Accessible and inclusive learning is reflected and encouraged through:
Defining accessible and inclusive learning
Accessible and inclusive learning is defined and understood in a variety of ways, often linked to context, perspective and history (Lawrie et al. 2017). An important contextualisation is related to students with a disability, as we are legislatively required to support their access to university. The following broad definition of inclusive teaching covers a wide range of approaches while encompassing the points identified above.
Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education refers to the ways in which pedagogy, curricula and assessment are designed and delivered to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all. It embraces a view of the individual and individual difference as the source of diversity that can enrich the lives and learning of others (Hocking 2010).
However, to make meaning of the various definitions and adequately appreciate what inclusion requires it is important to consider ‘the complex, dynamic, and intersecting identities that all learners and teachers bring to the pedagogical experience’ (Lawrie et al. 2017, p. 2). No two students are the same; what sets them apart may include areas associated with the students’:
- demographics (age; citizenship; socioeconomic and first-in-family status; gender; location; nationality; race; religion; sexual preference etc.)
- readiness to learn (expectations; experience of learning; familiarity with subject material; prior learning experience etc.)
- ability (a temporary or permanent physical disability or psychological disability)
Given it is not possible to attain absolute inclusivity except in the ideal (Lawrie et al. 2017, p. 3), this guide provides ways of considering how to be inclusive.
Use accessible language
Try to avoid using gendered, colloquial language, slang or jargon. For example, instead of saying ‘There is a barbie for all students this arvo’ it would be more inclusive to say ‘There is a barbeque for students taking place in the courtyard this afternoon’. Always explain the acronyms or terms you use, especially when it is unlikely that your students have come across them before. These may be topic or institution specific, but they still require explaining until students are accustomed to what they mean; for example, instead of saying ‘FUSA’ it would be more inclusive to say ‘FUSA, which means the Flinders University Students Union’.
Apply accessibility guidelines
The accessibility guidelines included in the disability policy (under ‘Access and Equity’) reflect the University’s commitment to recognising and valuing staff and students with a range of abilities, and ensuring they have fair and equitable access to opportunities to learn regardless of location. For example, be aware that students with red-green colour blindness will not be able to see the red dot of a laser pointer and when developing your FLO site/s always ensure you complete the accessibility options, such as providing descriptions for graphics and giving students access to all the resources they need. You will most likely come across students who have Access Plans, it is important to ensure you support the requirements indicated in these plans. A range of staff are available to provide advice and guidance on supporting students who may have a disability.
Pay attention to student diversity
You can use a number of activities to support diversity and ensure your teaching is more inclusive. Examples are Acknowledging Country or including ways of finding out about your cohort by asking students about themselves or checking the Planning and Analytical Services statistics (through OKTA). Ensure the learning design takes student diversity into account. You may also wish to consider students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) or are from Non-English speaking background (NESB) and have an NESB card as these students may require additional accommodations for assessments.
Availability of and linkage to accessibility support services
Information about accessibility support should be made available to all students. This can be included on FLO sites and in face-to-face meetings with students. Although students have access to these resources via the Flinders Students website, it is important to show empathy for students who need to use them and help all students appreciate their importance.
Including multiple perspectives
Nordgren and Johansson (2015, p. 1) suggest it is ‘a matter of debate how we perceive contemporary society as well as what tools are needed to understand it’, which supports the idea that there are multiple ways of thinking about and seeing most things. Consider other perspectives and offer alternative approaches, views and/or assessments. For example, a poster or presentation could potentially replace a longer written piece.
While this guide focuses on the ‘Accessible and inclusive’ Learning and Teaching Principle it also relates to the ‘Student centred’ and ‘Inspirational and engaging’ principles.