August 18, 2020

Inclusive teaching

Stefania

While tutoring inclusive teaching refers to pedagogical practices that support meaningful and accessible learning for students of all races, ethnicities, genders, socio-economic classes, sexualities, disability/ability statuses, religions, nationalities, ages, and military statuses. Teaching inclusively means leveraging the diverse strengths students and instructors bring to the learning environment, as well as recognizing how systems of power and privilege may play out in the classroom.

The temptation to treat people in different ways because of their social status, gender, abilities is everywhere. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure this does not happen ever. Stereotypes and bias are in the air we breathe. They are part of our societal fabric. We’ve got to begin by not being part of the problem, or less a part of it. We can only do that by recognizing it and acknowledging that it resides in us. We can’t just will it or ignore it away — we have to become culturally aware and self-aware in order to make the learning experience as enjoyable as possible and acknowledge diversity as an enriching value.

Sometimes instead who is different from us is perceived as a threat and seen in a suspicious way.

Inclusive teaching doesn’t occur automatically. It requires planning and promoting across a spectrum of teaching practices (from course design to assessment) with the aim of creating a learning environment that allows all students to engage, regardless of discipline and course content.

1. Designing your course with inclusivity in mind

Including perspectives from groups traditionally absent from a field can provide a fuller and more accurate portrayal of an issue; it also communicates to students that multiple views are valued and engaged. 

2. Maximizing the varied educational backgrounds and personal experiences of students

Research on student learning confirms that all students do not learn in the same way. One of the best ways of finding out how students learn is to ask.

Start with the perspective that you can learn from your student too so ask them.

3. Creating a respectful and productive learning environment

Equipping students with information to succeed in the course helps all students,  especially those who might not be familiar with institutional or disciplinary practices.

4. Reflecting on teaching practices to support professional growth

Efforts to include and engage all students in courses are often successful to the degree that instructors are willing to examine and reflect on how their own identities shape their pedagogical values, biases, and relationships with students. Here are a few strategies and resources for practicing self-reflection in teaching.

5. What if all of this is not enough

We could have in our class a disabled student and need to adjust our teaching planning in order for him/her to be able to follow and enjoy learning as well. It is the aim of teaching in an inclusive way to support students learning and include them.

A well-trained teacher is aware of the ICF standards and is able to support people achieve their maximum level of functioning and realising their rights to participate in society.

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is the international standard for framing, describing, recording and measuring functioning and disability (WHO 2001).

The ICF conceptualises a person’s level of functioning as a dynamic interaction between their health conditions, environmental factors, and personal factors. Functioning and disability are on a continuum and are described in terms of body structures and body functions / impairments, activities / activity limitations and participation / participation restrictions. Environmental factors can be described as of barriers or facilitators and may indicate what needs to change to support people to achieve their maximum level of functioning and realising their rights to participate in society.