Age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion & belief, sex, sexual orientationSets the scene and requires adjustments in order for all potential students to be able to participate. ‘Inclusion’ is then about mainstreaming this, so that we create a culture in which we don’t have to adjust anything, but anticipate diversity and plan for it in advance.
Not just a simple bottom-up and top-down approach, but more complex interactions of individuals with contexts and systems.
Every participant spoke positively about the philosophy of inclusion, as an important concept, as one which is central to the UWS vision and mission. As expected, some focused more on aspects of disability and the required adjustments to L, T & A necessary to meet those additional support needs. But most also went further in acknowledging the importance of diversity in all its forms, particularly in relation to direct entrants from college, mature adult students and international students. But what emerged was a fairly widespread resistance to the idea of making any practical changes to L,T&A methods which would serve to create a truly inclusive culture. Discourses around student assimilation into the existing system (the contingent approach identified previously) were prevalent, even in those staff who were pro-inclusion in theory. These presented within the data as interesting contradictions. Further analysis suggests that the root of these apparent contradictions lie in academic identity, and also in real or imagined tensions between the individual and the macrosystem.
Here we see the philosophy of inclusion being articulated in line with the legislative drivers relating to reasonable adjustments for those with additional support needs – the exosystem – but in fact at the level of individual practice, despite the macro level response (the uni) in putting in place measures to ensure that the legislation in complied with, the individual does not actually enact anything.
Creating a culture which enables participation by all students in the valued practices of the learning community is viewed as out with the remit of an academic. Engagement with those practices should be facilitated by other, ‘remedial’ support services as an add-on to the student’s everyday encounters with learning, teaching and assessment. Academics themselves do not necessarily feel that they should have to address this. Within Wenger’s theory this would represent a barrier to participation, since the ‘old-timers’ are not prepared to allow new participants access to those practices.
Interestingly, the policy and strategy documents which were submitted for analysis as part of the project, most of the academics I have spoken to are not familiar with their content, and many had not even heard of the policy’s name. Nevertheless, the participants were all able to talk coherently about the idea of inclusion, and to consider critically what kinds of shifts in practice would be required to move towards a more inclusive culture. This seems to be because there is a recognition that inclusive practice really just represents ‘good’ L&T practice. The university policy and strategic approach to the management of inclusion seems perceived as a barrier to staff engagement, not a mediator of engagement. The impact of the legislative drivers at the level of the exosystem has clearly been on macro level processes, but these do not necessarily imply change at the level of individual action. Furthermore, the ‘top-down’ approach on the part of institutions to change individual practice through the development of new policies, seems resisted by staff on the ground and actually makes it less likely to succeed in bringing about change.
Practices do not always reflect the rhetoric of inclusion, even when academic staff have ‘bought into’ that rhetoric and believe in its significance. Next steps for this project involve the ongoing analysis of staff and student data; exploration of other emergent themes; a developed understanding of the subjective experience of inclusive learning and teaching in HE; a developed understanding of the process of organisational change within an HE environment.Academic identities, whilst sharing common elements, are highly individualised, and the data reveal important inter-disciplinary differences in these. Ideas about valued practices and participation in those practices on the part of students are key to understanding academic identity which makes CoP a useful theoretical lens through which to view them.University policy and strategy is crucial in providing a backdrop which expresses a vision for inclusion, and the impact on this of external, broader societal or governmental drivers is clear, but the concretising of this at the level of L,T & A practice depends upon individuals or groups of academic staff, many of whom are engaging with inclusive practice without calling it that, and without an awareness of the policies. Therefore, the more complex ecological model of development and change which Bronfenbrenner provides is useful for conceptualising the different ways in which influence upon individual action can be understood within a university context and within broader societal contexts.
Developing an Inclusive Culture inHigher Education: Policy, Practice, Participation and Change Victoria L. O’Donnell1, Jane Tobbell2, Chris Bradshaw1 & Elizabeth Richmond1 1Universityof the West of Scotland, UK 2University of Huddersfield, UK
Inclusion in Higher Education• Legislative drivers and protected characteristics within UK law: equality and diversity• The UK Higher Education Academy defines an inclusive culture as – one which enables all students to develop academically, professionally and personally to fulfill their potential• University of the West of Scotland Vision – For UWS to have a transformational influence on the economic, social and cultural development of the West of Scotland and beyond, by producing relevant, high quality, inclusive higher education and innovative and useful research.
Approaches to inclusive practice (1) Contingent Alternative Inclusive approach approach approach Students Arrangements Flexible assimilate into are made within anticipatory the existing the curriculum arrangements system for particular are made within individuals the curriculum for everyoneJ. Waterfield & B. West (2006). Inclusive assessment in Higher Education: A resource for change. Plymouth: University of Plymouth
Approaches to inclusive practice (2) In-reach Out-reach Flexibility in programs programs program Focus on Partnerships provision attracting with external Systemic and students to the organisations structural re- institution organisation to allow full participation by all Osborne, M. (2003). Policy and practice in widening participation: A six countrycomparative study of access as flexibility. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 22(1), 43-58
Research background• UK HEA Change Programme: 16 UK HEIs• University of the West of Scotland project aims: to explore – the nature of inclusive L&T practices – the ways in which policy/strategy changes in inclusivity construct inclusive practices within the community – factors which prevent or enable participation in such practices
Socio-cultural theory and higher education practice• Communities of • Ecological theory Practice (Wenger, 1998) (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; – Valued practices 2005) – Participation – Change – Identity
The data• Qualitative approach• Methods – Document analysis – Self-evaluation by senior managers – Semi structured interviews with staff and students• Analysis – Inductive, grounded theory – Emergent themes – Focused problem approach
Acceptance and resistance• Its about maybe just making sure you’ve got a bit of variety in your teaching and what you’re doing, so that there is, you know, hopefully, something that everyone can take from it.• I’ve not actually changed anything completely, we often are governed by what’s in the module descriptor. But I think that for some students they could probably do with differing assessments. But then you might end up designing a whole load of assessments that are probably not comparable. I’m not sure if any institution would do that, or if it’s practical.
• I always sort of think of [inclusion] meaning assisting people to get the most out of their education so that they can get, so things like learning support, and things like using scribes, doing what we can as academics to make sure that people have the material to go on. It’s not so much about creating an even playing field, but creating more equality.• …I think I’ve had in total about 15 to 20 additional needs things, and I have to be absolutely honest and say that I tend not even to open them any more…
• I think sometimes my accent is so broad that there was foreign students and particularly students who don’t have English as their first language. I occasionally find myself worrying a little bit about that. That they won’t understand the accent. And certainly lectures probably for students who are, English isn’t their first language, lectures probably aren’t the best of all the potential learning tools.• I always sneak around it by saying, “We’re doing global society in trimester 2”, but in actuality, global society means European, North American, and the concept of global things…
Academic identity• We’re academics… we know how to recognise someone who’s struggling, but we don’t have the teaching skills to assist someone who is struggling.• …learning to write an essay is as much a part of a, to me, I know I’m very old-fashioned, but it is an academic rite of passage.• So there is this over-reliance on the kind of academic who is at the coal-face in a sense…and they’ll direct you to x, y and z, education guidance or whatever…
Perceived barriers to inclusive practice• I think people are working really hard, and you just wonder, how much more can we ask of them?• It’s like, you know, this is changing, that’s the policy now, how do you know about the policy? Well, you know, we’ve got 156 of them and they’ve been wheeled round through the internet and we’ve to go and look at it.• …nine hours a week of contact and the rest of the time you’re expected to engage with the material independently, at home…I’m not sure that we do them any favours, we don’t encourage participation outside of those nine hours…
Conclusions• Consistent with other areas of higher education, practice does not always reflect rhetoric (O’Donnell et al., 2009)• Resistance to shifts in practice seems firmly rooted in academic identity• The role of macro-level institutional factors lies in real or imagined constraints on academic practices, and individuals’ negotiations with these factors
Next steps• Ongoing analysis of staff and student data• Exploration of other themes