Teaching inclusively

The University of Konstanz has set itself the goal of promoting inclusion and creating fair study, work and research conditions for all members. To achieve this, the University relies on the commitment and support of all employees. As lecturers, you have a special role to play in shaping teaching in such a way that the University of Konstanz is perceived as a fair and inclusive place. In doing so, you shape and expand the both the career possibilities and the attitude of our future academics.

In our experience, lecturers at the University of Konstanz are generally already intrinsically motivated to make their teaching excellent and inclusive.  We consider the this document as a compilation for supplementary suggestions and for orientation, especially if you are just starting your way as a lecturer, or if you want to further adapt your teaching concepts even after many years of successful teaching. The aim of this document is to enable you to adopt concrete measures from the catalogue of suggestions presented here that best suit your teaching and that you yourself consider important in the context of good teaching.

Why is teaching inclusively important?

Creating inclusion is a broad field of activity. In the context of accessibility, for example, it includes both infrastructural and digital measures. The topic of the experience of discrimination is also an important area. We know that discrimination can arise anywhere and is often unintentional. This is due in part to the fact that we are all subject to perceptual biases and stereotypes that creep into interpersonal interactions. This can lead us to reduce people to certain characteristics, such as skin colour or gender, and therefore treat them differently, leading treat them unfairly. Discrimination can also manifest itself when individuals are excluded from full participation in university life because of their characteristics, for example, because rooms are not accessible or events are held at times that are incompatible for individuals with family responsibilities.

Discrimination can be an ongoing stressor that has numerous negative consequences for those affected by it. In the area of employees, for example, Jones and colleagues' (2016) meta-analysis showed that individuals who experience discrimination report increased stress levels, have less satisfaction with their jobs, feel less belonging to the organization, and are less successful in their career paths than those who experience less or no discrimination. In students, symptoms of trauma have also been shown to be associated with ethnic discrimination in particular (Kirkinis, Pieterse, Martin, Agiliga & Brownell, 2021).

The full discussion of the scientific literature is beyond the scope of this document, rather our goal is to identify a set of concrete actions you can take to create an inclusive atmosphere for your students. We want to show that this diversity of peoples also manifests itself in different needs in order to participate in education and research and present examples of how you can meet these needs.

Practical Approaches for Diversity-Oriented Teaching

Manageability & Transparency

For many students, especially those for whom the academic milieu is new or who have difficulty navigating the German higher education system due to their background, it helps if information is presented in a bundled form to help them find their way around.

Meaningful course description in ZEUS

Describe your course in as much detail as possible in the university's course catalogue before you begin. This will give students a clear idea of what content will be covered, what assessment formats will be used, and what requirements (e.g., time) will be imposed. Of course, often not all of these details are finalized when the course catalogue is created, but the more detailed your course descriptions are, the easier it is for students to assess whether the course is a good fit for them.

Accessibility Information

Ask yourself whether and to what extent your course is accessible to students with disabilities. On the one hand, this can refer to the premises - as far as you can influence this and or know about it early on yourself - or to the materials used. More information on this can be found below under the item "Accessibility". However, it is important that this information be available to students as early as possible to facilitate planning for the semester.


Provide a syllabus as early as possible that includes all relevant information for students. This should ideally include (department-specific) deadlines for registering for the exam, as a reminder. Among other things, you may consider the following:


Establish a point of contact. This can take the form of fixed office hours or alternatively, more flexible offers such as internet platforms (e.g., Discord). Such forms of support must, of course, be balanced with your other commitments, but students should be able to reach you with questions in a relatively timely manner.

Responsiveness to Special Needs

Students with disabilities often feel like a burden when they have to approach each faculty member individually for assistance. An example is the wearing of a "microphone" on the part of the lecturer in order to support students who have a hearing impairment. To reduce the barrier of the particular request, you can communicate an appropriate offer directly in your syllabus, signalling that you are open to being approached about it and willing to assist.

Parents with Children and/or Care Work

If there are no compelling reasons not to do so, it is advisable to also allow the presence of parents with their children. Especially in times when childcare is not always easy to organize or otherwise affordable, it can be a relief for students if they can bring their child to a course and this should be communicated directly in the syllabus. A note that parents with their children should choose a place near the exit in order to, if necessary, be able to leave the room briefly in the event of unrest on the part of the child, is also appropriate here in order to ensure a quiet course of instruction. Additionally, you can indicate your willingness to accommodate students if they have care obligations towards their family that is in conflict with the teaching schedule.


Discuss specifically how your grades are arrived at and how the final grade for your course is composed. If available, you may provide grading sheets (e.g., for assignments or presentations) early in the course. For more details on grading and recommendations, see "Grading and Feedback" below.


Describe the exams in sufficient depth to allow students to prepare. Assume that not all students, especially in the early semesters, have a solid understanding of what a good writing assignment or presentation should look like. Even though some departments now have integrated specific training courses into their degree programs, many students still find themselves unprepared when it comes to writing their first term paper.

If available, you can provide samples of very good exam papers from past semesters or refer to the University's offers of help (e.g., the Writing Tutoring Service).

Exam nerves are a serious problem for many students. Even though you as a lecturer may not be the right person to offer help here, you can refer in your syllabus to further help offered by the university, e.g. the Central Student Advisory Service or especially the Psychotherapeutic Counseling Center of Seezeit.

Exam nerves

Exam nerves are a serious problem for many students. Even though you as a lecturer may not be the right person to offer help here, you can refer in your syllabus to further help offered by the university, e.g. the Central Student Advisory Service or especially the Psychotherapeutic Counseling Center of Seezeit.


List the relevant dates of your course and ideally dates for exam registration and the formalities involved. International students in particular often have a very poor understanding of these formalities and you can easily offer supporting information by including an overview at this point.

Other rules

Create transparency regarding other rules. This can concern simple things, such as the missed deadline, dealing with plagiarism or compulsory attendance. In this way, you not only create transparency for the students, you also safeguard yourself in enforcing these rules.

Assistance Offered by the University, the Departments

The University of Konstanz offers numerous support services for students, which you can also refer to in your syllabus. A list of these offers can be found at the end of this document.

A reusable template of a syllabus can be found below.

Diversity in methods and examinations

When designing your course, in addition to the formal aspects and information described above, you can also take a look at your teaching methods and your exam formats. Students have different strengths when it comes to exams; some do better on multiple choice exams, which tend to require speed and quick decision-making, while others find their strengths in writing longer, well-thought-out texts. By using a variety of methods, you are also more likely to be able to accommodate the diversity of students. Of course, it is usually only possible to offer a limited number of assessment methods within a course, so this must always be considered in the context of your capacities.

A comprehensive discussion of these methods is beyond the scope of this document, so we also recommend that you take advantage of the professional development opportunities offered by Academic Staff Development.

In addition, there is also a reader, "Collection of Methods," developed by Academic Staff Development and the Office of Equal Opportunity, Family Support, and Diversity, which contains many tips and recommendations and can be viewed here (available only in German).

This reader contains many hints and methods that you can use to further improve your teaching and to guide group work and other formats well, for example.

Diversity-appropriate language

We recommend using diversity-appropriate language. We are aware that this is a thoroughly debated topic in society that is no agreed upon by everyone and therefore rely on your discretion in using this. Obviously, if you teach exclusively, the problem of gendered language is much less pronounced than in German. Nonetheless, studies show that inclusive language that uses, for example, the university's recommended gender asterisk (e.g., Mitarbeiter*in instead of Mitarbeiter) instead of the generic German masculine form, elicits better representation in that, for example, women or non-binary people feel more likely to be addressed (Irmen & Linner, 2005; Stahlberg & Sczesny, 2001). 

In order to provide assistance to faculty at the university, a brief "Guideline on Inclusive Language" has been adopted by the university in this regard.

In addition, it is recommended to keep in mind that students also represent the diversity of genders and identities found in our society and have a right to be recognized and treated with respect, e.g., as a-binary, queer, or trans people. Some lecturers feel overwhelmed here due to the complexity of the topic, so we would like to offer you support and refer to the recommendation of the Bundeskonferenz der Frauen- und Gleichstellungsbeauftragen an Hochschulen (bukof). They recommends that lecturers, for example, refrain from using binary forms of address (Dear Sir, Dear Madam...) in written communication and instead use gender-neutral forms of address (e.g. "Hello, Anna Musterfrau" or "Dear Course Participant").

The bukof goes as far as to recommend that lecturers introducing themselves in the beginning of the semester also introduce themselves with their own pronouns in order to demonstrate that this is a normal procedure and to encourage the students to do the same. However, this should remain voluntary for students to avoid forced outings. For more details, see the bukof's recommendation (in German).

Queer and Trans Students

Since 2021, students of the University of Konstanz can change their personal data (e.g. first names, gender and address) within the university with little effort to be more in line with their social gender. Please be accepting of those changes and do not continue to use the old names (so-called "deadnames"). Also, be discreet about the change of gender in public spaces to provide confidentiality to the students. We strongly discourage discussing the change in the seminar room, as it is a very personal and sensitive topic. We have collected additional information about changing gender and first name on our website.


It also doesn't hurt to take a look at the diversity aspect of the content you present. This is where you, as the lecturer, are especially needed, because ultimately only you have the expertise necessary to design the relevant content and prepare it for your students.


This already starts with the selection of relevant literature for a course. Thus, when compiling literature lists, it is advisable to pay attention not only to the expertise of the texts but also to the greatest possible diversity in authorship. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Role-model aspect: students from diverse backgrounds are quicker to recognize authors with similar backgrounds as role models and may be inspired to pursue careers in research themselves (Lawner, Quinn, Camacho, Johnson & Pan-Weisz, 2019).
  2. Gender aspect: authors from diverse backgrounds bring broader perspectives to research. For example, studies led and/or co-authored by female researchers are more likely to examine gender-specific issues, such as the differential effectiveness of medications on female and male biology. As a result, new insights may be gained. Accordingly, where appropriate, literature with diverse female authors also offers broader perspectives (Koning, Samila & Ferguson, 2021).
  3. Cultural aspect: a diverse authorship, especially one that includes authors from non-Western contexts, may be less likely to talk about common paradigms unreflectively and may provide more space for fruitful discussions with students.

Of course, this does not mean that relevant classics or fundamental works should no longer be read simply because they are not diverse enough. Rather, there are good reasons to supplement these classic works with other perspectives to offer students a better picture of scholarly discourse. Of course, only you can evaluate which sources are particularly significant for your course and quality and scientific value should always be the main criteria for inclusion.

Note: Sometimes it can also be useful to look at the history of the classics themselves. For example, Milton Friedman's "A Monetary History of the United States" was co-written with Anna Schwartz, yet only he received the Nobel Prize for this contribution while her contribution was neglected.

Accessible and diversity-friendly materials/images

When creating your materials, in addition to selecting authors, there is also the consideration that they should be both accessible and representative.


Texts, images and slides as well as other material should be designed in such a way that they can be easily used by students with disabilities. According to recommendations of the University of Stuttgart, you can pay attention to the following points, although some of these elements are of course not always easy to influence for the lecturer:

  • Image and sound quality should be clear and without disturbances (especially for e-learning).
  • Additional scripts make lectures much more accessible to the visually impaired, blind, and students with limitations that make it difficult to take notes. An audio recording can also be helpful to the visually impaired and blind, as can materials provided to students in advance of the lecture.
  • Course materials (e.g., recordings) should remain available until the end of the final examinations of the semester.
  • Documents (e.g., texts or slides) should be easily accessible. This means:
    • Documents should be high contrast: white background and black font is optimal. The lighter solid blue with white or black font should be used sparingly, as should avoid combinations of red-green, red-orange, blue-green, etc.
    • Please design your presentation slides as clearly as possible so that even a person who relies on magnification can keep track of them on the screen.
    • Use document templates in Word documents and label chapter headings as such so that they can be read by programs with speech output.
  • Dyslexia can also make it difficult for students to succeed. Using a specific font (e.g., OpenDyslexic or even ComicSans) can increase the readability of your text.
  • More information, especially on accessible online teaching, can also be found here:

Here you will also find further information on the accompanying program StudismitStudis, a tandem offer by students for students with disabilities, mental or chronic illness.

More information on the topic of barrier-free teaching (German only)


Diversity-appropriate images

When using visuals in your teaching, make sure that these materials do not reinforce stereotypes and are designed to be representative, i.e., inclusive of minorities.

In addition, when using images, we recommend that you provide them with machine-readable descriptions so that people who rely on verbal rendering by a computer can perceive them.

Direct contact

Discussion Culture

As a lecturer, you are in a position to significantly shape the discussion culture in your courses. In this respect, there are significant differences between different groups of people in terms of their willingness and ability to participate in discussions. You can set rules that allow people who are otherwise more reserved to participate. One example of this is to allow a cooling-off period for questions posed to the group. This gives people who tend to think more deeply or are shy enough time to consider an answer. Also, we generally recommend that when interacting with students to make sure that everyone gets a fair amount of participation in the discussion. This can sometimes be difficult if the interaction in the seminar is very much dependent on a few, very active, participants. But especially here it is often essential to give the students time, if necessary also with the possibility to discuss among themselves, in order to avoid the verbal dominance of a few individual participants.

Grading and Feedback

As mentioned in the syllabus, it is very important for students to understand how their grades were arrived at. This includes, on the one hand, clearly describing in the syllabus the formalities according to which the grade is composed. On the other hand, you should formulate clear instructions as to how assignments should look. For example, it can be very useful to specify a citation style (e.g., APA or Harvard Style) and to determine formatting principles, but also to make clearly formulated demands on the quality of the sources and to record this accordingly in the Syllabus. Assume that not all students, especially at the beginning of their studies, have an understanding of the qualitative differences between, for example, peer-reviewed studies and non-systematically compiled textbooks or simple news articles.


We recommend that you use a standardized grading sheet for grading assignments, in which the categories according to which you grade are established on the one hand and clearly defined on the other. This not only helps you to remain as objective as possible when grading, it also allows you to share this grading sheet with students in advance so that they can get an idea of how you will grade their performance. After the assignments have been graded, such sheets can also be used to provide specific feedback to students, thus serving several useful functions at once: They create transparency, increase objectivity, and enable targeted feedback.

Anonymization of examination results

Our final tip: If possible, have assignments submitted anonymously, e.g. by requiring only the enrolment number and not the student's name. Of course, this is only useful for assignments that are not held in person (e.g. verbal examinations) and also has the limitation that the lecturer may still be able to recognize the student from the topic of a term paper. In the vast majority of cases, however, anonymization allows you to evaluate work without a connection to the person, eliminating a possible bias that could work both in favour and against the student (Malouff & Thorsteinsson, 2016).

Support for faculty and students

With all the suggestions you have read so far, it is understandable if you feel a bit overwhelmed. For this reason, we would like to offer you another list of supports and contact persons* at the university who can help you to make your teaching diversity-friendly.

Unfortunately, some of these documents are not yet available in English.

Support for Students

The following represents a selection of support offers for students which you can either include in your Syllabus or use to refer struggling students to the help they require.



Irmen, L. & Linner, U. (2005). Die Repräsentation generisch maskuliner Personenbezeichnungen. Zeitschrift für Psychologie / Journal of Psychology, 213(3), 167–175. doi.org/10.1026/0044-3409.213.3.167

Kirkinis, K., Pieterse, A. L., Martin, C., Agiliga, A. & Brownell, A. (2021). Racism, racial discrimination, and trauma: a systematic review of the social science literature. Ethnicity & Health, 26(3), 392–412. doi.org/10.1080/13557858.2018.1514453

Koning, R., Samila, S. & Ferguson, J.‑P. (2021). Who do we invent for? Patents by women focus more on women's health, but few women get to invent. Science (New York, N.Y.), 372(6548), 1345–1348. doi.org/10.1126/science.aba6990

Lawner, E. K., Quinn, D. M., Camacho, G., Johnson, B. T. & Pan-Weisz, B. (2019). Ingroup role models and underrepresented students’ performance and interest in STEM: A meta-analysis of lab and field studies. Social Psychology of Education, 22(5), 1169–1195. doi.org/10.1007/s11218-019-09518-1

Malouff, J. M. & Thorsteinsson, E. B. (2016). Bias in grading: A meta-analysis of experimental research findings. Australian Journal of Education, 60(3), 245–256. doi.org/10.1177/0004944116664618

Stahlberg, D. & Sczesny, S. (2001). Effekte des generischen Maskulinums und alternativer Sprachformen auf den gedanklichen Einbezug von Frauen. Psychologische Rundschau, 52(3), 131–140. Zugriff am 06.09.2021. Verfügbar unter: de.fh-muenster.de/gleichstellung/downloads/Generisches_Maskulinum_Stahlberg.pdf