By Kristal Kinloch-Taylor

The Center for Faculty Development facilitated the first of a three-part Humanizing series in September.  Held as a hybrid offering, 20 attendees discovered multiple ways to transform and create human-centered classes at the Humanizing Basics workshop. Grounded in “sociocultural issues of power, representation, and ideology” (Mehtha & Aguilera, 2020), humanizing is a teaching approach that places the learner at the center of course design and facilitation.  Humanizing methods can be applied to online, hybrid, or in-person course offerings.  

The hour-long workshop provided faculty with humanizing principles, strategies, approaches, and concluded with an activity designed to apply humanizing tactics to current or future assignments.  Humanizing strategies are clear and inclusive approaches that support learners with an emphasis on creating an all-encompassing learning environment (2020). Universal Design Learning and Antiracist Pedagogies are two teaching techniques that help with humanizing college classrooms.  

Universal Design Learning (UDL) “is a framework intended to get faculty members and course designers to think proactively about the needs of all their learners (Tobin &, Behling, 47).” While UDL approaches are common in K-12 classrooms, not all college and university faculty embrace them (2018). Small changes in pedagogical strategies, however, will enhance college classrooms and make learning accessible to all.  With UDL practices, instructors consider the accessibility and user ability of assignments. Accessible courses ensure that all learners are positioned to succeed. Since students consume information differently, “the more inclusive your learning environment is, the more students’ voices can enter the space to contribute and learn (Borgman, 2020, p. 39).”  Humanizing practices are at the core of UDL courses. Faculty take a proactive framework for teaching, and course design. 

Anti-racist pedagogy challenges “eurocentrism by including racial content into the syllabi, course materials, course activities, and curriculum (Kishimoto, 2018, p. 544).” In social sciences and writing classes, decisions to omit or add diverse authors are intentional. Selecting a multitude of authors representing various cultures and experiences is a proactive approach to humanize courses. The ODU student body is diverse and choosing authors that reflect student demographics helps learners connect to the course material. Building on this idea, instructors can also consider the historical constructs that facilitate inequalities within each discipline (Kishimoto, 2018).

Historically, higher education spaces have excluded the voices, and experiences of individuals of color. Researcher and scholar Paulo Freire (Freire 1970) is credited with humanizing classrooms to bring attention to oppressed learners of color. Authors Mehtha & Aguilera suggest faculty operate courses in a framework that “humaniz[es] pedagogy from a more critical perspective” (118). Thereafter, faculty will take a sociocultural historical approach to courses and center the experiences of students of color. Humanizing practices place attention on student experiences as faculty reexamine course delivery and design.

Inclusive Syllabi Language is the second of the three-part series scheduled for October 17th at 10:00am. Attendees will discover ways to incorporate supportive and welcoming language in their course syllabi.  The series will conclude on November 14th with a workshop entitled Welcome Video and Course Design. Faculty will explore welcome video examples and draft a script for their future videos. These offerings are on ZOOM, and we hope you can attend.

Workshop Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will explore ways to humanize courses.
  2. Participants will define humanizing.
  3. Participants will define engaged pedagogy.
  4. Participants will identify ways to personalize courses.

To register for the October and November Humanizing dates, please visit the CFD events page.


Borgman, J., & McArdle, C. (2019). Personal, accessible, responsive, strategic resources and strategies for online writing instructors (Practices & possibilities).
Bourelle, T. (2016). Preparing graduate students to teach online: Theoretical and pedagogical practices. Writing Program Administration, 40(1), 90-113.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniversary edition). New York. Bloomsbury.
Kishimoto, K. (2018). Anti-racist pedagogy: From faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom. Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(4), 540-554.
Mehta, R., & Aguilera, E. (2020). A critical approach to humanizing pedagogies in online teaching and learning. International Journal of Information & Learning Technology, 37(3), 109–120.
Pacansky-Brock, M., Smedshammer, M., & Vincent-Layton, K. (2020). Shaping the Futures in Digital Age: Humanizing Online Teaching to Equitize Higher Education. Current Issues in Higher Education, 21c, 1–19.
Tobin, T, &.,Behling. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Morgantown: West Virginia Press