This is Part 2 in a series – read Part 1 here.

Q With the return of international students, we have opportunities to be more inclusive – how can we celebrate the diversity international students bring within our curriculum? Response from Dr Prashan Karunaratne

1. Ask these students about their perceptions of the applicability of their discipline area (to real life) pre-pandemic. It would be interesting to see what prior knowledge they do have – and how one discipline has different lenses in different countries.        

2. Then ask these students about how their discipline came into play during the pandemic in their home country – almost every discipline area played a part during the pandemic and/or was impacted by the pandemic in some way.               

3. Ask these students for examples from their home country – and to share these with the class. Perhaps as a teacher, you could populate a database. All students can be asked this question – including domestic students.     

4. Pair up students to discuss their examples and get each student to share their peer’s example with the class – which then places value on the original example.          

5. Have a pinboard world map – physical or digital that has the examples all laid out to literally showcase this diversity and inclusivity, and literally open everyone’s eyes – us as teachers, included.

Q. What are some strategies and techniques for embedding inclusive teaching in large units? Response from Associate Professor Agnes Bosanquet and the Learning and Teaching Staff Development team

The larger the class, the less comfortable people will feel to directly ask questions and/or share their thoughts. It is therefore important to design regular interactions, proactively provide support resources and plan smaller group activities. 

Teach interactively – Use polls and other tools (online or on pieces of paper) to check in on student learning and provide students with a way to ask for clarifications. Using the anonymous response features of online tools can also boost participation. 

Proactively provide slides, glossary, and support resources – Students are often more reluctant to ask for support in larger classes, so pre-empt issues by providing as many support resources as possible, e.g., slides, glossary, additional resources, etc. This provides opportunities for students to prepare beforehand and for ESL students to refer to written resources during spoken lectures.

Provide thinking time when asking students questions in class – If asking questions of individual students during a class, provide a verbal warning in advance regarding the topics to be discussed. Allow individual students some thinking time before you expect a response. “I will let you think about it, and we will return after 5 minutes to hear your response”. Meanwhile you can ask the next student to think about their response to a different question, then loop back to the first. Using short work activities such a one-minute paper, 3 points learnt, one burning question, chain notes, concept map drawing, where students work on it for a few minutes before responding.

Use small group activities – To overcome the disengaging and the intimidating effect of large classes, consider using pair discussions, Think-pair-share and small group tasks. It is good practice to have groups share their response because this can reduce the barriers of stress and the fear of failure by individuals who may be neurodiverse, self-conscious, nervous or for students from cultures where individual “face” is important. Having groups post their key points in an iLearn forum or another online tool will also make discussions visible to other students and will be more accessible to ESL students than spoken responses alone. Team-based learning and similar strategies can also be helpful to empower wider participation and learning. 

Stress the value of diverse examples – To counter the impact of “you can’t be what you can’t see,” consider including resources (e.g., case studies, examples, cited researchers, etc.) that feature situations and individuals from different backgrounds. Dimensions could be gender, cultural, indigenous, international, economically diverse, discipline diversity or industry diversity, so that students have opportunities to see themselves in future professional contexts. 

Communicate how excited you are to hear diverse examples from different communities, countries, etc. Empower the students to share their own experiences from work, past education, social, family and sporting life that they might otherwise see as irrelevant and, if possible, provide an anonymous way, e.g., via a chat function, poll or word cloud in Active Learning platform, Zoom or polling tools. 

Repeat student questions and comments via a microphone – Many comments or questions go ‘unheard’ in large classes, so it is important to repeat them for other students through the microphone. This is also helpful for students who are listening online or to the recorded lecture.

Q. How would you suggest including indigenous knowledge in a technology-based unit? Response from Dr Michael Donovan

Technology is a very broad term so this response will be quite generalist. Any technological advancements are developed to better support community needs so identifying an Indigenous perspective that could improve a community could be linked here. Indigenous Knowledges (IK) can be examined as examples within technology units such as how Indigenous communities engaged with their environments within their value systems to support their lifestyles. This could include the use of fire to remove low risk underbrush in an area lowering the risk of wildfires and initiating plant re-growth that will attract game back to that area.

So, fire is the technological tool that has an ongoing connection to multiple aspects of community development including land and animal management and decreasing the burden of human engagement on specific areas. Another example can be seen through various tools used in community such as by a woomera (spear thrower). By increasing the length of your arm, you have a longer fulcrum to allow movement through the load with less force which can increase the distance and speed of the load. Woomeras didn’t just throw a spear – they would have an attached cutting edge of a sharpened stone; they usually were a hard wood and could be used to start a fire and they could be used as a shield or a club to protect against prey.

So Indigenous technologies generally were not single-use technologies, they usually had multiple uses and purposes to support the broader needs of the individual or the community.

Q. How can we make our assessment items more engaging and inclusive? Response from Associate Professor Agnes Bosanquet and the Learning and Teaching Staff Development team

Choose authentic assessments – Assessments that take on the characteristics of real-world, work, social or political scenarios tend to be more motivating and engaging for students compared tasks that are purely focused on the measurement of educational attainment (such as academic papers and selected response exams). Consider doing an audit of your assessment tasks from the ‘authenticity’ perspective. How much would your assignments help students perform in real-life settings? Can you tweak your assessments to make them more authentic? For example, could you use a practical project task instead of a literature review? A role-play instead of a multiple-choice quiz?

Include multiple perspectives – To counter the impact of “you can’t be what you can’t see” (and can’t try) consider including in your teaching and your assessment tasks examples from diverse cultures, industries, and disciplines, international, gender and Indigenous perspectives, so that students have opportunities to relate to different people and see themselves in future professional contexts.

Consider [some] assignment flexibility – One size might not fit all, and the achievement of learning outcomes can often be demonstrated in different ways. Could you give students some options in how they communicate their learning e.g., via an infographic, a blog post, a report, a video, etc. rather than an academic paper only? A choice of topic or focus will allow students to explore their own areas of interest. If you do provide a choice, start with 2-3 options because you will need to support and scaffold the students in whatever they do. 

Adopt step-by-step assignment instructions and check-ins  – Support students by clearly communicating expectations at various stages of the assignment. This should include clear, concise specifications in the iLearn unit site about what is required and step-by-step instructions of how to prepare and submit the task. You can include progress reminders and guided tasks in tutorials or online activities, e.g., “This week aim to choose a topic and start reviewing the literature on this topic. Try to find some meta-reviews published in the last 5 years. Create a list of bullet points (see the example below) and bring them to the tutorial…”

Provide examples at different stages  – Create or find some examples of assignments in progress (e.g., bullet points with key ideas, assignment outlines, literature selection, etc.) as well as the examples of final work. Exemplars of work-in-progress as well as final work are extremely helpful for students. Also, set aside some time in tutorials to comment on students’ work in progress, and, if you get students’ permission, you might even be able to use their examples in future units. 

Re-think the use of timed assessments – Timed assessments have their merits, but they can create considerable anxiety for many students, and barriers to students with disabilities, who need to apply for time extensions via accessibility services. Consider testing skills and knowledge rather than ability to perform under pressure by removing the time requirement and redesigning the task for an open-book context.

Q. In teaching spaces, what kind of action would you advise when we are unsure what pronoun to use with a student? Would a question like “What’s your preferred pronoun?” make it uncomfortable? Response by Sophie Curtis

The first thing to be aware of here is that everyone is totally different with how they use or do not use their pronouns, regardless of their gender. We also need to remember that not everyone will want to disclose their pronouns as it may present a public ‘outing’ of some description.  The first place to start is to create a safe place in which a student may feel comfortable disclosing their pronouns to you, because this is inherently disclosing their gender (regardless if that is cisgendered or non-binary, gender fluid or trans). You can do this by introducing yourself at the start of classes and use your pronouns in that introduction, ‘I’m Sophie and my pronouns are she/her’) and you can also put them in your email signature. This signals to the Queer community you understand gender diversity and can be a safe place to disclose. Secondarily, we can’t assume someone is a certain gender, so you might want to ask them their pronouns because you are thinking you are doing the right thing, however it is always up to a person to disclose their own gender. I would always use their name, or if they have asked you to use a certain name they prefer then go with that too. It is ok to ask what someone’s pronouns are, however we need to be mindful of timing. I don’t think it should be the first conversation with a student. The conversation might be the 3rd or 4th you have and might go along the lines of ‘my pronouns are she/her, are there pronouns that you prefer I use for yourself” This is a little softer and more inclusive then “what are your pronouns’.

Q. What role does religion plays in gender bias, and should we begin change there and at home? Response from Dr Noushin Nasiri

The relation between religion and gender has been a complex one. Many religions directly or indirectly express a viewpoint over the gender division of roles, responsibilities, and traits. Recent studies are showing the role of religion in women’s rights and gender equality is nuance compared to the past. However, religions still impose certain gender-related aspects and expectations that may hinder young girls from developing engineering related traits and skills that impacts their career path later in adulthood.  The best we can do is to start the practice of providing equal opportunities to our kids to develop their individual and social cognitive abilities and build on their strengths and interests, irrespective of their gender.

Q. Are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) group such as non-native English speakers counted in this inclusive teaching and workplace diversity? CALD scholars find it hard to excel in their career due to language and cultural barriers. What kind of support do we have for them? Response by Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal

Yes. I spoke about it in “teaching beyond privilege”. Having English as a first language in this country is a privilege for both teachers and students. It is crucial that as teachers,  we proactively include CALD students in the class, discussions, and beyond. It takes tailored efforts to do so. As a university, we should acknowledge the difficulties faced by CALD students and staff and offer support.

Credits: Photo of world map graphic wall in Macquarie University College supplied by Prashan Karunaratne. Banner graphic of world communications network from Shutterstock

Posted by Teche Editor

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