“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorising pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987:4)
Active learning is a philosophy, rather than a fixed set of activities. It can include any activity that encourages students to take an active, engaged part in the learning process within the classroom, such as: group discussions, student presentations, experiments, pair and share, problem-based learning to name just a few. Our approach to active learning means we design learning activities that support engagement with learning content. In so doing, we remove barriers to learning and promote innovative ways of fostering inclusive learning. Through our approaches, staff and students learn through doing. This approach aligns with our philosophy around authentic assessments. Each school works to promote learning that aligns with programme and professional body requirements and best prepares our graduates for future employment.
Reference: Chickering, A.W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. American Association for Higher Education bulletin 120, p3-7.
We are proud to have a diverse community of more than 30,000 students studying over 550 undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees, with 10,000 of these being international students from more than 140 countries. We need to ensure that our teaching and assessment activities are inclusive, enabling all students to enjoy their learning experience and showcase their knowledge, understanding and creativity.
What does Inclusive teaching mean?
“Inclusive 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”. (Hockings, 2010:1)
Inclusive teaching means that we:
- Understand and value the experiences of individual learners
- Provide environments that enable all students to engage fully in their learning
- Use of a range of assessment methods, and choice in assessment method where possible, so that all students can demonstrate their learning
- Ensure materials are accessible and representative
- Respect and celebrate the diversity of our students
- Identify and remove any barriers that inhibit or prevent learning
Putting it in to practice
Before teaching sessions, finding out a little bit about the student group on the module will help in the design of learning activities...
- What is the proportion of international students?
- What is the gender balance?
- Do any students have a study needs agreement and identified reasonable adjustments?
- What are the educational backgrounds of the students (e.g. proportions with BTECs; A levels; access courses; international qualifications)?
- What is the ethnic diversity of the student group?
- Have any students indicated their pronouns?
At the beginning of modules, it is very important that all students feel supported and are enabled to build rapport with tutors and peers.
- Share some of your educational and personal background with the students so they get to know you as a person rather than just a lecturer
- Design activities that enable students to get to know each other (e.g. speed meets, think pair share questions)
- Take the time to learn students’ names and how to pronounce them
- Share how you’d like to be addressed including your pronouns and invite students to share their pronouns
- Discuss the importance of students being able to share their values and beliefs within a culture of mutual respect and dignity for all
- Reinforce the support mechanisms available to students including lecturers, personal tutors, module leaders, year tutors and/or programme leaders as well as central support teams such as Student Wellbeing, Careers and Employment, Hertfordshire Students’ Union Advice and Support team
Within our teaching sessions we need to enable all students to feel comfortable and contribute in ways which suit them. Our teaching methods and materials need to be accessible from a practical perspective and representative from a cultural perspective.
- Collaborate with colleagues to provide an effective and consistent approach when designing modules and implement the Guided Learner Journey when developing the module sites
- Develop group activities to facilitate students’ understanding of how working with people of diverse backgrounds enriches their own learning
- Recognise quiet learners - students who prefer to process ideas through thinking and reflection before talking
- Use clear and unambiguous language, avoiding jargon, acronyms and/or colloquialisms
- Provide a glossary of complex terms
- Check that resources really are accessible, and that they are presented in clear, simple standard English for all.
- Try to choose resources and case studies that are representative of the student group
- Use sources to recognise that knowledge is developed in different parts of the world and by people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds
- Value diverse perspectives within reading lists
- Manage the learning environment to enable all students to participate fully, encouraging the sharing of examples from their own experiences
- Use non-discriminatory language and share these expectations with students
- Employ a range of teaching methods to support different modes of engagement
Reference: Hocking, C. (2010). Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: a synthesis of research. EvidenceNet, Higher Education Academy. Available at https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/inclusive-learning-and-teaching-higher-education-synthesis-research.