Creating inclusive classroom spaces in which students thrive

June 9, 2021


Kathryn (Kathy) Oleson, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Psychology at Reed College.

Kathy was appointed Dean of the Faculty in July 2020. She joined the Reed faculty in 1995 as a professor of psychology. She earned a MA and PhD in Social Psychology from Princeton University and a BA in psychology from the University of Kansas. From July 2014 to June 2016, she served as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Reed College. Her current research primarily explores ways to make the college classroom more inclusive, with a particular focus on productive and unproductive discomfort. Her book Promoting Inclusive Classroom Dynamics in Higher Education: A Research-Based Pedagogical Guide for Faculty (Stylus Publishing) was published in fall 2020.


This webinar focuses on ways to support faculty and students’ classroom experiences in higher education. I consider students’ backgrounds, including class, race, disability, and gender, and center primary needs (competence, autonomy, belonging) and concerns (e.g., self doubt about ability, impostor feelings, and stereotype threat) that students bring to the classroom. I then draw on universally-designed learning in combination with educational design rooted in social justice and multiculturalism to describe ways to design in-person and online spaces in which students flourish academically. I encourage webinar participants to reflect on their own approaches and think through how these ideas are most productively applied to their institutions.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this presentation, learners will be able to:

  • Understand the potential diversity of student backgrounds and the psychological needs that students bring to the classroom.
  • Recognize misperceptions between faculty expectations and student experiences and the possible impact of these misperceptions on student learning
  • Support the design of inclusive physical and online learning spaces in which students thrive