To boldly go: Creating inclusive learning and teaching environments

Claire Shanks, Open Door and Disability Services; Liz Waller, Information Services; and Maria Ayaz, Equality and Diversity Office


Inclusive Teaching or Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a relatively new concept in higher education that means we have to change how we think about educational practice so that a greater diversity of students is included in higher education, including disabled students. Moving towards UDL means challenging the status quo of the traditionally advantaged learner and a pedagogy based almost entirely on text based learning. Inclusive learning and teaching recognises all students’ entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences. This workshop is designed using an appreciative enquiry approach (sometimes known as a World Café). It will provide an opportunity for all those present to share opinions and good practice in terms of inclusive learning and teaching as well as how to create an engaging and inclusive environment to enable effective learning. Inclusive teaching and learning practice is important in meeting our legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It is our intention to make the event fun and interactive. It will provide you with an opportunity to network with colleagues and perhaps learn from other people’s experiences and good practice. The outcomes of this event will be central to the University’s aims and aspirations of creating an inclusive learning environment whilst complementing the York Pedagogy.

Chair’s Summary

Are we doing enough to ensure that our teaching is inclusive? This was the question posed by Claire Shanks, Liz Waller and Maria Ayaz in their talk “To boldly go: Creating inclusive learning and teaching environments”.

Their workshop offered delegates the opportunity to reflect on what inclusive learning and teaching meant to them, this allowed the group to discuss their own experiences and understanding. Delegates understood inclusive learning and teaching to be ensuring that there are no barriers for students, recognising that inclusivity did not solely mean students with disabilities but students who identify with other protected characteristics, and not excluding students who might not be engaged for other reasons such as issues in their home environment.

Claire introduced the concept Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which provides a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL is designed to reduce barriers to learning and increase student participation, by considering flexible study resources, flexible assessments and flexible ways of learning. By following these principles we can ensure that we provide a teaching and learning experience which recognises all students’ entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers learning needs and preferences.

This was then followed by a fun and interactive World Cafe activity in which we shared our ideas on how we have or could adjust our approaches to applying inclusive learning in our own teaching practice and reflect on the tools we need to be able to deliver it. The discussion concluded that staff and students would benefit from concrete examples of where inclusive teaching has been successful. The mood of the delegates present was positive and it felt as though simple, small changes would have a huge impact on the experiences of all involved in learning and teaching.

Further Workshop Materials

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