Participatory approaches to inclusion related staff development: reflections on processes and outcom...
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Jane seale fani theodorou

Participatory approaches to inclusion related staff development: reflections on processes and outcomes

Jane Seale & Fani Theodorou



  • Describe and reflect on a University of Southampton funded project that used participatory approaches to involve students in evaluation of learning experiences and learning provision

    • Outline the methods used

    • Give an overview of results obtained

    • Reflect on value of participatory methods for contributing to an evidenced-based approach to evaluation & implications for how institutions respond to such evaluations

Why the inclusion focus

Why the “inclusion” focus?

  • An Inclusion Task Force (headed by Jane Seale) made a recommendation to University that was incorporated into the Disability Equality Scheme- “Action Plan”

    • The need to involve students in the design and delivery of staff development and CPD opportunities in relation to developing inclusive teaching practices

  • The University Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit wanted to fund an exploratory project that focused on how we can “include” a wide range of students (i.e. not just disabled students) in the learning opportunities that we provide

  • => A personal and institutional drive to the project

Defining participatory

Defining “Participatory”

  • Engaging participants in the design, conduct and analysis stages of the project

  • The construction of non-hierarchical relationships between staff and students

  • Early and continual participation of intended users (students) to produce improved teaching practices

Provenance of method

Provenance of method

  • Participatory Design: HCI, Engineering, Art & Design

  • Participatory Research: Disability, Inclusion

    • e.g. 2 funded research projects Jane Seale involved in: LEXDIS & Concepts of Access

  • Higher Education: emergent focus on “Hearing the Student Voice”

Pairs aims


  • Capture “student voices” regarding their learning experiences within the School of Education

    • Use these “voices” to explore whether and how our School of Education programmes (undergraduate and postgraduate) include or exclude students with a wide range of learning needs from experiencing positive or high quality learning opportunities

      2. Involve students in the analysis and exploration of these “student voices”

    • Develop a collaborative partnership whereby students help to develop materials and methods that can be used to help staff in the work towards meeting learning needs and reducing barriers to inclusion.

Phase one tell us your stories

Phase One: Tell us your “stories”

  • Write or audio-record a one-two page letter to an “imaginary” friend

  • Write a diary describing learning experiences on course, over the period of a “typical” week;

  • Write a reflective journal that describes a “critical incident”

  • Produce a piece of creative writing or art (e.g. poem, picture, sculpture, song)

  • Alternatively, opt to be interviewed face-to-face, by phone or by webcam.

  • Focus for all stories: learning experiences and whether learning needs have been met

Phase two help us understand the stories

Formed an advisory group that worked together to decide how we will use the information about student learning experiences to design staff development initiatives in the School.

Phase Two: help us understand the stories



  • Email

  • Blackboard announcements

  • Personal presentation in lectures

  • Different programmes/students responded differently to each method

    • Personal presentation worked well for UG, Fnd Degree and PGCE (groups I knew less well) ..time consuming…

    • Email worked well for PGR (a group I work closely with)

    • Blackboard worked well for PGT

  • Targeted all programme leaders as gate-keepers

  • Also informed Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator & Chair of Academic Standards and Quality Committee

Phase 1 participant demographics

Phase 1: Participant demographics

5 Male and 15 Female Participants

Phase 1 participant demographics1

Phase 1: Participant Demographics

Phase 1 chosen methods for providing stories

Phase 1: Chosen methods for providing stories

  • Letter to friend- 6

  • Face-to-face interview- 6

  • Reflective Journal/Diary- 5

  • Phone interview- 3

  • Did not anticipate the preference for being interviewed (time consuming transcribing)

  • Some participants incorporated work from their course e.g. reflective elements from assessed assignments

Phase 1 the stories

Phase 1: The “stories”

  • Example

    • From Fani

  • Positive and negative feedback

  • Variance in detail and “passion”

Phase 2 the analysis

Phase 2: The analysis

  • 5 students (also phase 1 participants) consented to being members of an “advisory board”

  • Work and family commitments as well as distance (1 student had graduated) meant that all work done via email

  • Sent each participant three stories and asked them to code stories for themes or issues that they thought were significant

Themes that have implications for staff development

“Themes” that have implications for staff development


    • Supportive tutors

    • Knowledgeable and expert tutors

    • Flexibility (choice, options, variety)

    • Sharing and communicating with peers (peer support)


    • Workload issues

    • Lack of information

    • Poor communication

    • Issues around essay writing skills and support

Narratives of inclusion exclusion

Narratives of inclusion & exclusion

  • Access Issues: access to resources and learning opportunities

  • Group Issues: promoting a sense of belonging and shared learning opportunities

  • Communication Issues: Helping students to find their “voice” and be heard and helping students understand and speak the language of education

A participant perspective fani theodorou

A participant perspective: Fani Theodorou

  • My background

  • Why did I participate in the PAIRS project?

    • I wanted to get involved

    • Motivated to learn more about participatory approaches

    • I wanted my ‘voice’ heard

    • I wanted to share my experiences

A participant perspective reflections

A participant perspective: reflections

  • Having a choice of five different methods was good

  • ‘Inclusion’ of every student who wanted to share his/her experience

  • Active involvement through the presentation of my own experience

A staff perspective jane seale

A staff perspective: Jane Seale

  • The identified issues were no surprise

    • Other evaluation methods had picked these up

    • Rather disappointing in a sense that the participatory did not reveal anything new or unexpected

  • BUT- what was surprising was the evidence about the impact of identified issues on students:

    • Self-esteem, confidence, identity

    • Academic AND home lives

  • This has made the project worthwhile for me

Implications for school and institution

Implications for School and Institution

  • Whilst the focus for the project was at a School level, responding to the students concerns will require institutional input or support e.g.

    • Supporting writing development of students particularly overseas students

    • Improving communication with students through use of Blackboard and email

    • Using QA and QE procedures to monitor workload concerns

  • Results offer clear indications regarding where to focus staff development initiatives

Potential relevance of methods

Potential relevance of methods

  • Potential method for enhancing developing student-centred and inclusive approaches and improving relationships with students

  • Participatory methods can produce rich, detailed information, which is likely to complement and expand on evaluation information collected from other sources (and thus provide validation, triangulation)

  • Participatory methods may be best used to explore one big issue across a programme, School or institution

    • Where students identify the theme or focus

Issues to think about

Issues to think about

  • Resource intensive

    • Costs are really tangible and immediate, benefits may be less obvious and more long-term

  • Ethics

    • Adds time to the process

    • Prompts you to think about informed consent, power relationships

    • Can “get in the way” when negotiating anonymity

Issues to think about1

Issues to think about

  • Combating the “not invented here” syndrome

    • The key to success is the underlying principles of participation

    • No need to be prescriptive about the tools: can be different or adapted to suit different purposes and contexts

    • There is a need to think hard about whether institutional culture will encourage staff and students to work in non-hierarchical relationships

Discussion and questions

If you would like a copy of the PAIRS project report please contact Jane Seale at [email protected]

Related project- LEXDIS: Disabled Learners Experiences of E-Learning- JISC funded project

Discussion and Questions

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