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: ready to respond
Able to respond to a diverse and changing student body and the individual needs and preferences of students.
- Writing learning outcomes which do not specify or limit learning, teaching or assessment methods and tasks.
- Being student-centred, rather than content-centred, accommodating student preferences and needs when designing and selecting activities and tasks.
- Developing more than one assessment method for each task, and consider how to enable an element of student choice in which to take
- Varying your engagement methods and activities which acknowledges students' preferences for different learning styles.
- Involving students in the design and review of teaching and learning activities and use their ongoing feedback on teaching to improve next week's teaching.
Consistent: ensuring a coherent course experience for all
Administration, organisation, teaching, learning and assessment are easy to understand across the course promoting course cohesion and identity.
- Revising documentation each year in response to the formal and informal feedback you receive from students.
- Forming a diverse course documentation group and involving students in writing documentation and testing it is clear and comprehensible.
- Avoiding colloquialisms, jargon and acronyms and be preemptive in explaining them where they do occur.
- Taking a consistent course-centred approach to designing teaching to simplify and promote course-level engagement for all students.
- Setting time aside to promote and value student course reps.
Equitable: accessible, engaging and enhancing for all
Ensure any student can fully participate and benefit from the course experience to realise their potential.
- Working with students to establish reasonable and challenging expectations for all.
- Encouraging all students to make good use of lecture notes, slides and handouts beforehand by publishing them at least 24 hrs prior to teaching.
- Raising questions and ideas in advance of teaching so that, in the time you spend together, ideas can be explored more deeply and understanding is developed more than knowledge.
- Encouraging students to try different methods of recording presentations, interventions and discussions, and to share and review these with peers.
- Print all course information and handouts on cream paper to aid readability, especially for dyslexic students.
- Encouraging and enabling revision and review of lectures/seminars by recording them and providing transcribed podcasts on Blackboard.
- Reducing the number of time-limited assessments by scheduling at course level and ensuring that there is more than enough time allocated for any student to do their best and extra time for disabled students becomes largely redundant.
Collaborative: promoting authentic student engagement
Enabling and developing a dynamic and supportive community of practice to mutual benefit.
- Exploring, developing and negotiating student and staff expectations at the outset of teaching by producing a course 'charter' or set of communally agreed ground rules.
- Involving students in the planning and delivery of the course, as well as its evaluation.
- Using negotiated assessment as a learning activity, involving students in assessment design (including methods, briefing, criteria and feedback) aligned to learning outcomes. This will also improve assessment design.
- Using peer assisted learning so that each student learns about the value of being supportive and supported.
- Using work-related learning so that each student learns about their capabilities and forms a plan for their long-term development needs.
- Being clear about team design so that group tasks can draw on individual and collective differences and strengths, while developing capacity to challenge and address weaknesses.
- Involving employers, international students, staff and partners in student learning through video conferencing and webinars, podcasting, authentic assignment setting, case studies, etc.
Personalised: recognising the value of personal difference
Getting to know students, fostering a sense of belonging and creating a variety of opportunities for individuals to shine.
- Exploring the personal strengths and preferences of students and how they can use these as they address their weaker attributes. •
- Supporting and encouraging students as active members of their learning community e.g. through 'learning cells' or 'think-pair-share' activities.
- Using diagnostic formative tasks to promote safe personal reflective engagement early in the course.
- Providing timely personalised feedback. Use electronic and oral methods to improve access and to heighten personal engagement amongst staff and students.
- Negotiating individual assessment methods and criteria. Adding a personalised criterion can heighten the relevance of a task for example. •
- Using methods for personal engagement that do not raise anxiety unnecessarily, e.g. Post-it notes, written questions to a forum, etc. •
- Allocating students to small groups at first, supporting and managing group work closely to provide clarity and confident participation in discussions and presentations.
Diverse: awareness of diversity and global issues
Encouraging students to develop awareness of each others' cultural and learning differences, appreciating diversity as a life-wide and lifelong opportunity and one which is increasingly important globally.
- Recognising and discussing cultural variety among your students and the ways in which knowledge is culturally constructed.
- Being explicit about academic standards, expected practice and engagement, valuing student interactivity.
- Being explicit about the formative value of assessment and the need for students to gradually assume responsibility for their learning.
- Providing model answers, highlighting and recognising methods of engagement to set expectations.
- Providing a rationale and explanation for practices which may be unfamiliar, e.g. awarding marks for critical thinking, the purpose of referencing, the discursive essay, the nature of literature reviews, etc.
- Actively mixing and pairing students of different backgrounds to break down barriers, build group dynamics and ensure intercultural learning, and highlighting the value to employability.
- Value cultural diversity by choosing culturally diverse examples relevant to your course, particularly embracing non-European cultures and issues.
There are four steps to making an inclusive learning environment:
- Find out about your students: who are they? what do they need to achieve? what skills and knowledge do they need to develop through the lifetime of their course, and what is appropriate at each level of study? what have they already studied? how will they be assessed? what are common requirements fo disabled students on this course and this module?
- Communicate effectively with your students: establish clear expectations for participation, the desirable qualities of work they produce, how they should use resources. Clear communication also means making it clear to students why they are studying particular concepts or topics and how they relate or build on previous or upcoming learning. It helps to empower students and help them feel able to ask questions, promotes respectful, critical and constructive discussion and establishes modes of communication and language which is respectful of different student identities.
- Make teaching accessible: this means removing barriers to participation, access and engagement for disabled students and implementing common reasonable adjustments. Whenever we remove all common barriers in this way we proactively anticipate. We can give all students greater autonomy in their learning and reduce the need for students to need to disclose a disability.
- Diversify our teaching: through the use of different kinds of materials, e.g., texts, images, videos, which increase the accessibility of learning resources. We can provide feedback to students in different ways e.g., through peer assessment, written comments or video feedback and ask them how they would prefer to access feedback - meaning they may be more likely to understand and apply it in later work. We can also give our students a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning while also developing wider skills in writing, presenting, working collectively as a team.