Inclusive learning and teaching

What do we mean by Inclusive Learning?

Inclusive Learning is the design and delivery of teaching, learning and assessment that celebrates diversity; enabling students to achieve their full potential by drawing on the strengths afforded by their individual backgrounds and experiences. Inclusive teaching and learning supports all students to identify as a valued member of the Oxford Brookes community.

Why is it important to our students?

Higher Education is more diverse than it has ever been. We know that different groups of students have different rates of completion and attainment; nationally, there is a 13 percentage point gap in the attainment of ‘good’ degrees (i.e. 1st or 2:1) between BME and White students that cannot be fully explained by factors such as prior attainment and age (UUK &; NUS, 2019). 

At Oxford Brookes, that gap was 20.4% in 2017/18 (Oxford Brookes, 2020). We need to ensure that the learning, teaching and assessment at Oxford Brookes does not disadvantage any groups of students, allowing all students to reach their potential.

How does inclusive learning help?

The ultimate aim of embedding inclusivity into what and how we teach is to create a learning environment that generates a sense of belonging in all students.

Sense of belonging has been described as the feeling of being valued as an individual within a wider community (Goodenow, 1993). Yorke (2016) has operationalised the sense of belonging in higher education using statements such as “I feel at home in this university” and, “I am shown respect by members of staff in this department”.

In the literature, there is a well-established link between sense of belonging and student success in HE. For example, sense of belonging has been linked with student

satisfaction (Douglas et al., 2015; Stevenson, 2018), academic attainment (Reay et al., 2010; Smith, 2017), and retention (Bamber & Tett, 2000; Thomas, 2002, 2012). In their examination of students’ decisions to withdraw from HE, Wilcox et al. (2005) found that a lack of belonging (specifically, difficulties with making friends) was the most commonly cited factor that contributed to the decision to leave university.

Specifically, there is growing evidence that the lack of belonging that BME students disproportionately experience is one of the hitherto unidentified factors of the awarding gap (Currant et al., 2013; Stevenson, 2018; Thomas, 2002; UUK &; NUS, 2019).

It is important that we recognise and systematically create space for a diverse range of perspectives, rather than privileging a select few (Thomas, 2002). Students, especially those from groups that tend to be overlooked in HE, would have the best chance of success if they can be made to feel a sense of belonging to Oxford Brookes.

What do I need to do?

Begin by responding to and reflecting on the student voice question set, which has been designed to help you identify both strengths and areas for development in Inclusive Learning your programme or module.

Everyone teaching on a programme should be able to provide a detailed response to these questions that clearly articulates to students how the curriculum will support them in becoming a valued member of the Oxford Brookes learning community.

Engagement with the questions should prompt you to consider areas for development within your programme or module. Follow the Design Thinking process outlined on the How to use the model page and refer to the case studies and resources for examples and activities to support you in developing your practice.