Developing and Delivering Effective and Inclusive Learning and Teaching

Swansea University believes that all students should expect a positive learning experience delivered by good teachers throughout their University experience. As a result, the Swansea Academy for Learning and Teaching (SALT) has developed the 7 Characteristics of a Good Teacher programme, which provides an effective framework for staff and students for improving learning and teaching. The 7 principles are:

  1. Encourage contact between students and staff
  2. Develop reciprocity and co-operation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Communicate high expectations
  5. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning
  6. Emphasise time on task
  7. Give prompt and effective feedback

The SALT also delivers the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education and the internal Higher Education Academy accredited Fellowship Scheme. Both approaches are designed to enhance the skills and enthusiasm for teaching within the University, and enhance the student experience.

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 realise their potential. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and all have individual approaches to learning and development, meaning that a standardised approach to education can potentially exclude people. Reducing those excluded by removing simple barriers, and making changes for those students which need it, is the essence of an inclusive approach.

Additionally, 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. The Act sets responsibilities for all Higher Education Institutions and also sets out very specific requirements when professional competencies must be demonstrated.

Higher Education Institutions are expected to take anticipatory action to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in accessing the curriculum. The most effective and efficient way to meet the requirements of the Equality Act (2010) is to make your teaching inclusive for all students from the beginning through the use of Universal Design.

You should discuss any possible challenges which may arise with your College Disability Link Tutor, Swansea Academy of Inclusivity and Learner Success (SAILS) and/or SALT during development and prior to delivery of any learning, teaching or assessment elements you are concerned about, to ensure that any alterations to make learning more inclusive can be made at an early stage. We recognise that it is impossible to always make learning fit for every student, so additional reasonable adjustments may be required, but minimising these changes will save you time, effort and money and will enhance the student experience.

What is Universal Design?

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. The approach calls for providing learners with multiple methods to acquire information and knowledge, opportunities and approaches to demonstrate learning and to provide multiple approaches to engagement to challenge and motivate individuals from the outset (as opposed to making reactionary changes when a student cannot engage via standard means).

Curricula 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 in particular.

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.

How Can I Ensure my Learning and Teaching is Inclusive?

By carefully considering how students access the curriculum and assessments during development, you can design learning which is inclusive from the beginning and will meets the needs of a wide a group of students as possible (see Universal Design). You will find many of the small changes which could be made to teaching and assessment will actually benefit all of the students and not just those with protected characteristics, and will make these students feel more included. The key is to make changes which benefit everybody where possible, and minimize the amount of other adjustments needed for individual students.

Many students may experience different challenges in accessing learning, but it is likely that students with disabilities or mental or other health issues will require the most adjustment. 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.

There is a range of simple changes that can be made to ensure learning, teaching and assessment is inclusive from the start, without reducing competence standards or academic rigour. Key enhancements include:

  • Ensuring learning outcomes are clear and assessable using a range of valid assessment modes.
  • Ensure all lecture materials are made available electronically at least 48 hours before teaching sessions.
  • Record (audio or video) all teaching sessions for students to use after the sessions and ensure closed captioning is included as standard.
  • Ensure there is a varied range of authentic, valid assessments to enable students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in different ways.
  • Ensure you have a suitable and equally robust alternative assessment prepared for every assessment method you develop.
  • Consider using optional assessment methods to provide students with a choice.
  • Utilise a range of approaches to feedback, including video and audio feedback.
  • For presentations and projects, consider virtual approaches including podcasts or webcasts to ensure all students can present to the best of their ability.
  • Use a variety of presentational methods and teaching strategies.
  • Take care when designing learning material, PowerPoint or Prezi presentations that the font style, colour and background are complementary to viewing.
  • Consider providing a range of learning opportunities for students to demonstrate achievement of intended learning outcomes in a way that suits their learning style or need.
  • Prepare course materials well in advance to allow time for them to be adapted (e.g. produced in Braille).
  • Provide all course material, including handbooks, relevant lecture notes and handouts, in electronic format on Blackboard for all students in advance of lectures. The importance of attendance at sessions should also be made clear to students.
  • Allow all students to record lectures for personal use.
  • Provide podcasts/video recordings of all lectures (after the session or in advance) on Blackboard to help students to engage.
  • Ensure student note takers and support workers can attend classes.
  • Ensure field trips/practical/laboratory sessions are accessible (where possible) or that alternatives methods for achieving the learning outcomes are available.
  • Conduct accessibility audits for all learning activities to be taken externally[1].
  • Consider the teaching space (lecture room, seminar and practical sessions): what issues could affect the learning experience of disabled people – is it accessible and is there a hearing loop installed?
  • Plan all assessment deadlines effectively to avoid multiple assessment deadlines occurring in close proximity.
  • Provide assessment feedback to all students electronically and where possible through a range of formats (e.g. video, audio).
  • Most importantly, discuss issues with your students – find out what matters to them.

Further information on developing inclusive learning and teaching can be found on the SALT website and in the SAILS Staff Guide on Accessible and Inclusive Learning Materials

[1] Accessibility audits are 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. Reasonable adjustments should be made, where possible, during the design phase of the teaching, to ensure it is as inclusive as possible.


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