What do we mean by “inclusive practice”?
Inclusive teaching and learning practices are increasingly being promoted across Higher Education to support initiatives to widen participation to all students, including, among other things,
- Students from non-traditional backgrounds who may have arrived at university through access programmes
- Disabled students
- Students with caring or parental responsibilities
- Students who commute onto campus
- Students experiencing ill health
- International students who do not have English as a first language
The Higher Education Academy references some research from May and Bridger in their 2010 publication on inclusive learning and teaching in Higher Education to explain its purpose
... [Inclusive practice] necessitates a shift away from supporting specific student groups through a discrete set of policies or time-bound interventions, towards equity considerations being embedded within all functions of the institution and treated as an ongoing process of quality enhancement. Making a shift of such magnitude requires cultural and systemic change at both the policy and practice levels.
(May and Bridger, 2010, p.6)
As central government funding to individual disabled students has been reduced since 2015 the onus has been place on Higher Education Providers (HEPs) to deliver more of their teaching and learning inclusively so as to reduce the need to implement individual reasonable adjustments. This approach is consistent with the social model of disability, which states that disability is a societal construct and that the vast majority of barriers faced by disabled people can be circumvented through better design and proactive approaches as opposed to retrofitted measures, whether they be associated with physical access or engaging with a curriculum.
For the work of a disability support service, this need to be more inclusive would not merely mean a more physically accessible campus, i.e. one where disabled students can access all buildings, but one where the majority of students can access their teaching and learning without the need for rafts of individual reasonable adjustments. One example of this would be recording lectures so that all students can rewatch them at their own pace without creating a ‘special’ procedure for disabled students.
Looking at the figure below (taken from the Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence report produced by the Disabled Students’ Sector Leadership Group in January 2017), the middle section of this pyramid would eventually disappear completely if a university moved to a truly inclusive way of delivering its teaching and learning. Such an approach would remove the administrative burden on both the university and the student and make for a more seamless student experience.
Inclusive teaching and learning measures can include
- Embedding the need for teaching to be inclusive in regular curriculum reviews
- Making key learning outcomes explicit to students
- Revisiting existing assessment methods to confirm that they are assessing for the key learning outcomes
- Using lecture capture, (at QMUL this would be Q-review)
- ‘Flipping’ lectures; i.e. using timetabled sessions for interactive work with students with more traditional content posted online via the institution’s virtual learning environment (at QMUL this is QM Plus)
- Using virtual learning environments to post podcasts / audio content for students to relisten to
- Regular, i.e. annual reviews, of reading lists to ensure that books and other materials are still relevant and, wherever possible, available electronically
- Consideration given to making examinations longer for all students – research suggests that this does not confer any advantage on non-disabled students – to make them more inclusive
In April 2016 the university commissioned a research project to investigate how inclusive QMUL’s teaching and learning provision, including its curricula, really are – and how we can become more inclusive as an educational institution.
This original driver for this piece of research was the changes to the way that disabled students’ support was funded (the original announcement being back in 2014), but the brief of what became the Inclusive Curricula, Teaching and Learning at QMUL report was to look at all of students, not just those covered by the protected characteristics of the Equality Act (2010).
What QMUL already does for inclusivity
The university has a plethora of resources which are available to all staff and students which can make a tremendously positive impact on the outcomes of students at Queen Mary University of London. Below is a non-exhaustive list of such services and tools; if you can think of any more please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to this page.
- Learning Development team in Student and Academic Services
- Assistive software available to all students on the teaching service (i.e. ClaroRead and MindView)
- Various ‘well-being activities’, e.g. self-help resources and workshops from Advice & Counselling
- QM Plus
- Reading Lists Online
Other resources and reports
Providing students with an inclusive teaching and learning environment is an agenda being increasingly championed in the sector by the Department for Education, HEFCE and individual universities. Below are some links to reports and guidance documents which colleagues may find helpful.
- Models of support for students with disabilities (report to HEFCE November 2017)
- Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence report produced by the Disabled Students’ Sector Leadership Group (DDSLG) in January 2017
- Delivering opportunities for students and maximising their success (evidence for policy and practice 2015-2020) July 2015: published by HEFCE
- Higher Education Academy guide from 2010
- Inclusive teaching, learning and assessment: research-informed resources, guidance and videos about inclusive teaching and learning (from the University of Plymouth)
- Inclusive Curricula, Teaching, and Learning: Adaptive Strategies for Inclusivity Report (Kara and Persaud)