groups, primarily those with disabilities.  While related, accessibility and accommodation are not the same. According to LaGrow, ‘accommodations are reactive solutions to address special cases. Accessibility is a proactive solution to providing equal access for all.’ The word “proactive” is essential here as accessible learning spaces are intentionally and thoughtfully designed and delivered so that all students have access to the tools, resources, and support they need to be successful. In Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto, Kevin Gannon (2020) invites teachers to think of access as a feature of our pedagogy by asking the question: ‘Do all of our students have the same degree of access to us, the course, the material and to learning? (pg 74).

Accessibility promotes equity by making it possible to engage students who would otherwise be pushed to the margins. Take, for example, a student like Tanya (name has been changed). Due to COVID safety restrictions, she lost her job as a waitress, and now lives with her grandmother, mother, and sister. The only place she is able to get her work done is in her car. A course designed to provide flexibility and options will allow Tanya to access course content and participate in activities in a way that works best for her situation, and increase her ability to be successful. You may have students in a course you are teaching this semester who are in situations similar to Tanya’s, and are having to navigate barriers such as internet connectivity issues, availability of computers and technology, health matters, the demands of work and family, and more.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Peralta Equity rubrics provide guidance for designing and evaluating your courses for equity, inclusion, and access. UDL Guidelines and the UDL Progression Rubric can help instructors create more inclusive and accessible learning experiences. UDL asks us to anticipate our students’ needs instead of putting the burden on the student to request an exception. We can provide options or pathways that benefit everyone, including those who may need accommodation, thereby potentially lessening the need for individual accommodations. For example, captioning tools may benefit students who may have a hearing impairment, but can also benefit English language learners who process information differently as well as those who must attend class in a space that is not private. 

The Peralta Community College system’s Peralta Equity rubric was developed to close gaps in learning outcomes in online courses and promote more inclusive and accessible online learning experiences. The rubric consists of the following areas:

  • addressing students’ access to technology and different types of support (both academic and non-academic); 
  • increasing the visibility of the instructor’s commitment to inclusion;
  • addressing common forms of bias (e.g., image and representation bias, interaction bias); and 
  • helping students make connections (e.g., between course topics and their lives; with the other students).

Drawing from these two frameworks, we offer some recommended strategies as well as some simple things you can do right now to make your courses more equitable and accessible. 

  1. Get a sense of who your students are and what they may need. A good way to do this is administer an anonymous survey at the beginning of the semester that asks students about their needs and well-being. The ‘Who is in the Class? Form’ is a good example of a survey with questions related to factors that may impact the students’ learning experience such as internet connectivity, disability and health concerns, work and family obligations.
  2. Offer low tech alternatives: Students may not have the same access to stable internet connectivity, computers and other technology tools. It is important to keep this in mind as you assign readings and activities. See this article for low-tech ways for teaching online.
  3. Use low-cost or open source instructional materials, where possible: The increasing cost of commercial textbooks can be a barrier to students. Consider low-cost or open source high quality educational materials. Visit Temple University Library OER page for guidance.
  4. Be flexible and provide students with options: Consider ways to adapt your course to meet the needs of your students. CAT’s Agile Pedagogy resource page offers some guidance for being flexible in your teaching. 
  5. Design for accessibility:  Take advantage of the accessibility options (e.g. automatic captioning in Zoom) available in the technology used for online teaching. While typically designed to accommodate people with disabilities, these accessibility features provide great options for everyone. ‘Accessible Teaching in the Time of Covid-19’ highlights accessibility features in educational technology tools.

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of applying these frameworks to your courses, we recommend a simple approach where you think about one thing you could try from either rubric. Consider Tobin and Behling’s (2018) Plus One strategy from “Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education.” Pick one strategy to implement in a course you are currently teaching.

Good teaching means honoring and recognizing the full diversity of our students, and the accessibility mindset offers us a way to design learning experiences that benefit all learners. The principles and strategies shared here can help you create more equitable, inclusive, and accessible classrooms that help all students succeed. If you would like to  learn more or think through how you can use these approaches in your own teaching practice, please make an appointment for a one-on-one consultation with one of our faculty developers or Ed Tech specialists at the CAT.


Addy, T. M., Dube, D., Mitchell, K., & SoRelle, M. (2021). What Inclusive Instructors Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Gannon, K. M. (2020). Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto. West Virginia University Press.

Tobin, T. J., & Behling, T. K. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. West Virginia University Press.

Hleziphi Naomie Nyanungo, Ph.D. is the Director of Educational Technology at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching

Linda Hasunuma, Ph.D. is the Assistant Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching

International Education Week: Teaching Students Abroad

Stephanie Fiore

This fall, some of the international students in your classes may be located abroad in their native countries because travel restrictions have prevented them from coming to campus. Your international students are an asset to your class, bringing important diversity of experiences, cultural perspectives and learning methods. They are also eager to participate in the classes at Temple University despite the situation that has prevented them from coming to Philadelphia. Thinking intentionally about the barriers they may face and the contributions they may add to class can help all your students gain from this complex situation. Communication with your international students is key in helping them overcome challenges these conditions may pose to their learning. Here are some issues you may encounter and suggested strategies to overcome them. 

Time Differences

If your students are in a different country or some US states, they may be in another time zone, sometimes as much as 13 hours different from Philadelphia time. This difference may hinder their ability to feel engaged in your class, especially if you hold synchronous class sessions that meet when it is the middle of the night for them. How can you help them participate and engage with your class community? 

Strategies That Can Help:

  • Make sure you ask your students at the beginning of the semester if they are in a different time zone. We recommend administering a short ‘get to know you’ survey to the entire class in which you ask students where they are currently located. 
  • Solicit students’ ideas for how to participate effectively in class.
  • Record your synchronous Zoom classes to allow students to access your class content at a time that makes more sense for them. This strategy will also allow all of your students with technological access or illness issues to access your course content asynchronously.
  • Make sure to have all of your course materials (syllabus, assignments, required and additional reading) available in Canvas so that students can access them at any time.
  • If you are doing active learning activities during your class time, offer an alternative way to complete work for your students in a different time zone. This alternative may look different than the in-class work but should accomplish the same goals.
  • Consider time differences when setting deadlines for assignments or when setting up times for exams. If a specific deadline is important, make sure all of your students understand ahead of time how to plan, and check in individually with your international students to ensure deadlines make sense for them. 
  • If assigning group projects, determine if you can form a group of students who live in similar time zones in order to facilitate more seamless collaboration. If students in different time zones must work together, encourage them to use effective collaboration tools (such as Teams or Canvas Collaborations) in order to communicate without having to have in-person meetings.
  • If you have scheduled virtual office hours, provide alternatives that are convenient for students in different time zones, or provide an asynchronous way for them to reach you.

Inability to Access Technology

Internet connectivity and access to technology tools could be an issue for some students both in the US and abroad. Stable high-speed internet and access to equipment such as webcams or laptops may not be available to some students, which makes it difficult for them to participate fully in remote synchronous class sessions. For other students, the issue is not internet connectivity but internet restrictions. China, for example, has restricted access to websites and applications that include Zoom and all Google applications (including Gmail) that are widely used for teaching, as well as YouTube, Twitter, Dropbox, Skype and more.

Strategies That Can Help:

  • Remind students, especially new ones, to complete the TUID Photo Verification process in Portal Next Steps. Having a verified photo on file will allow IT Help Desk to provide expedient assistance. 
  • You can test to see if particular domains are blocked in China using a site like Comparitech. First, however, a simple conversation with your students to identify any barriers to learning they face can reveal sticking points and additional insights you might not otherwise have known. 
  • Zoom may not work in certain countries, which may make it impossible for students to attend your Zoom session and to watch your Zoom recordings. Teams, a collaboration software with similar capabilities, will also work in most countries and is available to the Temple community. However, remember that the most important thing, particularly during this time, is to make sure students can reach your course goals, not that they all reach those goals in the exact same way. Talk to your students with these issues and brainstorm together how to help them.
  • Some websites, social media, and streaming platforms are also blocked in other countries, and some sensitive content may also be blocked. Ask students to review class material and let you know which ones they cannot access. In some cases, you may be able to download content and post it directly to Canvas. Post videos to open directly in Canvas rather than requiring students to download videos.
  • If students need alternative methods for receiving and delivering materials and class assignments, consider whether email will help. ITS is working to migrate overseas students’ email accounts from Gmail to Outlook 365 in order to allow them access to email. Regardless, it is essential to communicate with them through your Canvas course announcements and messages.
  • Students with slow bandwidth or limited allowance of bandwidth are likely to experience slow logins, page loads and forced terminations. For synchronous online sessions, allow students to participate without video, which will increase their bandwidth, and remind them to be present through chat or voice participation. 
  • In certain cases, students may be able to join Zoom by phone if they are having connectivity issues. Be sure to provide the complete information for the Zoom session, including how to connect to your Zoom session by phone. Note that this may not be possible in some international sites, and the phone call may have a fee attached. Check with your students if calling into your class is a possibility.
  • Think about bandwidth when selecting course materials such as videos. Students with low or limited bandwidth, whether in the US or abroad, may not have easy access to this material, so consider alternative ways to deliver any essential video content (audio transcription, outline, key points). 
  • Check the technology needs for your assignments and assessments. For instance, if you use a proctoring solution that requires a webcam and a laptop, find out if your students have access to that equipment. If not, consider offering alternative assessments for those students or, better yet, provide alternatives for the entire class.

Sensitive Topics

Students may be in countries or communities where certain topics are not safe to discuss. Depending on the country, students may be reluctant to engage in conversation about topics that may be sensitive to their government or community for fear of retribution. 

Strategies That Can Help:

  • In the first week of class, invite students to review topics on the course syllabus and flag any topics that could potentially be sensitive. 
  • Remember that even writing to you about flagged content can prove unsafe, and students may also be reluctant to discuss any barriers publicly in class. Invite your students to speak with you privately (at a time that works for their time zone) to discuss any issues they might anticipate.  
  • Work with your students to find creative alternatives that allow students to engage with the class content without compromising their safety. You can still, of course, teach the content you were planning to teach in the class, but perhaps your student can write about less controversial topics that will not jeopardize their safety.

The essential key to helping your international students abroad or students in another time zone is communication. Talk to students and work together to find solutions.

We invite you to engage this week with International Education Week activities being held right here at Temple University. Check out the Global Reach, Global Teach website for information on all the events happening this week. For your convenience, we’ve listed a few faculty events below. Check out also the International Collaboration Program that allows you to invite guests from our campuses abroad to your classrooms.


Cox, Michelle. 2020. Guidance for Faculty: Getting and Staying Connected With Int’l Students. John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University. Retrieved from: https://knight.as.cornell.edu/guidance-faculty-getting-staying-connected-intl-students

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2020. Teaching International Students Remotely [Blog post].  (n.d). Retrieved from https://writingcenter.unc.edu/faculty-resources/teaching-international-students-remotely/

Stephanie Fiore, Ph.D., is Assistant Vice Provost at Temple University and Senior Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Injustice, Elections, & COVID: Effectively Handling Highly-Charged Class Discussions

Cliff Rouder & Kyle Vitale

Highly-charged discussions around current events can make students from a variety of backgrounds and points of view feel silenced and alienated in class by other students or even by a professor. But if thoughtfully handled, they can be highly productive for students, teaching them how to listen empathetically and actively to other points of view and even collaborate across them, giving them practice in critical thinking, and creating new connections to course material.

Whether your course naturally includes highly-charged topics, or you decide to have a discussion in response to a controversial current event, preparing for these moments can ensure they are enriching rather than distressing. Preparing for difficult class discussions requires us to think deeply about our goals and teaching approaches for students in these moments, while reflecting on our own feelings, biases, and motivations so that we can model and promote desirable behaviors.

Here are some important considerations and strategies to help set class up for productive discourse

  • Note Upcoming Discussions. It will be helpful to let students know they may be engaging in discussions that elicit strong feelings, opinions, and discomfort. Clearly communicate how you will help students “get comfortable with the discomfort” and help them see the benefits of such moments for their intellectual and emotional development.  This strategy can begin with an email pre-semester or open discussion in the first week, supported by messaging in your syllabus and repeated orally throughout the semester.
  • Develop guidelines for civil discourse. At the start of the semester, have students collaboratively generate guidelines for class discussion. These guidelines can be posted on Canvas and referred to throughout the semester. Sample guidelines include: listening without interrupting; not turning the conversation into a personal attack; and avoiding inflammatory language. You’ll be surprised how much tougher students can be about these guidelines than you might be, and how much more buy-in you’ll get when they have contributed to the established rules.
  • Check your baggage at the gate. Before engaging in these types of discussions, reflect on your own biases and triggers. How might you respond verbally and non-verbally to a contrary statement / point of view about which you have strong feelings? Work on modeling desirable skills: show students what it means to actively listen and how to ask clarifying questions. Review some non-verbal skills that demonstrate caring and compassion, and compare the effects to non-verbal expressions of intolerance and anger. If anyone’s feelings cannot be managed effectively in the moment, it may be better to table the discussion and return at a later time.
  • Give students opportunities to practice. Early in the semester, start with discussion topics that are low stakes and won’t trigger strong emotional responses. This allows students to get to know one another and practice listening, evaluate another perspective, and navigate differences of opinion. For instance, you might begin with a reading that (students can evaluate through competing explanations. Whether you have in-person, live, or asynchronous courses, pair work and discussion boards can help students practice listening or reading each other’s takes on a topic. Online, you can use Zoom breakout rooms or private chat to get students speaking with one another. At the end of these discussions, remember to ask students what they learned from the process.
  • When It’s Go Time. The following active learning strategies can serve as a vehicle for practicing and engaging in civil discourse on difficult topics:
    • Start with prompting activities. Rather than throw a difficult topic wide open, lead into discussion with exercises or questions than help students warm up, sort out their thoughts, and confront their initial reactions. A 1-minute reflection paper before discussion can help students order their thinking. Questions that start with a third party, like “what did x source have to say on this topic?” or “where does this topic currently fit in the national landscape?” give students time to find their feet. A variety of other strategies exist for designing questions that engage students critically while helping them to manage their passions.
    • Consider structured discussion techniques. These strategies structure discussion to ensure fairness, inclusivity and focus. In the Circle of Voices activity, each student gets a chance to speak uninterrupted for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on class size. In Circular Response, each student is required to build their comment from the prior comment, or at least address it constructively before adding their own thoughts. In Snowballingstudents debate a topic in pairs, then pairs join one another, becoming progressively larger until  the whole class reunites. This approach helps students learn that discussions can be developmental as it pivots to incorporate new ideas. Make sure that students also get opportunities to practice the skills they glean from structured discussion in more open discussion scenarios.
    • Own the difficulty by setting up a debate. Some topics may be best served through debate, where students are invited to take sides and argue, but interact through established rules. Debates work best when students are asked to reverse opinion and consider opposing views. Check out these guidelines for ensuring an effective debate experience.
    • Be prepared for tension. There is always the possibility that a difficult discussion gets out of control. In these “hot” moments, the following strategies can help: remind students of your class discussion agreement; affirm the emotions in the room while rerouting the energy through further questions; ask students to write their thoughts quietly for a moment; in the Zoom environment, remove a student who is overly aggressive or violates policies. Many other strategies also exist for managing these hot moments.

If you’d like to develop a game plan with a CAT faculty developer, or if you would like a developer to sit in on a discussion to give you feedback, don’t hesitate to book a consultation. With some thoughtful planning and some practice, incorporating difficult discussions into your course can be a highly successful pedagogical strategy and may not be that difficult after all!

Cliff Rouder, Ed.D., is Pedagogy and Design Specialist at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Kyle Vitale, Ph.D., is Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Four Ways to Cultivate Community in your Online Class

Cliff Rouder

We all know how empowering and motivating it feels when we’re part of a community working hard toward a common goal–perhaps now more than ever. That feeling of connecting and belonging; having a voice and knowing you’ll be heard; knowing you’re supported and supporting others: this is what community can feel like in an online course. But community is more than a feeling. Indeed, the research tells us that these are key ingredients to student success in your course, and by extension, to retention in the major and in college.

Understanding that community can look different depending on class size, here are some ways to build that foundation early on:

1. Make your goal of creating community transparent.

Tell your students the reasons why it’s important, what you will do, and what you expect them to do, to help build that community. You might even make this one of your course goals. By the end of the semester, what will students need to demonstrate to know whether they’ve met this goal, and how will you get them there? Perhaps it will be through successful collaborative work. Perhaps it will be through participating in discussion boards. Consider these other ideas below.

2. Build in different ways of presenting content and demonstrating competence.

If we proactively do this, then we will have met the learning needs of as many students as possible, which can reduce the need for individual student accommodation. Think about representing content via audio and visual means in addition to text. Think about alternative assessments besides exams and papers. We call this proactive approach to course design Universal Design for Learning, or UDL. As always in course design, we start with our course goals first and then work backwards to design assessments and learning activities.

3. Build in social opportunities for students.

How about creating a space where students can connect on a social level? Think of them gathering around the water cooler to talk about non-course related topics. Can you connect them to former students who are now working in their fields of interest? 

4. Personalize and humanize your online classroom.

There are many ways you can do this:

  • Welcome them into your home space. Show them your pet, your child, your environment, and encourage them to do the same. Be mindful though that some may be hesitant to appear on webcam, so encourage, but don’t require. Students can always use their audio, the Zoom chat tool, discussion boards, or photos if they don’t want to turn on their webcams.
  • Ask them to come to virtual office hours. You’ll be amazed at how a 10-minute “getting to know you” session can decrease their hesitation about coming to you for assistance. Then, check in frequently with the whole class in your synchronous or asynchronous sessions.
  • Do some interesting ice-breakers. Try on for size “Three truths and a lie,” or “What are you binge-watching?” This gets students talking about themselves, but also comparing their experiences to their peers.
  • Have them send you the pronouns they use and be mindful about using them. Everyone has a need to feel validated and this is a simple step that can greatly assist some of our most vulnerable students.
  • Create guidelines together for communicating respectfully when their points of view differ. An online course is an artificial space where the rules of interaction don’t always seem obvious. Inviting the students to participate in setting the ground rules for civil discourse gets them involved in building community from the ground up.
  • Purposefully connect course content to their lives and future ambitions. Remember, your course does not exist in isolation, but it can feel that way to students. Always look for opportunities to connect your course to recent events, their past experiences as students, and/or their personal and career aspirations.

With just a little effort–and some humanity–you can create a community of learners in your online course. As always, the CAT is here to help you in this endeavor, so don’t hesitate to book a consultation with one of our amazing faculty developers or educational technologists at catbooking.temple.edu. We’ve also compiled a great collection of resources to help you design your online course, which you can access at teaching.temple.edu/design.

Cliff Rouder, Ed.D., is Pedagogy and Design Specialist at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.