Why seek to teach inclusively? Teaching is one of the most rewarding activities you can undertake – as long as it is done well. And good inclusive teaching is good teaching per se. The quality of undergraduate teaching can bear a good deal of improvement. Teaching ability is becoming increasingly important in promotions criteria for academic staff. Inclusive teaching is increasingly seen as a part of this.
Time to reflect What is the purpose of university teaching? Please spend five minutes discussing this with the person next to you. ‘To enable student learning’ (Ramsden, 2003).
How do we enable learning for all students? Adopting ‘inclusive’ teaching practices that cater to a diverse range of students. Question: What do we mean by ‘inclusion’ and ‘Diversity’? Please spend five minutes discussing this with the person next to you. “Terms used in broadest sense to mean issues relating to all student and to types of teaching and learning that fully and equitably include everyone in the classroom or in the programme cohort” (Grace and Gravestock, 2009).
Rationale for inclusive teaching “Harkening back to the time when coalminers took canaries into mines to monitor air quality, if the canaries died, they knew that the atmosphere threatened the miners’ well-being too. We are also at a ‘coalface’. The international student ‘canaries’ thankfully show us their difficulties in less dramatic ways but nevertheless point out aspects of our teaching that all students will probably experience as challenges. By paying attention, we can change conditions to make sure that everyone can thrive in the higher education environment. If we improve conditions for international students, we improve them for all learners”. Ryan and Carroll (2005)
Some key considerations How should we understand ‘inclusive teaching’? Some considerations: Good teaching for diverse groups is good teaching per se. Inclusion and diversity are fluid concepts A student-centred approach. Good teaching cannot exist in a vacuum; support from above and appropriate university structures are important. The scholarship of learning and teaching are important. Flexibility of approach and avoidance of stereotyping are paramount. Take 10 minutes to discuss with the person sitting next to you.
Approaches to learning (Ramsden, 2003). Structural aspect of learning (Act of organising and experiencing). Holistic approach: Preserves the structure, focuses on the whole in relation to the parts. Relating the components of a given task in a connected structure. Atomistic: Distorts the structure, focuses on the parts, segments the whole. Keeping the components of a given task isolated.
Approaches to learning cont. (Ramsden, 2003) Meaning aspect of learning. Attaching significance to the task. Deep approach: Focuses on what the task is about (e.g. authors intention in writing an academic paper). Surface approach: Focuses on the ‘signs’ (e.g. the word-sentence level of the text, such as memorising passages rather than understanding the meaning of text).
Approaches to teaching A note on approaches to learning and teaching: the same student or teacher often takes different approaches in different subjects and/or different contexts.
Stereotyping • OED describes stereotyping as: ‘Something continued or constantly repeated without change’. • In pairs, consider: • What is your own ethnicity? • How do you react to stereotypes based on your ethnicity? • Do you conform to the stereotypical view? If not, how not? • How do you think making assumptions about your students would affect their learning?
Fluidity of inclusion and diversity Progression of thinking about diversity: Multiculturalism (Three S model). Danger of stereotyping (Cousin 2006). Cultural hybridity (our mongrel selves) recognises diversity in the individual (Hall 1992). Critical Race Theory (Gillborn 2008). Cosmopolitanism (linked with global citizenry). Sees diversity as a strength and recognises shared humanity of all (Fine 2007, Gilroy 2000, Kant 1965)
General principles of inclusive teaching practice Constructivist theory of learning (NOT constructivism about knowledge). Transformative education. Student experience goes beyond the transfer of skills/knowledge. Reflective practice involving interrogation of our own learning processes. Move from pedagogic practice to andragogic practice (Knowles, 1990). Internationalised curriculum and sensitivity to different points of view.
General principles of inclusive teaching practice cont. Student-centred approach; student experience is focus of teaching strategy Learning experience goes beyond classroom activities Diversity in programme and curriculum design: Representation, expression, and engagement.
Example: Assessment and Feedback Good inclusive practice includes: Offering a range of (innovative) assessment methods Offering “practice” assessments throughout the year Offering peer assessment Encouraging students to write about their own contexts Assessors finding out about assessment practices elsewhere Giving clear, unambiguous feedback
From pedagogy to andragogy Hallmarks of pedagogic practice: Dominant form of teaching in HE is pedagogy: Didactic, traditional, and teacher-centred. (Knowles, 1990; Nelson, 2007). In pedagogic practice the teacher decides what is learned, how it is learned, and when it is learned (Knowles, 1984). Pedagogic practice places learner in submissive role to teacher. Pedagogy actively encourages the learner to become dependent upon the teacher (Knowles, 1984). Pedagogic approaches may well be appropriate for children.
From pedagogy to andragogy cont. Underpinnings of an andragogic approach to teaching: Learners are encouraged to move from dependency to self-directedness in their learning. Adult learners have a wealth of life experience that can be used a resource for developing learning. Engagement with learning is driven by complex factors such as career aspirations and problems encountered in real life. More focus on learner development and performance (rather than being subject centred).
Andragogy and inclusive practice There are a number of overlaps between andragogic teaching practice and ‘inclusive’ teaching practice. Student-centred learning sits at the heart of both andragogy and inclusivity. As well as accommodating ‘diverse’ student populations, inclusive practice also accommodates intra-group differences (E.g. differences in learning styles). Inclusive practice/andragogy is not about ‘dumbing down’ or lowering standards.
Levels of inclusivity Leicester (1996) identified four categories of equal opportunity practice: Promoting equal opportunities as removing unfair/irrelevant barriers Promoting equal opportunities as increasing ability and motivation Promoting equal opportunities as the development of ‘respect for all’ Promoting equal opportunities as social engineering
Depth of inclusivity We make a (tentative) claim: The more effective inclusive practice is, the more invisible it is
Three levels of embedding Surface embedding: active encouragement across university for staff to engage with issues of inclusion and diversity. Intermediate embedding: procedures for removing barriers to learning identified and specific policies and guidelines for practice have been developed. Deep or ‘invisible’ embedding: Issues of inclusion and diversity rarely arise because teaching and learning practices are developed to such a degree that good (inclusive) practice is part and parcel of what the university does.
Suggested reading Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education (2ndedn) Routledge, Abingdon. Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (3rdedn) SRHE and Open University Press, Buckingham. Race, P. (2006) The Lecturers Toolkit (3rdedn) Routledge, London.