We value learning where each individual learner and learning preference may be represented

Students value teaching that recognises their individual academic and social identities and addresses their learning needs and interests

Encourage students to engage with texts, videos and podcast of authors which represent their cultural background, identity or nationality provided these are relevant to the learning outcomes being addressed

The notion of traditional and non-traditional students creates over-simplistic understanding of what students’ roles are and what we expect from them. This limits the development of inclusive and engaging learning experiences. We need to know our students, where they come from,  their learning needs and interests and, when possible, must cater for them as part of our teaching and as part of the learning resources we make available to them (Morgan and Houghton 2011).

Suggestions

  • Provide examples in relation to other countries and/or realities
  • Ensure that students have space to share their own experiences, their views and the context where they live or work
  • Provide a wider reading list with authors from different backgrounds and countries (you can look at their names, affiliation and geographical references to where they research)
  • Allow students to find their own examples and learning materials provided they are addressing the intended learning outcomes and topics.

Plan assessments that are diversified and allow easier representation from students coming from different backgrounds

Evidence from research suggests that students who enter university through alternative routes such as college education are disadvantaged by the assessment regime in HE (Hatt and Baxter, 2003; Payne, 2003; Francis, 2006; Hounsell, 2007; Ertl et al., 2009); i.e. essay writing or exams may be more accessible to a specific group of students and not to others as they may not find the essay relevant for their own future job. Even if the accreditation body of your course requires a specific type of assessment, ensure that its delivery creates an inclusive learning environment.

In addition, the emergence of essay mills and the ease with which plagiarism can occur means that the more personal we make assessment, the less easy it is for plagiarism to occur and the more it encourages students to engage with their learning through assessment.

Suggestions

  • Design a range of assessment strategies such as portfolios, presentations, lab work, projects, audio or video submissions
  • Provide more ‘authentic’ assessments by either linking them to a real life work scenario or, when possible, enabling students to choose the topic and/or the tool for submission
  • Embed the ‘Understanding the Assessment’ guide to create an active student participation allowing students to reflect on their own learning, skills and abilities. An example, can be found on ‘How simple guides contribute to an inclusive education and active learning’ paper.

Avoid assumptions about students’ knowledge, lives or interests

We often base our teaching on the assumption that students’ lives and interests, their skills and knowledge are the same from cohort to cohort. Learning materials are designed for one cohort but the content is sometimes not reviewed for the next year. By aligning the curriculum closely to one group of students we may risk demotivating others. Learning materials that allow students to apply what they are learning to their own interests are likely to engage a wider range of students and make learning materials more up-to-date and relevant (Hockings et al., 2009a; Zepke and Leach, 2007).

Suggestions

  • Avoid the use of quickmarks that are not contextualised when assessing students’ submissions
  • Ask students what their expectations are and try to manage them where they are wildly out of line.
  • Review and update learning materials based on students’ expectations where appropriate
  • Directly encourage students to find their own examples and learning materials (provided they are addressing the learning outcomes and topics intended) and reward them for doing so, recognising the skills development that this represents.

Create rapport with students and connect with their own personal and professional lives

Evidence shows that students appreciate that staff know their names or are able to make connections to their specific context. Student’s are not our customers, they are not buying an education. They will eventually pay for access to our resources, chief amongst which is your expertise. They are our partners in learning and look up to you as the expert in the field. Therefore, you should value their ideas and opinions because they have different life experiences to you and may bring an exciting perspective to a particular topic.

Suggestions

  • Use the ‘Understanding your Students’, which has been developed to help you understand the levels of academic anxieties and concerns your students may have, causing them to perform poorly, fail or withdraw.
  • Find common ground (this can be done by sharing your experience in the same country or region, share commuting habits, share working experiences, etc.)
  • Be conscious of your body language and other non-verbal signals you are sending
  • Try to model the UWL graduate attributes because student will learn these directly from you
  • Engage with students before and after the session (for example in tutorials) by either asking course related questions or university-life related questions (personal questions should be limited to one-to one tutorials and only where appropriate).
  • Show some empathy and collegiality. Demonstrate that you can see the other person’s point of view

Empower students to take responsibility for their own learning by gradually growing their confidence and autonomy from a more structured approach in level 3 to a more autonomous approach in level 5 and 6

Lev Vygotsky (1980) refers to this as scaffolding learning – the variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively towards stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process. The lower the level is (3 and 4) the more structured learning should become.

Suggestions

  • Use the ‘Study Skills for Successful Students’ guide, which has been developed to help students to develop their study skills. It is a useful tool for your students to help them reflect on their own skills and set goals for their professional development. Personal Tutors are encouraged to use this guide along with the PRACTICE Model of coaching with their tutees.
  • For level 3 and 4 students, you may create a narrative using your Blackboard module of what the students need to learn during the week, providing activities before and after the lecture/workshop and providing a clear set of instructions and a rationale for why the students need to complete those activities
  • Provide occasional formative self-assessment quizzes to assess students’ knowledge about the topic and help students monitor their knowledge (either on BB or in class).
  • Use the SAP ‘Fit to Sit’ and ‘Fit to Submit’ guides to ensure students have a clear understanding of what they must do to be successful in assessments.
  • Make the criteria of assessment explicitly visible in the assessment brief and in the Blackboard rubric. Also discuss them in class because the assessment language we use may be foreign to the students.

Provide opportunities for reflection about learning and interconnections with previous experiences and knowledge

It is important to develop students’ abilities to manage their own learning and motivations by helping them to reflect about their learning, while observing themselves and others, linking learning with previous knowledge and with previous experiences.

Suggestions

  • Use reflective portfolios as a strategy to develop such reflective skills with students. Give them instructions at an early stage of what to reflect about by asking them directed questions. Make sure they know what reflection is and that the skills they learn in doing so are part of critical thinking, so prized by employers.
  • Ask your students to frequently reflect on the ‘Study Skills for Successful Students’ and create a new if their goals were accomplished.
  • Provide 10 minutes discussion in the end of the lecture/workshop with questions such as “What have you learned today?” “How does what you have learned connect with previous lectures or modules?” “What is its relevance to your course or your future profession?”

Embrace different learners’ preferences and needs by providing alternative ways for expression and participation

Learners learn at different speeds and in different ways. They may have work and/or personal commitments, long commutes or different study habits.

Suggestions

  • Edit your UWL replay recording so that it captures the most relevant moments of your teaching. Make it available in Blackboard with a clear explanation of what was covered in that lecture. This should include the key concepts that must be learned.
  • Provide further learning opportunities in Blackboard through discussions forums, reading activities, questionnaires. This will signal that learning does not happen only in face-to-face moments.

Further resources

Professional development opportunities