Approaches to Inclusive Learning and Teaching

Inclusive learning and teaching means that all students whatever their background, gender, first language, race or ability/disability have equal opportunities to access learning and fulfil their potential. Reducing those excluded by removing simple barriers, and making changes for those students which need it, is the essence of an inclusive approach.

During the development and review of programmes, and prior to delivery of any learning, teaching or assessment elements you are concerned about, you are encouraged to discuss any potential accessibility challenges for students which may arise with your College/School Disability Coordinator, Swansea Academy of Inclusivity and Learner Success (SAILS) and/or Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT), to ensure that any alterations to make learning more inclusive can be made at an early stage.

Selecting the appropriate methods for learning and teaching requires careful consideration of the many available options. Ultimately, there can be no guarantees that a learning approach will continue to yield the same results when applied to difference students.

However, the UK Quality Code for Higher Education’s Guiding Principles for Learning and Teaching offer guidance on how to approach the issue.

Specific Support Requirements

Swansea University supports students who have specific support requirements, which makes taking notes difficult or impossible, by enabling them to record lectures for their personal use and study. In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, the recording of learning sessions is considered a reasonable adjustment, lecturers who withhold their permission may, under the ‘individual liability’ provision, be subject to legislation.

Procedure for ensuring students’ specific requirements are met

Student Services will notify the Disability Link Tutor/Coordinator in the relevant College(s) that the student shall be recording the oral or visual presentations. It is the responsibility of the Disability Link Tutor/Coordinator to disseminate this information to relevant colleagues to ensure they are aware of and support the student’s needs.

Approaches to ensuring inclusive learning and teaching

Whilst approaches to learning and teaching will vary across subject areas, the section below outlines some approaches which can be used to evaluate the level in which learning and teaching meets inclusivity guidelines.

Blended Learning and Flipped Learning

Blended learning ‘uses multiple methods to deliver learning by combining face-to-face interactions with online activities’. Blended learning combines face-to-face and online activities in a seamless and complementary flow of learning’. (Advance HE)

Therefore, blended learning not only facilitates student engagement, through directing them towards self-study and research, but also allows students to access material at a time, and in a way, most suitable to their learning and needs.

Find out more about blended learning by visiting the SALT – Blended Learning site. The University also carried out a pilot project to implement the approach across the University, and resources relating to this project can be found here. Additionally, Advance HE provide an outline of Blended Learning on their website.

Advance HE also provide an overview of Flipped Learning:

‘Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach in which the conventional notion of classroom-based learning is inverted, so that students are introduced to the learning material before class, with classroom time then being used to deepen understanding through discussion with peers and problem-solving activities facilitated by teachers’.

Therefore, much like blended learning, students are able to access materials, albeit required to do so by a specific timeframe for teaching delivery at their own leisure and where is best suited to them. Learning is further enhanced through in-class discussions, and activities, which add to the knowledge already gathered through self-study.

Both approaches can assist in the learning experience and engagement of students who have a range of issues relating to inclusivity, accessibility and equality. Additionally, for Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) students, they facilitate the need to meet both sporting and scholarly activities.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning was first defined by David H. Rose in the 1990s, recognising that individuals had unique ways of learning, and therefore curricula and learning approaches should be designed to account for this.

Curricula, Rose argues, should therefore be effectively designed to increase access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual and organisational barriers to learning, including the design of learning space and assessments.

The University recognises the very real challenges this approach presents within the current environment (restricted space and large groups of students) but expects staff responsible for learning and assessment design to bear these principles in mind when creating new or reviewing existing approaches to learning and teaching.

You can get more information through Swansea University – Designing a New Programme.

ABC Learning Design at Swansea University

The ABC approach generates high levels of engagement, dialogue and group reflection about curriculum design. In just 90 minutes teaching teams work together to create a visual  ‘storyboard’ made up of pre-printed cards.

Based on the six learning style concept from Prof Diana Laurillard’s ‘Conversational Framework’ Teaching as a Design Science (2012), teams can review existing modules or design new ones. The fast-paced, focused nature of the workshop enables busy academics to plan learning activities to meet the module or programme learning outcomes.

Over 35 universities and colleges throughout the UK, Europe and beyond have benefited from the ABC Learning Design methodology and we are pleased to be able to offer support for this methodology here at Swansea. Guidance can be found in the ‘Guidance Resources and Directory of Effective Practice’ for this section.

The College of Arts and Humanities have utilised the ‘ABC’ approach to both review existing modules, and develop new ones, for their Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology programmes.

Making Teaching, Learning and Assessment Inclusive

During the design of any curriculum, consideration of barriers to access around all aspects of learning, teaching and assessment is essential, in order to deliver a programme which requires as few changes and alternative provision as possible, recognising that there will always be some aspects that individuals with complex support requirements may find challenging. As detailed in the University’s Guide for prospective students on extra help and support, these challenges can be far-reaching, varied and both apparent and unapparent to fellow students and staff. The challenges can be physical, mental or personal but impact on areas of University life including:

  • Learning support needs
  • Special requirements for assessment and marking
  • Equipment to support individual needs
  • Accommodation
  • Personal care
  • Mental health and welfare

When considering inclusivity, and the challenges which each student may face, Thomas and May (2010) outlined four categories which may influence a student’s engagement and inclusivity:


Level/type of entry qualifications; skills; ability; knowledge; educational experience; life and work experience; learning approaches.
Dispositional Identity; self-esteem; confidence; motivation; aspirations; expectations; preferences; attitudes; assumptions; beliefs; emotional intelligence; maturity; learning styles; perspectives; interests; self-awareness; gender; sexuality.
Circumstantial Age; disability; paid/voluntary employment; caring responsibilities; geographical location; access to IT and transport services; flexibility; time available; entitlements; financial background and means; marital status.
Cultural Language; values; cultural capital; religion and belief; country of origin/residence; ethnicity/race; social background.

Therefore, colleagues are encouraged to consider these challenges in all areas of learning, teaching and assessment, in order to develop inclusive approaches to delivery. The University has developed an ‘Inclusivity Toolkit’, which encourages reflection on inclusivity from a variety of perspectives, and helps evaluate and develop approaches which address the challenges students may face.

The University’s SAILS website, and Student Disability Policy, provide guidance on how to make teaching and learning inclusive and also outline the provisions available to assist students in a variety of their learning and teaching experience, as well as their wider University life. There is an implementation checklist, designed to assist colleagues in ensuring virtual learning environments are inclusive, available via the University’s VLE Minimum Standards and Expectations.

You can also evaluate how inclusive your approach is by looking at the ‘How inclusive are you?’ video.

Accessibility audits should be carried out prior to teaching episodes which take place off-campus (e.g. field trips, visits, placements) to ensure that the planned locations are accessible for all students. Guidance on reasonable adjustments for individual students should be sought from the College/School’s Academic Disability Co-ordinator.

However, wherever possible, colleagues should aim to ensure all approaches to teaching delivery are as inclusive as possible. Therefore, in-line with Thomas and May, colleagues should consider all aspects of inclusivity and incorporate them into delivery. The University of Leeds ‘Being inclusive in field trips’ offers guidance on the key considerations when undertaking off-campus activities.

Information about effective practice across the University

Examples of effective practice are available in our ‘Guidance Resources and Directory of Effective Practice for Inclusivity’ section below. Additionally, the Swansea University has examples of effective practice including within Engineering, Science, SALT and Library Services.


One such effective practice example lies within our College of Sciences where colleagues have adjusted several field courses and practical elements, in Biosciences, to accommodate individuals with learning difficulties and impaired mobility. The School have used a variety of approaches to either assist the learners in in the field (i.e. providing additional support staff to help, running a separate field session if needed etc.) or in some cases changing the location of field work to the campus to ensure accessibility is addressed. The School have also set up entirely new practical and scenarios in some cases.

The School’s approach to inclusivity has included recreating a rock pool environment, in an aquarium, for a wheelchair user student who was unable to access the rocky shore. This enabled the learner to fulfil the learning objectives of the practical and experience how ecological communities form and are maintained in coastal rocky shore environments.

Student feedback has shown they greatly value any efforts to enable accessibility and inclusivity, especially when it assists them to work alongside their peers.

Inclusivity related policies and legislation

The Equality Act (2010) legally requires Swansea University to ensure that all students are able to fully access all aspects of the curriculum irrespective of any protected characteristics which may impact on their ability to do so, and that the University has a responsibility to ensure that they can do this on an equal basis with other students.

Higher Education Institutions are expected to take anticipatory action to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in accessing the curriculum, which includes all the protected characteristics covered by the Act (outlined below). Anticipatory action should aim to address any potential accessibility or inclusivity issues prior to delivery. Therefore, colleagues are encouraged to utilise the guidance, examples and principles outlined in this document and via other University resources.

The protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act (2010) are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Race (ethnicity)
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Maternity and Pregnancy
  • Gender Reassignment

In addition, under the University’s Fee and Access plan required by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) the University is legally required to ensure equality of opportunity for under-represented groups in general, including Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD40), POLAR3 and 4, Low income households, mature students (aged over 21), part time students, care leavers, carers, Welsh medium students and students estranged from their families.

Guidance Resources, Further Reading and Directory of Effective Practice for Inclusivity

You can also access SALT’s Tools and Types of Learning padlet or Effective Practice Directory – Inclusivity for more information and guidance. 


Laurillard, D (2012) ‘Teaching as a Design Science – Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Teaching’ – 1st Edition, Routledge. 

Thomas, L and May, H (2010) Inclusive learning and teaching in Higher Education’ 

Policies and Legislation

Peer Observation of Teaching

Peer observation of teaching is critical to the reflection and enhancement of learning and teaching at Swansea University. The approach requires all staff with teaching responsibilities opportunities throughout the year to reflect on and improve their teaching practice through a process of working together with colleagues to provide constructive feedback on areas they could improve and things they are doing well.

The University’s Policy on Peer Observation outlines the mandatory practice of peer observation. Approaches vary within each College/School. This allows for adaptation, based on individual College/School delivery, and for a process which suits both teaching delivery and record keeping in the College/School.

Peer observation must take place at least once during each academic year for all staff delivering teaching. If possible, colleagues are encouraged to use it more frequently.

Managers should confirm at PDR whether peer observation has taken place, and staff are encouraged to share their observation(s) with their line manager and how they have improved their practice as a result of the observation process.

Why is peer observation important?

The process gives the opportunity for teaching staff to reflect on their own approaches and, through observing colleagues, both develop their peers and learn from them. The Swansea University’s Peer Observation of Teaching Policy offers a guide in supporting this two-way communication process.

Peer observation can also play an important role in developing the student experience. Swansea University’s Strategic Plan outlines an aim to create a ‘rich, character enhancing student experience’, and teaching quality is a fundamental part of this commitment.

Peer observation of teaching is an enabling process, for staff with teaching responsibilities, to reflect on and improve their teaching practice. This process has the potential for sharing best practice across disciplines thus improving the quality of the student learning experience. It can also be a catalyst for creating communities of practice.
Guidance Resources, Further Reading & Directory of Effective Practice for Learning and Teaching

For more examples, you can visit our Effective Practice repository.

Policies and Legislation


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