It is really important to understand what inclusive education is and want to make a difference but this can feel overwhelming without the practical guidance for support. This section provides the ‘how to’ help for colleagues seeking to transform and enhance their teaching and learning processes and practices. Each section provides focussed guidance on how to implement strategies and approaches to assist the development of inclusive practice. The EDI Resource Bank and the Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute’s LETSS Toolkit are two useful places to visit to find out more about inclusive education and its application.
Discover additional areas of application below:
Inclusion by design is a term used to understand the relationship between the built environment and the quality of people’s lives. The design of spaces and things contribute to broader issues of belonging, inequalities, exclusion, and security. For university’s the design of a degree programme and its associated modules is significant to how principles of inclusive education can be facilitated and implemented. When designing programmes, the following aspects should be considered:
- The purpose and ethos of the degree.
- The structure of the degree and whether it is designed to facilitate belonging and togetherness.
- The extent to which programme and module outcomes respond to challenges surrounding equality, equity, inclusion, diversity, and decolonisation.
- The way in which the structure facilitates culturally diverse experiences (such as field visits, guest speakers and engaging in university activities around internationalisation).
- The way in which language is utilised and positioned within the programme and what are the expectations and support available for students in relation to this. Further support and guidance can also be found at the International College for this.
This section focuses on how to transform a programme’s curriculum through its pedagogic design. This area relates to the ‘liberation’ of the curriculum (UCL, 2022) and curriculum enhancement which ‘centres rather than others’ (LSE, 2022). Transforming the curriculum is about challenging traditional modes, methods and materials within teaching and learning practices and structures. Transformation involves reflecting upon what has happened in the past in order to challenge and address inequities in the present. It is important to ask – what is the programme intended to do? It is also important to reflect on ways in which programme structure, module design and curriculum is varied, critical and inclusive. This may involve considering how students will see themselves reflected in their course curriculum. Think about how the curriculum allows for students and colleagues to actively challenge traditional hierarchies of knowledge. Consider the way in which diversity in theories, images, content, reading lists and speakers is projected within the course content and design.
It is important that an inclusive education approach is taken when creating and implementing a teaching and learning strategy. This can be thought about in relation to why, what, who and how information is being taught. Also, it is important to consider in what capacity, platform or manner is the content intended to be received? It may be useful to think about the following:
- The format, media and way content are designed, produced and communicated to students.
- The opportunity for students and staff to discuss and critically reflect upon issues of social justice and inequity.
- The plurality and breadth of knowledge presented from across the world.
- It is important to look at both the formal (modules, content, design) and hidden (ethos and learning environment) approaches to teaching and learning (Arshad, 2021).
- Understanding how students may see themselves reflected in taught content, materials, and images.
- Your own personal delivery approach and methods of engagement (whose voices are heard in the classroom? who speaks? who does what?).
Assessment and feedback should align to the University’s Assessment Charter. Furthermore, the programme’s assessment and feedback strategy should consider whether the assessment portfolio is diverse and varied in terms of types of assessment, engagement expectations and collaborative opportunities. Consideration should be made to the appropriateness of assessment (formative and summative) at each level, its support mechanisms and how student development is managed. It is important to examine assessment criteria and the expectation of ‘standard English use’ and how this is weighted or positioned. Greater emphasis on ‘communication’ rather than compliance with traditional ‘academic standards’ may offer greater flexibility and inclusivity. Think about how/if student experiences and voice are reflected in student assessment. Student support and how communication of assessment and feedback is delivered should be considered in relation to inclusivity. This may include how it has been communicated, the clarity of language used and appropriate levels of support.
Hagerty et al., (1992, 172) describe sense of belonging as ‘the experience of personal involvement in a system or environment so that persons feel themselves to be an integral part of that system or environment’. In connection with higher education, therefore, sense of belonging is the extent to which a student has an affinity and positive connection with the university, their course and their peers and tutors. Sense of belonging has been correlated with the extent to which life is perceived meaningful (see Lambert et al., 2013). A sense of social acceptance is also integral to belonging (Freeman, Anderman and Jensen, 2010) and sense of belonging is viewed as critical in relation to student retention rates (O’Keeffe, 2013).
When seeking to instil a strong sense of belonging within university modules and programmes it is important to consider the following aspects:
- How does the course offer wider sources of satisfaction and meaning, beyond traditional ‘learning’ practices?
- How is inclusive education embedded within the programme design?
- What role models or support systems are in place for students to be inspired by and reach out to?
- Does the programme in terms of content, design and structure present diversity of lifestyles, cultures and ways of being?
- What extra-curricular opportunities are available for students and colleagues to meet outside of timetabled sessions?
- In what way are student interactions and experiences embedded into the programme design?
- How are students expected to engage with the teaching and learning on the programme?
- What opportunities are available for students to share their experiences and connect with peers and educators alike?
The Digital Education Team have developed a range of evidence-informed practices and resources to help you develop and design accessible and inclusive teaching and learning materials. In general the key things to remember when thinking about digital accessibility and inclusive practices are:
- Creating accessible learning content is both a moral and legal responsibility for everyone.
- Accessible content benefits everyone, not just those with explicit disabilities. Accessible and inclusive teaching is better teaching.
- The University of Lincoln has a dedicated, mandatory training course on digital accessibility that will demonstrate the impact of accessibility barriers to staff and students and provides easy to implement guidance.
- Consider the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, disabilities, and learning differences that students will approach your module or programme with.
- Think about how digital tools could help to address areas of potential exclusion (recording lectures, pre-recorded sessions, use of alt-text, audible options, colour and contrast, etc).
- Inclusive education is a conscious effort to be flexible and give our students options to interact with our teaching in a way that suits them best.
It is important to consider students as producers, co-creators, partners and collaborators within teaching and learning spaces and practices. If students are active in their own learning, engaged with their course and committed to shaping their own experiences then satisfaction, belonginess and wellbeing will be high. There are many ways in which programme design, content, delivery and assessment can celebrate and represent students and their voices. The following list provides some starting points for consideration:
- Listen to students, hear what they have to say and know them and their experiences through engagement.
- Where appropriate ensure educational activities are contemporary, thought-provoking, diverse and international.
- Employ a diverse range of teaching styles to encourage active student participation.
- Utilise a diverse range of assessment styles and platforms to encourage ‘voice’ to be represented across various forms and formats.
- Think about formulating activities and /or assessments which ask students to express themselves/their experiences and/or their own values and traditions.
- Create flexible learning opportunities to empower students to share their voice in a comfortable environment.
- Use assessments to actively challenge inequalities and allow students the freedom to problem solve and address wider-social issues.
- Facilitate extra-curricular opportunities for students to learn and gain new experiences outside of the standard classroom environment.
As an example, students in the School of Education have created digital outputs focusing on inclusion and exclusion in education as part of their third-year assessments. This assessment allowed for student voice to be embedded within the assessment design as well as positively contributing to the development of students’ future skills. The students’ finished work can be found here in relation to ‘what inclusion means to us’ and also a video about creating inclusive teaching resources. These videos provide a tangible example of how issues relating to inclusive education can be innovatively embedded into curriculum and assessment design and content.
It is important that newly validated degree programmes and refreshed and revised ones relate to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). The University of Lincoln will require all programmes that are due to undertake a Re/Validation to complete an ‘exercise’ which will encourage Programme Teams to reflect upon many areas covered within this resource hub. It is expected that re/validation events will ask Programme Teams to address and ‘talk to’ specific EDI issues that directly relate to their own subject disciplines. This Inclusive Education Resource Hub provides support and guidance to assist Programme Teams in working towards the creation and development of ‘inclusive’ programmes. For more information about this process and the expectations around it please contact Dr Hanya Pielichaty (Director of Student Inclusion, Eleanor Glanville Institute).
It is important that inclusive educational practices are implemented thoughtfully and with evidence and care. Being able to build and develop critical academic skills to support and guide decisions and actions linked to inclusive education is highly valuable. The University of Lincoln Library and our proactive librarians are the best placed to aid colleagues in the development and progress of critical thinking and academic skills in this area. Oonagh Monaghan is the librarian for the Eleanor Glanville Institute and is a valuable point of contact for this resource hub.