Frameworks for Inclusive Excellence and Systemic Change

Susan Shadle
Boise State University
Susan Shadle, Boise State University
published Oct 12, 2017 4:51pm

In the work I and my colleagues have done to create change around STEM Education on our own campus we've intentionally worked at two levels. We try to focus both on what will help individual faculty to make changes to their teaching and on how we can shift norms, structures, and teaching culture at the institutional level. My focus as a faculty developer has historically been focused on helping faculty make changes to their pedagogy through exploration and adoption of a variety of active learning pedagogies. I've also been interested in how the spaces in which faculty teach and the norms and policies that guide their practice can promote the adoption of evidence-based teaching practice. More recently, and for a variety of reasons, I've become more interested in how to support faculty to pay attention to their classrooms as inclusive places for learning and the degree to which their courses help to support equitable outcomes for students. While these ideas are connected to good pedagogical practice, thinking about inclusivity has prompted me to expand my toolbox.

While I've explored strategies related to inclusion and equity for some years in my own teaching, I find that the more I learn about inclusive excellence the more I have to learn (and the more carefully I listen to those whose voices have traditionally been marginalized in our classrooms and institutions). When I am new to an area of scholarship or practice, I am drawn to frameworks because they provide me with language and ways of organizing my new knowledge. Below I describe two frameworks I've been thinking about and using a lot lately – one serves to support inclusive excellence for individual faculty and the other prompts us to think at the institutional level.

The first framework is a set of "Promising Practices"i for inclusive courses, divided into five dimensions. The full article has a lovely table that provides a list of practices in each dimension. (My hope is that as we work with faculty on our own campus, all faculty will master these strategies and use them to create inclusive learning environments). The five dimensions of practice are:

Intrapersonal awareness – this dimension deals with strategies related to faculty being/becoming aware of their own identity, experiences, and perspectives and how these influence one's teaching choices.

Interpersonal awareness – this dimension encompasses strategies connected to relationship building with students, empathetic listening, and the creation of spaces in which interactions between students are affirming and supportive of learning.

Curricular transformation – this dimension is about strategies that facilitate inclusivity in the content of courses and curricula – from which authors student read to strategies that recognize diverse student experience as a source of rich content for the course.

Inclusive Pedagogy – this dimension emphasizes the need for faculty to select and implement pedagogical strategies that enhance engagement, motivation and learning of historically marginalized students; research shows these strategies – from non-competitive collaborative methods to experiential learning – benefit all students.

Inclusive Learning Environment – this dimension captures the strategies that help faculty communicate that they care about students (and student success), as well as respect and empower students as learners.

In our work with faculty, these categories help us to name the different kinds of things we hope faculty will attend to without overwhelming them with ideas. Interestingly, work my colleagues and I have done on our and other campuses suggests that the aspect that faculty think least about when it comes to fostering inclusive learning spaces is the importance of intrapersonal awareness. This suggests that an important element of change will require opportunities for faculty to reflect on their own identities and the ways those identities connect to teaching choices.

The second framework is the Multicultural Organizational Development (MCOD) Framework.ii,iii This framework seeks to describe the characteristics of an organization on a continuum between monocultural and multicultural. There are six stages that can be used to identify the features of an organization:

Stage 1: The Exclusionary Organization - At this stage, the organization openly defends and maintains the dominant group's power and privilege; it is an unsafe and dangerous environment for those outside the dominant group.

Stage 2: "The Club" – This stage maintains privilege for those who have traditionally held power and influence. The norms, policies and procedures of the dominant culture are viewed as the only "right" way. Diversity and social justice are only on club member's terms and within their comfort zone.

Stage 3: The Compliance Organization – An organization in this stage is committed to providing some access to members of previously excluded groups and to removing some of the barriers or discriminatory practices. However, the organizational culture, mission, and structure remain organized around dominant group needs/preferences.

Stage 4: The Affirming Organization– This stage is marked by a commitment to eliminating discriminatory practices and inherent advantages. Members of groups that have been historically denied access are actively recruited and promoted but are still expected to assimilate into the dominant organizational culture.

Stage 5: The Redefining Organization – In this stage, an organization is working to create an environment that values and capitalizes on diversity. It begins to question the limitations of the dominant organizational culture. The organization commits to redesigning and implementing policies and practices to redistribute power, and ensure the inclusion, participation, and empowerment of all members.

Stage 6: The Multicultural Organization– In this stage, the mission, values, operations, and services reflect the contributions and interests of the wide diversity of cultural and social identity groups. The organization is proactive in eradicating oppression within and beyond the institution and engaging members across all identity groups in decision making.

The MCOD framework is intended to help an organization identify where it is. The intention is to ground an analysis of where an institution is starting from so that a clear map toward a more multicultural organization can be charted. It also makes clear how far from the multicultural organization an organization may be. Note that it is also possible for different parts of an organization (e.g., different colleges or departments) to exhibit different characteristics and be in different stages. By defining the full range of what is possible, this framework can help us to take a frank look at what needs to change to foster learning for all our students.

These frameworks are, of course, connected. The norms and structures that must be changed to become a multicultural organization belong, at least in part, in the classroom. These ideas invite me to think about how the classrooms (and other places) on my campus would look if we were to transform ourselves and our institution to truly value and fully serve the diverse students (and colleagues) that join our community. As we begin to name where we need to go, it is my hope that we can chart a path to get there.

About the Author

Susan Shadle serves as the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Boise State University. Special thanks to Tasha Souza (Boise State University) and Matt Ouellett (Cornell University) for being patient mentors and for introducing me to these frameworks.

Suggested Citation

Shadle S.(2017,October 12). Frameworks for Inclusive Excellence and Systemic Change. Retrieved from

iSalaza, M.d.C., Norton, A.S., Tuitt, F (2009). Weaving Promising Practices for Inclusinve Excellence into the Higher Education Classroom. To Improve the Academy, 28, 208-226; see also a similar framework in Adams, M., Love, B. J. (2009). A social justice education faculty development framework for a post-Grutter era. In K. Skubikowski, C. Wright, & R. Graf (Eds.), Social justice education: Inviting faculty to transform their institutions (pp. 3-25). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

iiJackson, B. W (2006). Theory and practice of multicultural organization development. In Jones, B. B. & Brazzel, M. (Eds.), The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change (pps. 139-154). San Francisco, CA, Pfeiffer

iiiAdapted from workshop handout: Multicultural Organizational Development (MCOD): Exploring Best Practices to Create Socially Just, Inclusive Campus Communities, AAC&U Conference, Diversity, Learning, and Inclusive Excellence: Accelerating and Assessing Progress, 2008. Facilitators: Vernon Wall and Kathy OBear

Comment? Start the discussion about Frameworks for Inclusive Excellence and Systemic Change