Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Teach with a Heterogenous Audience in Mind

Student diversity can be both visible (race, gender, size) and invisible (nationality, learning disability, gender, race, sexual orientation). Because of this, even a class that seems to lack obvious diversity markers (for instance a class with only white, traditional-aged, male students) will still be diverse. Thus, instructors should always prepare classes with the assumption of a diverse student population.


cmu classroom image

The following will focus on two research-based frameworks for including all students in the classroom, from the design of a course to the implementation of teaching strategies and assessments.

Universal Design for Learning   Culturally Responsive Teaching

Universal Design for Learning

"Universal Design for Learning (UDL) [draws] upon neuroscience and education research and [leverages] the flexibility of digital technology to design learning environments that from the outset offer options for diverse learner needs” (Meyer et al., 2014: 5). Instead of categorizing students in limiting and non-representative categories, UDL assumes student heterogeneity from the beginning and advocates planning teaching and learning activities with this knowledge in mind. UDL focuses on three principles:

  1. Provide multiple means of engagement by helping to motivate students to learn. Develop student autonomy, provide relevant materials and assessments to their learning, and vary demands on students.
  2. Provide multiple means of representation. Offer alternatives for the representation of information (visual, text, audio, video). Ensure that representation is accessible to all learners (accessible language, accessible format).
  3. Provide multiple means of action and expression. Give students options for expressing what they know and provide scaffolded learning through multiple practice opportunities.

This video offers a thorough review of the UDL model for learning. It is important to keep in mind that instructors are encouraged to reduce barriers and increase access in their classroom. This is a process, in which instructors can move content, assessments, and classroom towards the more accessible end of the spectrum at their own pace. We encourage instructors to start small and to build their UDL enhanced classroom over time.

This website contains many UDL specific resources: UDL ON CAMPUS

Strategies for Inclusive Teaching


Meyer, A., D. H. Rose, and D. Gordon. 2014. Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, CAST Professional Publishing: Wakefield, MA.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is a framework for teaching that integrates cultural content and awareness to enhance achievement for all students. Although it was first developed in K-12 circles, CRT can be applied to college teaching and benefits all students (Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009).

CRT recognizes that intrinsic motivation matters for student learning. Motivation can be enhanced or reduced by classroom conditions. Motivation is connected to cultural backgrounds and forms of learning, which means that faculty have a responsibility to promote a culturally responsive teaching environment in their classrooms. To do so, instructors can develop norms and practices for the following four conditions:

  1. Establish inclusion by creating a learning environment in which learners and teachers feel respected and connected to one another.
  2. Develop a positive attitude towards learning through personal relevance and volition.
  3. Enhance meaning by creating challenging and engaging learning experiences that include learners’ perspectives and values.
  4. Engender competence to help learners see how they are effectively learning something they value and that is of authentic value to their community.
Strategies for Inclusive Teaching


Ginsberg, M. B. and R. J. Wlodkowski. 2009. Diversity & Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College, John Wiley & Sons.