How can we enable students to work in ways that allow them to fulfil their academic potential?

Inclusive teaching is not about lowering standards. Instead, it is about ensuring our students can work in a way that enables them to fulfil their academic potential by enabling them to work effectively in a way that is transparent, efficient, and flexible.

Rethinking the narrative of inclusivity

Problematising inclusion

The term inclusion can be difficult to define and measure (Neely-Barnes and Elswick, 2016: 145), which can result in a lack of clarity regarding how to implement meaningful practical changes.

Whilst the motivation behind inclusive teaching is positive, in reality this can be problematic and daunting when teaching a large cohort of students with potentially very different needs. This is largely due to the fact that the dominant narrative on inclusion focuses on notions of 'individual difference'. Therefore, the challenge for higher education, is to move beyond labels, which seek to categorise individual difference.

Patterns beyond labels

Many students from traditionally marginalised groups will face similar challenges in the context of learning in Higher Education. It is also important to note that these students do not experience distinctly different challenges than those of the wider student cohort. Rather, they often experience a more exaggerated version of the difficulties that all students face. Therefore, if we tailor our teaching and learning to meet the needs of this particular cohort, then all students will benefit. This becomes possible when we identify patterns in difficulty across three key areas of inclusion: Physical, Cultural, and Cognitive.

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Physical inclusion

Refers to the learning environment and access to learning.

For example, ramp access to buildings; recording of lectures.

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Cultural inclusion

Refers to the content we teach and the examples we use.

For example, having examples that are relevant to your students; decolonising curricula.

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Cognitive inclusion

Refers to how students assimilate, process, recall and synthesise the knowledge we impart.

For example, breaking up lectures with interactive activities; mapping out steps in a process.

Further resources and support

Our Curriculum Development Officer can offer specialist support on inclusive learning and teaching.

Please also contact us if you have expertise in this area or if you have research or practical solutions you would like to share.

Abby Osborne

Abby works within the Curriculum Development team to support the University’s Curriculum Transformation with a particular focus on inclusivity.

Contact Abby

A range of helpful resources have been produced by Student Services and the Centre for Learning and Teaching. Some examples are listed below:

A short introductory guide to inclusive practice provided by Student Services.

Quick and easy ways to ensure your teaching resources are accessible to learners.

Learn more about a range of specific learning differences and disabilities with these handy factsheets.

See our guidance and resources on how to create accessible digital content.

Related areas

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Patterns Beyond Labels Workshop

This workshop will enable participants to develop their inclusive learning and teaching practice in a way that is meaningful, practical, and sustainable.

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Support the needs of all learners

Find out more about the many ways in which you can help support the needs of all learners.

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