Reflective question – Is inclusive learning and teaching simply good teaching?

In advance of meeting a group of students for the first time, I print out a sheet of paper with their names on it and space for me to fill out details I ask them – eg: What is their preferred name (Thomas may prefer to be called Tom), what interests them about the subject, what is their favourite film etc. I have found it to be a good way for me to instantly start putting faces to names and begin understanding individual motivations. It is also a good way of removing some barriers from the very beginning by encouraging students to talk about themselves in front of each other and for them to see that I am interested in them as individuals.

I think a good starting point for inclusivity is to identify where individual learners sit within Blooms Taxonomy and to ensure tasks / stretch and challenge objectives can be diverse and set according to individual capabilities. Can a student – Remember / Understand / Apply / Analyse / Evaluate / Create
This is quite a useful resource related to Bloom’s Taxonomy: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

I think inclusivity can also link to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
As a teacher we must ensure a) basic needs are met – Our students feel secure within a safe working environment b) psychological needs are met – We include positive reinforcement within our teaching and feedback (link to Behaviourist theory) c) As a consequence of teachers ensuring a & b, students will achieve self-fulfilment needs and be able to work to their full potential.
For more information on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: http://highgatecounselling.org.uk/members/certificate/CT2%20Paper%201.pdf

Linking a student perspective to the six pillars and theoretical approaches –
Importance of adding context to learning (clear objectives and link to embedded employability)
Engage with students and get to know their background to enable levels of personalisation and diversity within curriculum development (links to Intercultural and International engagement)
Encourage the process of learning from each other (social constructivist)
Make connections between learning environment, community and other courses (community responsibility)

I believe that diversity is closely linked to inclusivity. It’s about appreciating different skill sets, strengths, interests, backgrounds and cultures that can enhance the learning environment. As a teacher, it’s also about developing resources and focusing on key texts that will include a range of multi-cultural themes with equal representations of age, gender and ethnicities so that they appeal to and engage all students in the learning environment. This also includes ensuring that resources such as PowerPoint slides are SEN compliant, taking into consideration students with disorders such as dyslexia and colour blindness

Lea (2015) acknowledges that diversity is about broadening the student profile and developing strategies to engage with everyone. As HE demographics change it is important to ensure diversity is considered within curriculum development as previously, certain cultures and groups may have felt excluded from HE environments.

Lea, J (2015) Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Open University Press

I am aware that within a cohort of students some learners may have undisclosed disabilities which although may be regarded as minor, can still become a barrier to learning – Issues like dyslexia or colourblindness can cause a student to feel excluded from some learning resources and it may be that they don’t wish to draw attention to this. I once had a really bright and capable student who as the exams approached informed me that she had been struggling with some of my resources because she was colour blind! I felt awful that I had unwittingly excluded her from aspects of the learning. As a consequence I did some research into accessibility issues and now ensure that my resources such as PowerPoint slides are all SEN compliant – In consideration to dyslexic students I avoid using black text on white background, I think about font size, choice of type face and number of words on a slide etc. In consideration to colourblind students I avoid using red and green on the same slide etc. These are minor adjustments but they subtly help to ensure inclusivity for all learners without drawing attention to issues or singling anyone out.

I also keep reminding myself not to use subjective words such as ‘easy’ when describing something to students. I’m aware that subjective language can be quite divisive as it assumes one universal ability / understanding level.

I think getting to know the interests and motivations of individual students is a really important part of creating an inclusive and welcoming learning environment. Encouraging students to share their experiences and little bits about their personalities is a good starting point – Using that knowledge to develop resources which evidence consideration of inclusivity also helps students to feel valued. It’s really great when links can be made between individual experience and student learning – eg – As a result of having a student from Lithuania I am able to open a discussion about several issues using the example of a current rebranding marketing campaign aimed at promoting the capital city Vilnius as ‘The g-spot of Europe – No one knows where it is but when you find it, it’s amazing’ – This has opened up seminar discussions around topics such as gender stereotypes, censorship, obscenity, national identity, representation etc. It has also encouraged other students to bring forward different examples related to their own national identities.