Inclusive Practice: Seeing is believing!

by Alison Purvis.

The principle of being inclusive is overwhelmingly supported whether that’s individual academic staff at SHU (well over 90% in support according to SHU research from 2007), policy statements at Executive level or a on a national level (QAA; HEA; UKPSF).

However, how this positive support and the policy intentions should translate into practice change is not easily understood and so real change on the ground remains stubbornly hard to shift. At the same time, being inclusive stems from certain principles but rarely results in specifics that can be applied universally and so attempts to exemplify what an inclusive practice is, frequently lead to legitimate objections that it wouldn’t work in other contexts – subjects, cohorts, professional body requirements….the varieties are endless making every course context unique.

Dave Lomas in Physiotherapy supported by Paddy Turner (Education Developer) attempted to tackle this by focusing on a single module and changing as much as possible towards being inclusive. Examples of some of the changes made were as follows:

  • “Ground rules” were negotiated and mutually agreed for each student group and then placed on Blackboard, covering such areas as:
    • attendance – recognise factors influencing this
    • punctuality – recognise times when this might be a problem
    • leaving the room and returning during teaching etc
  • Resources: PowerPoint slides and documents/handouts, were all changed to cream  background colour and a sans serif font such as Arial, Tahoma or Calibri was used
  • All teaching resources were placed on Blackboard at least 24hrs in advance of teaching
  • Timetabling – at 3hrs it was agreed that sessions were too long. It wasn’t possible initially to adapt the timetable so a consistent approach to including breaks was adopted. (Shorter sessions were adopted for the revalidated course)
  • Student note taking was allowed in any format using their own technology e.g. video, audio, photographs on tablets, laptops or iPhones
  • Sessions were filmed. (students given advance notice) HWB technical services provided the relevant post production skills. Resources added to Blackboard via the content collection. These were then transcribed by a mixture of professional transcription service or the Module Leader
  • Increased use of screencasts produced via Camtasia
  • All course materials, learning outcomes, assessment criteria, assessment briefs for example, were rewritten in plain English!
  • The final module summative assessment was adapted to allow:
    • An element of choice in the individual timetable: students indicated a preferred time for the practical exam across the total numbers of days allocated.
    • Exam durations were extended enabling extra time to be built-in so that all students had the same time which was sufficient to complete all elements without pressure (all students informed in advance)
    • Examiners given the flexibility to end the assessment once the student had covered all the required elements
    • Student notes were already allowed in the exam but now they could use any format but no w.w.w access. Asked to bring headphones if using audio or video.

(Note that other specific Learning Contact requirements were still adhered to)

Initially, amongst the staff, there was much doubt regarding the value of these changes and even some questions raised regarding the potential negative impact some of them might cause. The students remained pretty phlegmatic.

The outcomes were surprising, fears failed to materialise and several staff subsequently decided unilaterally to implement change within their own modules, particularly with regard to the assessments.

“..we’ve certainly implemented this same thing with a vengeance in the….practice-based learning course.”

“..it gives them an equal opportunity to shine and to show us their best and manage their nerves and anxieties.  So, yes, lots of advantages I think.”

“…..it made the process for us less stressful”

Students didn’t necessarily notice changes as inclusive, but did make many positive comments:

“It was one of the most organised and planned modules I’ve seen or that we’ve had. Just with all the resource that you’ve got and the way it was planned out. There wasn’t [sic] really many negatives to it…”

“..even though I don’t have a learning contract, it helped sort of just give me that settle down,…”

The benefits and confidence these outcomes engendered led in turn to inclusive practice changes being introduced to the course revalidation and these changes being commended as a result.

Now it’s your turn. Seeing is believing. If you believe in the principles of inclusive practice and want to talk through how you might make changes, small or large, then Paddy is at hand to work alongside you and support you along the way. Contact Paddy on x4491.