Creating Inclusive Classrooms Through Experiential Learning

By: Mugdha Yeolekar  

Over the past decade, I have taught world religions to international students in Los Angeles. From my conversations with these students, I realized that international students in particular have a challenging time with their studies, research, and social life in a host country. This goes far beyond English proficiency. International students feel lost on university campuses despite being fluent in English in their initial years. For example, a Turkish undergraduate student shared with me that she felt shy to speak up in the classroom. The competitive environment in classroom and her status of a non-native English speaker had led her to insularity of a type. In this paper, I will discuss several ways in which I have used experiential learning as a vantage point to create inclusionary dialogues in my classroom. One of my goals as an instructor is to introduce students to the diversity of human existence and experience by assigning mainstream and folk reading materials. I also aim at creating spaces for direct encounters with the “other.” For example, during a discussion of Hindu calendrical festivals, I introduced my students to Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and later I organized a Holi celebration on university campus. Further, my ethnographic assignments such as the "ritual mapping exercise" provide opportunities to engage with the city, the urban landscape, and with diverse populations. Ultimately, this paper will discuss curricular and instructional frameworks that educators can employ in order to create a multicultural, international, and global education.

global education, diversity
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mugdha Yeolekar

Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, California State University at Fullerton, United States
United States