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Advance HE describes inclusive learning and teaching as:  

“Inclusive learning and teaching recognises all student’s entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences.” 

Being inclusive while teaching involves taking into account a wide range of students’ needs. It involves sensitivity to how students are responding to the teaching taking place, as well as to the learning process.

Best Practice Tips

  • Before embarking on any teaching exercise, consider what students already know, and also actively research this. To do this, you will need to design some needs analysis procedures and/or tools, e.g. prompts for an in-class informal ‘what do we know’ check or questionnaires to be handed out and completed individually. 
  • While teaching, encourage students to share any needs which haven’t been identified (or realised) at the beginning of a course either in class when the needs arise, or outside class via emails or questions in office hours.  
  • Be alert to any needs students have which they are not expressing, perhaps because of a fear of loss of face or a desire not to disturb you as the teacher. For example, if you see students straining to read what you have written on the board, or if any students seem insecure or panicky when reading text on a PowerPoint slide, consider rewriting that text. On a PowerPoint slide, of course, as well as increasing the point size, it might also be helpful to reduce the amount of text you include on any one slide. 
  • Be aware that what you perceive as a student ‘need’ may in fact be a deficiency in your own teaching. For example, if students cannot hear you it may be that you are not projecting your voice sufficiently for the size of the room or the acoustics in the room. Similarly, if students aren’t understanding, it may be that you haven’t explained clearly enough.  
  • When explaining points, be aware of the need to use subject-specific terms, but also of the need to ‘unpack’ (i.e. explain them). This is called reducing semantic density (see the suggested reading below). After unpacking terms, remember to go back to using the terms again in subsequent teaching – i.e. don’t dumb down your teaching longterm because the students will need to know the terms and to hear you using these consistently so that they can later search for key terms in the relevant literature.    
  • Use pair work and/or groupwork discussion slots for both ‘mini-tests’ (of what you have covered) and discussion of key points (i.e. for the exchange of both information and opinions). The rationale for doing this is not only to provide a break from what could otherwise be a teacher’s monologue, but also to help you see how well students are coping with the content of classes. If they can’t answer key test questions, they may not be understanding what you are trying to teach. Similarly, if they are at a loss to discuss issues which are relevant to what you have covered, they also might not understand key points or be engaging with what you have studied because of unidentified learning needs.  
  • Use formal tests to check students’ learning using apps such as Poll Everywhere or software by Turning Point, again to identify students’ needs. Similarly use these to stimulate discussion (by making the questions discussion questions). 

Further Reading

Student access, retention, attainment and progression in higher education, Higher Education Academy 

Maton, K. (2013). Making semantic waves: A key to cumulative knowledge-building. Linguistics and education24(1), 8-22.