According to recent advances in neuroscience research, there is no such thing as an “average learner” (Rose & Meyer, 2002; Rose et al., 2013; Rose, 2016). Our courses include students with diverse backgrounds, unique lived experiences and varying abilities; these factors affect how they learn. Effective teaching involves considering students in the design and implementation of instruction.

While one-size-fits-all instructional practices may enable some students to excel, they pose barriers for others. Inclusive instructional practices, on the other hand, aim to remove unnecessary barriers and improve access for as many learners as possible. But inclusive instruction is more than the just the elimination of individual and systemic barriers. It means designing for variability so that all students can contribute to, and fully engage in, their learning. It means checking our assumptions about why some students succeed and others struggle, and why some students seek help and others don’t. Moreover, inclusive instruction is about fostering a sense of belonging.  Having a sense of belonging positively impacts students’ motivation and ability to learn (Freeman, Anderman, & Jensen, 2007; Strayhorn, 2012; Trujillo & Tanner, 2014). 

Implementing inclusive instruction can seem like a daunting task; however, many of the strategies that foster instructional inclusivity are really just effective teaching practices. Just as students are diverse, so too are instructorsyou are not expected to be all things to all students. From the Inclusive Instruction suite of tip sheets linked below, select one or two areas to focus on at a time. Choose strategies that align with your course context, your intended learning outcomes, and your teaching approach. Start small and know that even just one change has the potential to benefit many students. 


CTE Tips Sheets


  • Freeman, T.M., Anderman, L.H., & Jensen, J.M. (2007. Sense of belonging in college freshmen at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 203-220.
  • Rose, D.H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age. Universal Design for Learning. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Virginia, USA.
  • Rose, T. (2016).  The End of Average. How We Succeed in a World That Value Sameness. Harper Collins.
  • Rose, L.T., Rouhani, P., & Fischer, K.W. (2013). The Science of the Individual, Mind, Brain, and Education 7(3), Retrieved from
  • Strayhorn, T.L. (2012). College Student’ Sense of Belonging. A Key to Educational Success for All Students. Taylor & Francis, New York.
  • Trujillo, G., & Tanner, K.D. (2014). Considering the role of affect in learning: Monitoring students’ self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and science identity. CBE- Life Sciences Education, 13, 6-15.

teaching tipsThis Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Why is Inclusive Instruction Important? Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.