Inclusive learning and teaching
Higher Education is more diverse than ever (Mathieson, 2015), and the success rates of different groups of students have come under scrutiny. We know that different groups of students have different rates of completion and attainment, with gender and ethnicity being cited as key factors predicting achievement of a ‘good degree’, e.g. 1st or 2:1 degree outcome (Cotton et al., 2016). Moreover, male and those identifying from Black, Asian, Roma, Gypsy and traveller and other global majority backgrounds tended to overestimate the chances of gaining a good degree outcome when compared to other student groups.
Nationally, there is a 13 percentage point gap in the attainment of ‘good’ degrees between those identifying from Black, Asian, Roma, Gypsy and traveller and other global majority backgrounds 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 must ensure that the learning, teaching and assessment at Oxford Brookes do not disadvantage any groups of students, allowing all students to reach their potential.
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 survey statements such as “I feel at home in this university” and “I am shown respect by members of staff in this department” in evaluations.
In the literature, there is a well-established link between a sense of belonging and student success in HE. For example, a 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 those identifying from Black, Asian, Roma, Gypsy and traveller and other global majority backgrounds 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).
We all have a legal responsibility to ensure that the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector equality duty are met. Thus, we all have a critical role to play in ensuring that students can learn in an environment that is inclusive and accessible and fosters and encourages good relations between people from diverse groups. It is important that academics 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 could feel a sense of belonging. Most universities make a commitment in policy or strategy documents such as an Access and Participation Plan, which can be met through a curriculum that is more attractive and relevant to a diverse range of students, ensuring progression and good outcomes for all and creating a positive social impact.
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 for Inclusive Learning in your programme or module.
Everyone teaching on a programme should be able to provide a detailed response to these questions that clearly articulate 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.
How will you get to know me and how will I get to know my peers?
How is my prior learning valued and built upon in my programme?
How do you ensure that my learning resources are accessible?
What will I hear and see from the programme team that shows commitment to inclusive values?
What aspects of the learning culture help me to feel that I belong here?
What different forms of learning and teaching will I experience and how do these support inclusion?
Where will we discuss what’s included in the curriculum, what’s left out and why?
How is a safe space created and sustained in which I can debate and explore competing perspectives?
What distinctive/additional dimensions of inclusive learning and teaching is the programme known for?
This element of the IDEAS model contributes to the Oxford Brookes Graduate Attributes of Academic and research literacy.
Activities and resources
The following resources have been selected to support you in designing inclusive curricula:
- Guide to Inclusive Learning and Teaching from OCAED. A one-stop shop for guidance on diversifying the curriculum, supporting students’ learning needs, design of teaching materials and ‘differences that make the difference’ .
- Balancing students’ identities as learners and consumers is an Advance HE-published toolkit from Dr Louise Taylor, National Teaching Fellow and Principal Lecturer Student Experience at Oxford Brookes. Through engagement with the toolkit, educators can support their students to foster successful identities as students within their discipline. The toolkit provides a structure that facilitates a reflective and critical dialogue between educators and their students about the impact of learner and consumer identities on learning and teaching.
- Inclusivity and diversity reading lists from the Oxford Brookes Library to support you in diversifying your reading lists.
- Diversifying the curriculum provides open access to a pedagogic toolkit, which includes relevant literature on BME/BAME diversity in higher education as well as teaching and learning materials that help increase the visibility of BME/BAME figures and influences in academic knowledge.
- 52etc is an Advance HE toolkit for colleagues to use, adapt and develop within their teaching practice to enhance student engagement. The toolkit provides a ‘high-impact - low tech’ resource that is readily accessible, practical and specifically directed to enhancing student engagement. #52etc has been specifically developed for any taught environment, whether that is face to face, online or blended.
- Spotter Cards Resource: Ideas for deepening understanding of disciplinary and professional thinking and learning processes These cards can be a useful addition to material designed to raise awareness and understanding of different forms of thinking. Curricula may focus on content and the learning process can be implicit, with students expected to infer how the content is thought about. Staff members may become less aware of their own expert thinking processes once these have been embedded in their normal way of acting (Eraut, 2000 and Pace, 2009). The cards can act as a stimulus to surface this knowledge and enable its exploration with students.
- Guidance on motivating, encouraging and building students’ confidence This guidance from Swansea university offers a range of practical advice for staff to adopt in building students’ motivation and confidence, organised under six headings.
- Creating an anti-racist university experience
- Student-led approaches to inclusive curricula: a reading lists project
- Celebrating an agile and inclusive programme for postgraduate students
- BSCH construction project management
- Media, journalism and publishing BA hons
- BA/BSc digital media production
- BA music
- BSc construction project management/BSc quantity surveying commerical management
- BA graphic design
- BA media journalism and publishing
- BA media journalism and publishing, international publishing
- BA media journalism and publishing, magazine publishing
- BA music, music international field trip
- MA development and emergency practice
We will be regularly uploading case studies showcasing excellent practice at Oxford Brookes. If you would like to share how you have embedded Inclusive Learning in your curriculum, why not submit a case study for inclusion in the toolkit.
Inclusive Learning Brookes Boost (once published)
Mba,D., Boudiaf, Y., & Lloyd-Bardsley, C. (2022) Ethnic Representation Index. Available: https://www.arts.ac.uk/about-ual/ethnic-representation-index Institute of Arts.
Magne, P. (2022). Teaching International Students. Brookes Briefing: Oxford Brookes
Oxford Brookes’ Access and Participation Plan 2020-2025 As part of our registration with the Office for Students, Oxford Brookes has submitted an Access and Participation Plan. These plans set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups to access, succeed in and progress from higher education.
Rutherford, A. (2020). How to argue with a racist : history, science, race and reality. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Yousafzai, M., & McCormick, P. (2015). I am Malala : how one girl stood up for education and changed the world (Paperback, teen). Indigo.
Inclusivity and diversity reading lists from the Oxford Brookes Library.
Bamber, J., & Tett, L. (2000). Transforming the learning experiences of non-traditional students: A perspective from higher education. Studies in Continuing Education, 22(1), 57–75.
Cotton, D., Joyner, M., George, R., & Cotton, P. (2016) Understanding the gender and ethnicity attainment gap in UK higher education, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 53:5, 475-486, DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2015.1013145
Currant, N., Mieschbuehler, R., & Budd, E. (2013). Investigation of completion and attainment rates for black and minority ethnic students at Oxford Brookes University.
Douglas, J. A., Douglas, A., McClelland, R. J., & Davies, J. (2015). Understanding student satisfaction and dissatisfaction: An interpretive study in the UK higher education context.Studies in Higher Education, 40(2), 329–349.
Reay, D., Crozier, G., & Clayton, J. (2010). ‘Fitting in’ or ‘standing out’: Working‐class students in UK higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 36(1), 107–124.
Smith, S. V. (2017). Exploring the black and minority ethnic (BME) student attainment gap: What did it tell us? Actions to address Home BME undergraduate students’ degree attainment. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5(1), 48–57.
Stevenson, J. (2018). Muslim students in UK higher education: Issues of inequality and inequity. London: Bridge Institute for Research and Policy.
Thomas, L. (2002). Student retention in higher education: The role of institutional habitus. Journal of Education Policy, 17(4), 423–442.
Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: Final report from the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
UUK & NUS. (2019). Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #closingthegap. London: Universities UK (UUK).
Wilcox, P., Winn, S., &; Fyvie-Gauld, M. (2005). ‘It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people’: The role of social support in the first‐year experience of higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(6), 707–722.