Teaching Inclusively

InclusivityInclusivity is a way of approaching teaching that minimises barriers to participation so that all students may achieve their full potential.

An inclusive curriculum consists of programmes of study that are developed, designed, delivered and assessed in a way that minimises barriers to participation and embraces diversity.

Equal opportunities is not about treating everyone the same. It is about recognising that people have different needs and that some people suffer greater levels of disadvantage and discrimination than others do. In the curriculum, it is about positively responding to ‘diversity’ and ensuring equality of opportunities in terms of access, treatment and outcomes. (Ryan,1997, p.5 in Healy at al, 2006)

An inclusive curriculum minimises the possibility of disadvantaging international students. Teaching from an inclusive perspective means minimising the barriers to learning and understanding for students with disabilities and students whose first language is not English. Approaching teaching from an inclusive perspective will therefore improve the learning experience for all students.

An inclusive curriculum also encompasses the social model of disability. This model shifts the focus away from what is ‘wrong’ with an individual and towards the attitudes and structures of society – in other words, disability is a social state and not a medical condition to be ‘treated’. The social model of disability focuses on the barriers created by society and the ways in which these can be reduced and removed, and the following short video explains the is idea further:

A checklist for teaching inclusively

Although teaching from an inclusive perspective can sometimes seem daunting at first, once you make a change to your teaching practice it quickly becomes second nature. Think of it as similar to passing your driving test: at first you are hyper-sensitive to everything as you are concentrating hard, but as your confidence grows you perform a great many tasks automatically.

The following checklist is intended to provide you with goals to aim for in your teaching. You won’t be able to achieve all of them straight away, so begin with the ones that seem achievable (removing lots of text from Powerpoint slides is often a good place to start!).  You can also download this checklist for reference.

  • Always assume that you have disabled students on your course who have not disclosed their disability. If you follow general good practice guidelines for disabled students and for speakers of English as a second language then you will be inclusive in your teaching practice for all students.
  • Provide unit information in advance (e.g. aims and objectives, learning outcomes, timetable of sessions). Including information about learning and teaching or assessment modes will help students understand what they are expected to be able to do and at what standard.
  • Provide an outline of teaching sessions in advance (electronically and as hard copy) so that students have some prior knowledge about material to be used.
  • Provide all new terminology in advance (e.g. via an online glossary).
  • Check the accessibility and facilities of teaching rooms before using them.
  • Provide clear instructions for any activities, indicating what you expect the students to do. Use clear language and support vocabulary development.
  • Make sure all instructions are given both verbally and visually.
  • Avoid making changes to day/room/time except in exceptional circumstances. If changes have to be made ensure important announcements are made in a variety of ways.
  • Face students when you are talking and try not to cover your mouth with your hands as this makes it difficult for lip readers to understand you.
  • Provide suitable breaks during activities.
  • Repeat questions asked by students so that everyone can benefit from the question and answer.
  • sony-ux-voice-recorderAllow students to record sessions this enables them to fill in some of the gaps in their notes/memory, or to re-listen to a point which may not have been clear at the time. Alternatively, ask a student to take notes that record the key points and make these available to all students electronically.
  • Ensure you are aware of any known disabled students on your course; you may need to be proactive in finding out this information and should provide repeated opportunities for students to declare.
  • Talk to disabled students about what is best for them.
  • Seek advice from disability support staff.
  • Use sans serif font (e.g. Arial, Tahoma) on lecture/seminar/demonstration notes (minimum 12pt) and PowerPoint presentations (minimum 24pt).
  • Use coloured paper for printouts as it enhances contrast and thus is easier to read than white paper.
  • Bad-Powerpoint-SlideDo not crowd your PowerPoint presentations with too much text or unnecessary visual gimmicks.
  • Break up text with visuals (e.g. graphs, images, diagrams).
  • Explain charts and diagrams both verbally and visually.
  • Make lecture/seminar/demonstration notes or a summary of these available in advance (electronically or as hard copy).

Activity-specific advice

Practice/work-based learning

  • Ensure there is sufficient time for planning practice-/work-based learning for disabled students (you may require more time for placing a disabled student, so allocation for disabled students should be prioritised).
  • Discuss the student’s support needs with the practice- or work-based assessor/supervisor (with the permission of the disabled student).
  • Incorporate details of adjustments or support offered to disabled students into placement agreements.
  • Develop virtual or observation alternatives where appropriate
  • Consider flexible timetabling – some students may need longer to carry out practical work
  • Provide safety instructions, outlines of class content, and room maps before class

Group work

  • Discuss options and advise on adjustments with disabled students and other group members.
  • Adjust assessment criteria and methods where necessary.
  • Consider a subject mentor where appropriate.
  • Students will know most about their own disability and how to manage it. Identify “experts” within own dept/HEI for advice and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. (Jane Wray, University of Hull).

Tutorials and seminars

  • Provide discussion materials in advance so students can prepare themselves.
  • Try to ensure that the seating arrangements allow all students to be visible to each other.
  • Try to ensure that only one student speaks at a time and make reasonable adjustments if there are disabled students present (e.g. if there is a sight-impaired student present, it may be appropriate for everyone to say their name before making a comment).

Further Resources

Learning to Teaching Inclusively – this three-part course developed by the University of Wolverhampton provides an opportunity to explore issues of inclusive teaching and curriculum design.

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