Creating Inclusive Learning Environments
Issues of race, class, and culture have always been central to the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UChicago UTEP) and, this year, UChicago UTEP has incorporated gender identity and sexuality into its curriculum. UTEP has partnered with LGBTQ educational organizations, such as Illinois Safe Space and the University of Chicago's LGBTQ Student Life office, to learn more about terminology, respectful norms, and barriers LGBTQ students have experienced—aiming to better understand how traditional classroom communities can be improved to better support students who identify as LGBTQ. UTEP has also engaged its students and graduates in inquiry groups, workshops, and coursework designed to foster consideration of and dialogue on how to create classrooms that are inclusive and challenge norms related to the marginalization of members of the LGBTQ community.
Why It Matters
A recent survey by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 75.8 percent of transgender students across the nation feel unsafe at school because of their gender identity. Transgender students were also more likely than cisgender gay, lesbian, and bisexual students to be targeted for bullying. However, work to explicitly address issues of gender identity and sexuality—aspects of students’ identities that have caused many students to feel marginalized in school—remains. According to a recent Education Week survey, more than 4 in 10 teachers report it is challenging to address the “concerns of students who feel that they might be judged negatively based on their identity,” and nearly half reported that “finding strategies to help students who are concerned about fitting in” is challenging. In light of this, more teacher preparation and development programs across the country are aiming to better prepare their candidates to engage with students of different identities.