Inclusive practice is good practice for all students
The University of Tasmania expects that we all adopt an inclusive approach to teaching. This means:
- recognising, accommodating and meeting the learning needs of all our students
- acknowledging that our students have a range of individual learning needs and are members of diverse communities
- avoiding stereotyping students as belonging to specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning
To help you to understand and practice inclusiveness in your teaching, you can follow the Inclusive Practice in 5 'be' statements.
1. Be Approachable
- Introduce yourself to students in a way that connects them to you and your choice to be a lecturer/staff member in this field
- At the first lecture and/or early on in MyLO, introduce your practice and expectations as well as your unit
- Reduce the barriers between you and your students to develop rapport
- Don't underestimate the power of 'just listening'
Katy was about to take her first lecture. She'd just graduated with her PhD in the previous year and was asked to teach a first year Education unit. Katy was excited, but flustered and instead of trying to remain cool about her first day nerves, decided to share the experience with her students. She started by describing where she was at in her career – spoke about her lecturing style and how she intended to cover the topics – then she shared some of her own strategies that might be helpful to other students during their first year of learning. To finish her introduction, Katy told her students what her consultation hours were, and welcomed any of them to make contact if they were having problems or just wanted to share ideas. In essence, Katy reduced the barrier between her as 'lecturer' and the students as 'students' in order to build a rapport of shared understanding and trust, and all students were very clear about Katy's approach and style.
Because Katy's students felt comfortable in approaching her, Tom, a mature age student who had been experiencing recurrent migraines mentioned this to her during a consultation. Katy was able to recommend to Tom that he negotiate a Learning Access Plan with the Support and Equity Unit. The Learning Access Plan was a positive step in supporting Tom's studies whilst he recovered from his health issues.
Veronica is about to complete the second of two university degrees. Having a disability, she has been faced with many challenges during her studies. She singled out those teachers who made the time to listen as those who were the most influential on her ability to succeed.
2. Be Proactive
- Communicate with students with disability early (and directly) where possible
- Provide unit outlines early so they can be accessed by students before semester starts. This may assist students make informed choices when they are unsure if they will be able to meet any inherent requirements. This also allows students to determine where they may need assistive strategies put into place
- Be aware of the support services that are available in your university and how they may be accessed
- Provide an orientation to laboratory/workshop/tutorials/technology before students begin to help reduce anxiety
- Think creatively about alternatives and solutions that might complement all students, not just those with disability
Rebecca was suffering from Chronic Fatigue but was determined to continue to progress in her university studies in teaching. The location of the course, however, meant that to attend her practical classes she had a three hour drive from her home twice each week. As Rebecca had a Learning Access Plan, she arranged to meet with her lecturer at the beginning of semester. Although the LAP did not address the issue of travel, Rebecca and her lecturer agreed that it would be beneficial to timetable both practical classes on the same day (with a break in between) so that she only needed to make the trip once each week. The other students were most amenable to this request.
Hank loves being an environmental science tutor but last year he faced a really tough challenge. Hank's student, Pablo, had some mobility issues and required the assistance of elevators and lifts to move around the campus. The field trip to Cradle Mountain was impossible for Pablo to participate in, meaning that he had a less valuable learning experience and less opportunity to do as well as other students. The other students did go on the field trip to Cradle Mountain, and Pablo was provided with a 'similar' experience in a virtual world called Second Life. Interestingly, the other students actually thought that the Second Life virtual reality exercise met the learning objectives better and were very interested to engage with Pablo about his experience. The curriculum has now been changed to use this exercise as the basis for assessment in the unit, benefitting ALL students.
3. Be Flexible
- Consider, and provide, alternatives to the 'common' assessment and delivery methods within your course (ensuring they meet the learning outcomes)
- Be open to ideas that are proposed by students themselves who may have challenges in addressing assessment criteria because of their conditions
Adam has anxiety and is nervous about the 'tutorial presentation' that is stated as an assessment piece as part of his sociology unit. The presentation is worth a considerable proportion of his overall mark, so it would be detrimental if he tried to opt out of the exercise. Anxiety is an invisible disability and many students like Adam don't tend to disclose their disability unless absolutely necessary. If the sociology lecturer offered more than one way to demonstrate knowledge, rather than just through a tutorial presentation, then Adam would have an option to do well, without having to deal with the (avoidable) stress of disclosing his disability.
Giulia was studying a unit where students were required to collect data through experimentation to complete an assessment task. Because she had restricted fine motor skills, she was unable to complete all the practical activities successfully. As the learning outcomes for the unit did not include laboratory skills, the lecturer paired Giulia with another student to allow collection of the data. Giulia was then able to have access to data to complete the analysis required in the assessment task.
4. Be Planned
- Have your unit materials developed ahead of semester so students who require extra time to complete the readings can access them early
- Ensure your unit materials are provided in electronic formats appropriate for assistive technology (for example screen readers)
- Consider the individual needs of students when assigning students to groups
- Ensure you follow correct 'teaching and learning' policies about clearly articulating assessment activities/learning objectives/inherent requirements in all course materials
Marek was studying a unit in British Literature that required him to read nine novels during semester one. Ongoing health issues meant that he had a weekly regime of medical appointments that impacted on the time able to be devoted to study. Fortunately, his lecturer published the reading list for the unit towards the end of the previous year, meaning that Marek was able to read the novels over the university break. As a result he was able to cope well with the additional reading around each novel during semester time.
Anna, a nursing lecturer, starts semester one and finds out that she has a student with a print disability (somebody who can't read standard sized fonts). Anna has recently changed from providing paper-based resources to also providing her unit materials to students in an electronic format. This has meant that it is easy to provide a copy of the materials to students who need to use screen readers, or who need to increase the font size of text. If the materials were only available as paper copies the student would have to photocopy the resources to be enlarged – or seek help via the disability support officer to have such work done for her.
When a student with a hearing impairment enrolled in Ali's class, he started to wear a lapel microphone during lectures and repeating or paraphrasing questions that came from the class. This allowed the student, who used a FM transmitter to hear everything that occurred in the class. Because Ali also used Lectopia, students who accessed lecture recordings also benefitted from this practice.Jacqui designed a new unit in Information Systems that had group work as a major component. During the course of the unit, students needed to complete tasks in two different groups. In the first activity, Jacqui allowed students to self form groups. Students were able to work initially with peers with whom they felt comfortable, and were able to develop some of the group work skills necessary to meet the outcomes of the unit. In the second activity, students were randomly assigned to groups. Recognising that this may be stressful to some students, Jacqui provided some opportunity for students to approach her with specific concerns, and took this into account in the allocation. In particular Jacqui set up Wikis for the groups and was able to monitor group activity and communication, and give advice and support where needed. A system of regular peer and self review was also implemented to ensure that students could give feedback on any problematic issues.
5. Be Human
- It's ok to acknowledge your limitations as a 'human being'
- Making even the smallest of steps to becoming more inclusive, or towards helping just one student is very worthwhile
Daphne was really confronted by the fact that she had no idea about how to accommodate the needs of Zeke, her student with a profound mental health condition. She had her lecture materials presented in a way that made them largely inclusive for students – and a range of assessment activities that appealed to various learning styles. But Zeke had a management plan that she didn't feel was going to be accommodated, despite her inclusive approach. Although Daphne sought assistance and was very understanding, she felt as though her efforts were not enough. Fortunately, she was reminded by disability support staff that we can't all be experts in all conditions and disabilities, and that she and the team could collaborate on being inventive enough to try and deal with the situation as best they could.
Holly had severe arthritis in her knees and was unable to attend most classes as they were scheduled on the third floor of a building without an escalator or lift. Consequently, Holly had to complete most of her studies on-line and had very little face to face contact with her classmates. Despite significant effort, her tutor Amanda was unable to get Holly's classes officially moved to a teaching space on the ground floor of the building. By making personal contact with a teacher from another school, Amanda managed to negotiate a classroom swap for one of the two tutorial classes, making it possible for Holly to attend at least half of her classes face to face.
This video provides some insight into one of the reasons that adopting inclusive practices is important.
The Universal Design for Learning in Tertiary Education e-Learning program has been developed by the National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program and the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET).
The program focuses on the principles and practices of Universal Design for Learning in tertiary settings, and aims to increase your understanding of designing, developing and implementing UDL within your teaching practice.
These resources have been developed to support you to adopt and strengthen your inclusive practices.
The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) website provides up-to-date and comprehensive information about inclusive teaching, learning and assessment strategies.
In the ADCET Webinar: Designing Online Education that Works for All Students - A 7-Step UDL Approach Laura Alfrey and Erin Leif (both from Monash University) describe a seven step UDL approach for designing inclusive and accessible online instruction that meets the needs of diverse learners, including students with disability.
The CAST website contains research, information and resources about teaching for everyone using a universal design for learning approach.
CATS booklet: Hearing Impairment - Strategies to support students with a hearing impairment, within a framework of inclusive teaching for all students.
CATS booklet: Mental Health Conditions - Strategies focussed on supporting the needs of students with mental health conditions, within a framework of inclusive teaching for all students.
CATS booklet: Vision Impairment - Strategies to support students with a vision impairment, within a framework of inclusive teaching for all students.
The UTAS Designing Accessible Learning Content page explains what accessibility is and why it matters to teaching staff at the University. It then presents a few of the key accessibility guidelines to remember, why they are important, and some practical examples of how to apply them when designing content.
The Universal Design for Learning website introduces, explains and provides example of universal design for learning.
The UTAS First Year and Transition Framework presents the features of a successful first year experience.