Questioning Assumptions







Strand Student Retention
Type Campfire
Learning objective(s) The objectives of this session are;

  • to enable participants to recognise that barriers to participation, engagement and thus learning can be caused by unseen and unrecognised assumptions
  • to enable participants to uncover their own assumptions through an ongoing process of review and reflection on practice and outcomes
The concept of inclusive practice in teaching and learning in higher education has been around for many years (see Dearing 1996 and Tomlinson 1997) and it has long been acknowledged as good practice by the QAA, by the HEA and very recently by HEFCE (2017). Further, research at SHU (Smith 2009) showed that well over 90% of teaching staff supported the principles of inclusive teaching. In spite of all this, progress towards achieving a widespread inclusive institution proves to be elusive nationally and, indeed, internationally.Why might this be? Layer (2017) joins a long list of those who refer to the need for a widespread culture change to, rather than incremental steps in, the way organizations approach the issue of inclusivity. This suggests that developing systems and providing checklists or toolkits will be insufficient to effect the long-lasting embedded change required. Hanesworth (2015) talks about the need for teachers to engage in self-reflection to overcome the many biases and assumptions that we all have, but which might be invisible to us.

This session helps us to begin that journey by uncovering some of our most prevalent biases and subsequently provides some insight into other such hindrances. However, are we open enough to recognise any cognitive dissonance and overcome the confirmation bias we cling to?