Denise C. Phelps, Department of Public Policy

“I want to be a leader,” are words you may hear echoed when a teacher asks their students what they want to be when they grow up. Being a leader and obtaining leadership skills details a lot of responsibility and hard work, especially when you want to be a leader in academia. Whether you’re a teacher in K-12 or a professor at a community college or university, there will always be challenges in the classroom. From keeping the students engaged, balancing the different learning needs of their students, and creating a diverse learning environment, educators are faced with a wide range of demands in today’s academic environment.

Rules of Engagement

Actively engaging students while keeping them connected and interested in a student-centered learning environment not only promotes meaningful learning experiences, it also increases curiosity and encourages students to learn.

For example, several active learning techniques can add variety to your class and give students the opportunity to brainstorm and learn how to work in teams. Start the day off with a question-answer session with the whole class to get the students energized such as:

  • Factile-Jeopardy Classroom: An interactive learning platform lets teachers create engaging jeopardy-style quiz games for the classroom.
  • Jigsaw: A cooperative learning activity that makes students dependent on each other to succeed. That is, this technique breaks classes into groups and assignments into pieces that the groups assemble to complete the jigsaw puzzle.
  • Kahoot!: An interactive game-based learning platform where students sign-in and compete against each other or in groups.
  • Think-Pair-Share: A collaborative learning strategy where students work together to solve a problem or answer a question about an assignment.

Engage Diverse Learners

All students learn differently. Therefore, it is important for educators to be flexible in accommodating their students. Arrange the classroom so students can be comfortable. Also, here are some additional ways to engage diverse learners:

  • Use images, pictures, color visual media, and maps for students to learn and understand new information.
  • Play different sounds and music for student to engage in through listening, speaking and learning to identify repetition.
  • Instruct students to work in groups and learn how to brainstorm, identify, and solve problems together.
  • Teach students how to recognize patterns and connections using logical reasoning.

Addressing Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

Teaching can be challenging and finding the opportunities to promote diversity and create a safe and collaborative inclusive environment is thus very important in academia:

  • Recognizing how the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status impact students can be used to promote inclusion.
  • Conversing about diversity and equity can be uncomfortable for some students. Therefore, explore topics about multiculturalism to introduce complex issues.
  • Providing opportunities for students to participate in discussions where they listen to each other’s opinions respectfully and develop cross-cultural competence.
  • Planning ways to keep students active and engaged in learning about different languages, customs, and worldviews, so all student ideas are shared and represented.

To sum up, the more exposure students get by participating in a diverse learning environment, the better the understanding of how to connect with people from other ethnic groups. This will prepare them for life outside of the classroom.


Gabriel, Kathleen F. (2018). Five Ways to Promote a More Inclusive Classroom.

Othman, Norasmah. Mohd Hasril Amiruddin (2010). Different Perspectives of Learning Styles from VARK Model. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences Volume 7, 2010, Pages 652-660.

Whenham, Tricia. 15 active learning activities to energize your next college class.

Matthew Mahavongtrakul edited this post on April 23rd, 2019.