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Course Design Blueprint

An Inclusive curriculum

What is inclusive learning and teaching, and why is it important? 

Inclusive learning and teaching recognises all students' entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences. 

HEA (2015), The Framework for student access, retention, attainment and progression in higher education.

University populations are increasingly diverse, and our approaches to learning teaching and assessment must acknowledge and respect that different groups of students learn best in different ways; progressing at different rates. Taking an inclusive approach to our teaching will enable all students to reach their potential and enjoy the best possible learning experience; for them. Inclusive teaching means that we:

  • respect the diversity of our students, `
  • remove barriers that might prevent them from learning,
  • ensure that our curriculum reflects a diversity of backgrounds and cultures,
  • ensure that different learning needs are actively supported and met. 

Our University is committed to tackling inequality and exclusion, and this is demonstrated through our Equality and Diversity work. This commitment also evident in our Access and Participation Plan, which sets out a range of targets and written commitments to reduce and eliminate gaps in access, success and progression. 

The concepts presented here are developed further in the content section.

Key principles of Inclusive learning, teaching and assessment

A inclusive curriculum is one which is accessible conceptually and practically, enabling all students to recognise themselves and their cultures in the curriculum, and to develop skills and confidence to positively contribute to a global and diverse environment. Truly inclusive learning and teaching must be considered as a core principle through all elements of the course, module, assessment and delivery design. 

Creating an environment that is inclusive for all students

When a learning environment is inclusive for all students, it contributes to them being:

  • clear about what is expected of them, what they need to do and what they need to achieve
  • confident that they can participate in a range of learning activities
  • able to understand their own progress and identify and communicate where they may need additional support or development
  • engaged and motivated to learn. 

To achieve, it is helpful to consider each of the following elements. Click each piece of the puzzle to find out more about each

Flexible Consistent Equitable Collaborative Personalised Diverse

Four steps to an inclusive environment and curriculum

Thinking about who your students are is the first step in designing an inclusive learning environment and curriculum. Regardless of group size, we can think about the following:

  • what level of study are they? What skills and knowledge do they need to be able to demonstrate at each level of study? What is reasonable now?
  • what have they already learned? How will this learning add to that - and lay the foundations for future study?
  • are all students likely to have the same prior learning? Have they come from different disciplinary backgrounds? 
  • how will students be assessed? What is the best way to assess this particular piece of learning? 
  • are there common required adjustments for disabled students? How can these be mitigated?

You will know some of these things from your experiences of teaching previous years and from student feedback, but it may be possible to find out more. Consider speaking with colleagues in Student Life or Library and Learning Services to learn about some of the challenges which prompt students to seek support. You could also consider asking your Student Experience Ambassador to run an activity with your students. 

How you communicate with students and what you communicate impacts students' learning. It also creates an impression of how well the course and learning is organised and managed. Clear communication helps to ensure that students understand what is expected of them in terms of engagement and participation, use of resources and learning materials, access to additional support and of course assessment. Inclusive communication means:
  • you have established an environment in which students feel able to and are encouraged to ask questions and try out their ideas
  • respectful, constructive, critical discussion is promoted and appropriate language is clarified when sensitive topics are discussed
  • language used is respectful of different student identities
  • learning is clearly connected, so students understand why they are learning something and how to relates to previous learning, future learning and the particular assessment.
Accessible teaching means that different students, with different or no learning differences can all participate in, access and benefit from learning, materials and support without barriers. Sometimes students will need reasonable adjustments which we can not anticipate, but there are often common accessibility requirements for disabled students which can be anticipated. By doing so, you can:
  • help all student, by making materials easier to access and read, meaning they are better able to prepare and participate, increasing autonomy in learning
  • reduce the time needed to adapt materials or learning for particular students after teaching or diagnosis has occurred
  • reduce the need for students to have to disclose a disability, request extenuating circumstances or be impacted by any delays in getting the support and access they are entitled to.
Simple steps in increasing the accessibility of your teaching include uploading lecture or seminar resources in advance, recording lectures or seminars with transcripts, and ensuring all of your uploaded materials meet the requirements of the Accessibility Regulations. Guidance is available online
Diversifying your teaching can mean different things. It can mean:
  • using different materials and resource types, e.g. text, video, images, objects
  • using different methods for feedback, e.g., written, video, peer assessment
  • invite a range of ways for students to demonstrate their learning, e.g., presentations (live or pre-recorded), group work, written assessment, debates.
Giving students choice in how they doing things can be motivating and promote engagement as well as promote participation through increased accessibility. It is good practice to discuss options and choices with students so the choices available make sense and are not overwhelming. Always provide further guidance.