TEACHING NOTES: Am I teaching inclusively?

This article continues our series on Strategies for keeping students engaged in class. So far we have explored Starting semester right and Active learning. This month we continue the theme, looking a little more closely at inclusive teaching.

Despite starting well and incorporating some active learning strategies into your teaching, you’ve probably already had some challenges. Census date has been and gone for most topics and you may have lost some students from your topic because of this. The Opinion  piece in this issue by Dr Ann Luzeckyj notes that students’ intention to withdraw can include:

  • Not coping with academic work
  • Feeling unsupported
  • Dissatisfied with the quality of teaching.

Inclusive teaching can be one strategy to reduce attrition and widen participation in university study.

Inclusive learning and teaching is commonly defined as:

the ways in which pedagogy, curricula and assessment are designed and delivered to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all. It embraces a view of the individual and individual difference as the source of diversity that can enrich the lives and learning of others.

(Hockings 2010 p. 1)

Diversity can be viewed with respect to legislation (e.g. race, age, disability and so on) and traditional vs non-traditional students (Broughan & Hunt 2012). Both these views fail to consider overlap between groups, and that some groups are not necessarily considered disadvantaged. For example, all students have aspects of their personal lives that impact on their classroom context (e.g. acting as a carer or being a sole breadwinner) (Gravestock, cited in Craig & Zinkiewicz 2010). Students are a heterogeneous group – they have different psychological conditions, aspirations, skills, background knowledge, viewpoints and enthusiasm. Inclusive teaching is teaching that addresses the needs of the widest range of students.

There are four main areas to consider in inclusive teaching:

  1. Inclusive curriculum design
  2. Curriculum delivery
  3. Assessment
  4. Institutional commitment


  1. Inclusive curriculum design

This might include:

  • Content from multiple perspectives – not excluding or distorting particular ideas or groups (including from the research)
  • Universal design principles – designing your teaching to be usable to the broadest range of students without needing adaptation or specialised design
  • Students’ heterogeneity – finding out who your students are and checking in with them throughout the topic


  1. Curriculum delivery

This might include:

  • Ensuring  a respectful and productive learning environment – outline expectations and sources of support, have ground rules for interactions, and provide a number of ways for students to achieve the learning outcomes
  • Putting aside your own biases or assumptions about students – use flexible approaches to learning that allow students to use their own interests and personal narratives to learn
  • Finding out what your students already know and what their aspirations are – connecting with this enriches the learning experience and knowledge within the student group, and allows increased participation irrespective of knowledge level


  1. Assessment

This might include:

  • Offering a range of both summative and formative assessments – this can allow for improved long-term learning
  • Note patterns of learning – this can highlight potential problems (e.g. students otherwise doing well having difficulty with a particular assignment)
  • Get feedback on the learning experience – the Touchpoint  survey can be a great way to do this


  1. Institutional commitment

Whilst this may be beyond the scope of individual teaching staff, it might include:

Conceptualising what inclusive learning and teaching means in your college (see the post on Diversity and inclusion – Put It in the syllabus! in this issue)

  • Targeting groups (or topics) that may benefit from inclusive teaching
  • Outlining a process for achieving inclusive learning and teaching


Flinders has some web resources to help you with designing inclusive teaching. These include:

Some other resources:



Craig, N & Zinckiewicz, L 2010, Inclusive practice within psychology higher education, Higher Education Academy Psychology Network, University of York.

Hockings, C 2010, Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: a synthesis of research. York: The Higher Education Academy. Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/inclusive_teaching_and_learning_in_he_synthesis_200410_0.pdf [21 March 2018].

Broughan, C & Hunt, L, 2012 in Hunt L and Chalmers D (eds), University teaching in focus, ACER Press, Camberwell, Victoria.



Written by

Cassandra Hood

Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

Posted in
Teaching Notes

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