Answer to "How can I be more inclusive in my teaching?"
Defining inclusive education is complex as it has come to mean many different things. Inclusion can be described descriptively or prescriptively, it can also be defined in narrow or broad terms. Narrow definitions concern the inclusion of specific groups of learners whereas broad descriptions focus on the diversity of all students and every other member of the school community (Armstrong et al., 2009, as cited by D’Arcy, 2014)
Educators are likely to need to consider both narrow and broad approaches. We begin with some suggestions for the broader approaches to enrich the experience of the whole community.
One very straightforward way of being inclusive is to remember that the student body will likely be very diverse in various ways. Recognising student diversity and using that in your teaching in a positive way can model clear expectations of students and also value their different perspectives.
Being inclusive is not an end step but a process that should be thought of at every stage of the educational process from planning to delivering teaching. The key is helping students feel they belong and have a vested interest in the educational process.
As the course is being developed, attention needs to be paid to diversity factors to ensure inclusion. It can be useful to critique the contents and the materials used in the teaching. They should reflect current contexts. The language used especially around sensitive issues should not be alienating or reinforce stereotypes. It can be helpful to ask students to give feedback that can help you improve the materials. It would be unsurprising if the materials we produce and select for our teaching did not resonate with us in some way. Reflecting on our choices and being transparent about their inclusion can help create an inclusive culture as it demonstrates that there will be different perspectives which will be given a voice.
Remembering to use a variety of teaching and assessment strategies is important, as it will address differential learning preferences. For example, if all the assessments are essays, some students may be disadvantaged. If there are a range of assessments such as essay, a practical demonstration and perhaps an MCQ, the advantage is more likely to be balanced.
It can also be useful to think about the students that you find easy to engage with and what makes the engagement positive. This may help you adapt your engagement with a wider group of students.
Attending to specific needs to promote inclusion
Students with specific disabilities such as dyslexia or visual impairments may need material presented in different ways to make them more accessible. Students are likely to have individual needs so as such they should be managed as individuals although institutional policies are essential to ensure that the processes in play are transparent. Students should not receive differential treatment based on tutor bias.
When working with students for whom the language of instruction is not their first language care needs to be taken as to how students are instructed. Idioms are best avoided. However, despite our best intentions we can slip into using language automatically. It is, therefore, important to highlight that you expect students to ask you if anything is unclear. In this way student anxiety is likely to be mitigated and they are more likely to feel they can question you as you have given them permission to do so.
Armstrong, A. C., Armstrong, D. and Spandagou, I. (2009) Inclusive Education: International Policy & Practice. SAGE.
D’Arcy, K. (2014) ‘The complexities of teaching “inclusion” in higher education’, Journal of pedagogic development. Available at: http://uobrep.openrepository.com/uobrep/handle/10547/335890 (Accessed: 5 March 2019).