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  • The University explicitly supports diversity in its mission and policies and implicitly promotes inclusivity to ensure retention and progression, student success and return
  • the idea of flexible responsive teaching as a core value for the institution, and an explicit statement valuing inclusivity as part of our mission
  • Barton (2003) confirms the need for change in our HE provision when he asserts that.... in relation to students and staff who are different -culturally, in terms of health and disabilities, it is important that their experiences, knowledge, skills and experiences can be valued and shared by the learning community. This means setting a tone yourself; creating a safe, trusting learning environment where this happen
  • Our finding suggest that where there is a diverse students group, academic engagement is likely to occur when teachers:Create safe, inclusive spacesCreate safe and inclusive spaces even in big lecture theatres. We know that when students come to university they often feel alienated by the culture of HE. They feel this most in those large lecture theatres where they don’t know anyone, there is little opportunity to get to know anyone and the teachers don’t even know their names. Once the lecture starts it is very hard to stop the lecturer to ask questions, or even to respond to a teacher’s question. Under these conditions students drift off, find it hard to concentrate and sometimes become disengaged. However the teachers in our study, went to great lengths to create a community within the classroom, a culture of trust and respect. They learnt the names of their students (e.g. name labels) and they set the ground rules for collaborative learning at the outset. This encouraged students to participate and created the pre conditions for academic engagement t take place.Harness students’ experience (‘biographic turn’)Harness students’ experience (‘biographic turn’) by creating activities that encourage students to bring their own knowledge, experience and interests to bear on the topic or task. So instead of starting with theory and content and then asking students to apply it and be able to transfer it to other situations, the teachers in our study tended to start by drawing on what students already know or have experience of, perhaps by using a PBL type activity, then working with their ideas , gradually introducing the theory and content (biographical turn see Abbas and McLean). By doing this they become ‘seduced’ (Haggis) by the relevance of theory in their own lives. So this approach widens participation – everyone has something they can bring and share. It also deepens engagement –theory has more relevance and meaning in their own lives. We will look at some examples of this when we look at the OER module.Facilitate uncertainty, confusion & differenceFacilitate uncertainty, confusion and being different. These things feel alien to many students and it is very common for teachers to come to the rescue of students who look stuck or confused by putting them on the right lines, getting them unstuck. But whilst that might move them on initially, in the long term it limits the opportunity for them to think things through, to try things out, i.e. to problem solve. But where the messiness & complexity of the real world are actually explored and discussed openly, students are more likely to seek understanding and develop strategies for making meaning rather than simply looking for the ‘right answers’. Teachers that do this use sophisticated questioning, probing and chairing techniques, they encourage the public articulation of doubt and curiosity and encourage student generated questioning.Teach reflexively and with sensitivity to individual differences Teach reflexively and with sensitivity to individual differencesAnd the final point is about being reflexive teachers. About being aware of your own identity, position and biases and to be aware of how they affect your practice the engagement of students in the group. It’s about the choices we make about the resources, materials we use, the examples we give and anecdotes & jokes we might tell. Whilst this can be very useful ways for students to make sense of the often abstract concepts, we need to be careful that they don’t exclude some students, confuse them more or worse still, offend them. It’s also about being observant and developing a discipline of noticing the dynamics in the groups, who appears withdrawn or isolated, who is dominating, those who are silent or silenced, how are groups mixed, etc… and to make judgements in action about when and how to intervene or coordinate interaction. We’ll look at some examples of these when we look at the video materials on the OER module later. Before we do I want to pose this question:Is this inclusive teaching or is it just good teaching?What makes this inclusive, for me, is that teachers have at the forefront, not the subject, but their students. They think about who their students are and then they think about the subject and the pedagogy and how individual students might engage with it. So it is good teaching that is also mindful of the diversity of the group. If this is what good teaching is, then we don’t need to make a big thing about it being inclusive. But in my research and experience of observing many teachers over the years is that whilst many teachers are good technically, they may know very little about their students and they don’t tend to address the interests of diverse students but rather focus on the subject and learning outcomes. So…

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