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Patterns Beyond Labels

What is it?

Patterns Beyond Labels (PBL) is a strategy to creating a teaching and learning space that is inclusive and accessible to all students. PBL looks beyond the stigma and shadow of a label and sees that marginalised students do not experience distinctly different challenges than those of the wider student cohort, instead 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 marginalised students then all students will benefit.

How you can apply it?

Patterns Beyond Labels works by identifying patterns in difficulty across three key areas or lenses of inclusion:

  • Physical inclusion: this refers to the learning environment and access to learning. This could mean physical access or sensory access. For example, ramp access to buildings; recording of lectures.
  • Cultural inclusion: this refers to the content we teach and the examples we use. This can also refer to “Hidden Curriculum” or hidden rules that not everyone will have been introduced to or have access to. For example, having examples that are relevant to your students; decolonising curricula.
  • Cognitive inclusion: this 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.

Ways to spot patterns

  • Look for ‘patterns’ linked to challenges/barriers in student Disabilty Action Plans (DAPs) and across your cohort more generally, drawing on your own knowledge and expertise of your cohort/subject discipline
  • The ‘challenges’ learners with disabilities face are often exaggerated version of challenges all learners face. 
  • Start small– work with students over time to make improvements. 

By recognising patterns we can support our marginalised students as well as our wider community of students.

Can you spot the pattern?

Below are the name and profiles of 5 students. The students have different backgrounds, but can you spot a pattern in the challenges/barriers they may have?

Activties for Teaching Teams

1. Identifying patterns in challenges across student groups

  1. As a team, identify common patterns in challenges/barriers in your co-horts. You can identify these by looking through Disabilty Action Plans (DAPs), issues brought up in Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMCs) claims or by reflecting on the students in your courses.
  2. Discuss which areas/lenses the different challenges fit under (Physical, Cultural, Cognitive).
  3. Consider whether these barriers fit under one or more area/lens.

2. Removing, reducing or rethinking the challenges

  1. Now that you have identified common patterns in barriers and the areas/lenses they fit under, you may see that differentiation would benefit more than just an individual student.
  2. As a team, reflect on these challenges and consider if the barrier is something you can remove, reduce or rethink.

Remember, inclusive education incorporates teaching delivery, learning activities, resources and assessment.​ Often we think of inclusion as relating specifically to one aspect of our practice, such as creating a worksheet which is accessible.​ At its most powerful, inclusive education represents a way of thinking which underpins all areas of teaching and learning. 

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