How can we create a learning environment where everyone is valued and respected, and able to participate and contribute? Here’s a couple of ideas taken from the soon to be launched Macquarie University Foundations for Inclusive Teaching Module.

Make an explicit statement about your commitment to an inclusive classroom

If you are a Unit Convenor, you can add a statement to your iLearn unit. If you are a tutor, you can express your commitment to inclusive teaching at the start of the tutorial, especially in the first weeks of the session.

Your statement could highlight:

  • Your excitement about the diversity and experience in the room

We all come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences. It is a huge asset for our class. For example, those of us who are new to a subject often ask the most thought-provoking questions because they bring fresh perspectives. This is often how innovation is born. So please, don’t hold back and ask away. You’ll be doing everyone a favour!

  • Your willingness to accommodate diverse learning needs and recommend available resources

Your success in this class is important to me. Throughout our learning journeys, we all require accommodations because we all learn and work differently and have different life experiences. If there are aspects of this unit that prevent you from learning or exclude you, please let me know as soon as possible. We can develop strategies together in order to meet both your needs and the learning outcomes of the course. (This excerpt was provided by Professor Ronika Power).

  • Ground rules and expectations

In this class, we value our diverse experience and backgrounds and we know this diversity to be an asset for our learning. We’ll strive to keep this a safe place for all of us to learn, and even when we have challenging topics, we commit to communicating respectfully, thoughtfully, and with consideration for others’ values, ideals, and viewpoints. We commit to treating each other with respect at all times, even when we disagree.

Use preferred names and pronouns:

Avoid using binary language such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’. A person’s pronouns, and their preferred name, are an important part of an individual’s identity.

Introduce yourself at the start of classes and use your pronouns in that introduction. You can also share your pronouns in your email signature, in online meetings, and on social media.

Remember that it is never mandatory for someone to share their pronouns. This Macquarie webpage provides guidance for staff and students about using preferred names and pronouns.

Share the Australian Government Style Manual on Pronouns with your students. “The singular ‘they’ is gender-neutral. It takes the singular form of the verb.”

That means, as Professor Sandy O’Sullivan puts it in this Twitter thread, if you don’t know someone’s personal pronouns then you should use they/them/theirs.

Make your content accessible

  • Start by asking students about their needs

Invite students to share what they need with you before/during the first session. Normalise help-seeking for different accessibility requirements by acknowledging that everybody has different needs when it comes to learning, and you are keen to assist in any way you can.

  • Provide transcripts

Providing transcripts for all the video and audio material you use in the classroom, not only supports those learners with specific accessibility needs, but helps ALL students learn, revise, and review. If you are teaching via Zoom, please enable transcripts. Unlike Echo360, transcripts are not automated in Zoom and need to be turned on [refer to this TECHE article]. (If students don’t want to see Zoom transcripts, they can opt out.)

  • Use headings to convey meaning and structure

Screen readers rely heavily on the use of sequential headings. Use short headings in teaching materials to group related paragraphs and clearly describe the sections. Good headings provide an outline of the content. In iLearn, select a pre-formatted Heading from the Editor menu (don’t just put paragraph text in bold).

  • Provide alternative text for images

When using images for learning, e.g., infographics or models, write alternative text that provides the same information. iLearn has a field for alternative text. If using texts in PDFs, provide text under the image.

A ‘quick guide’ on Universal Design for Learning

Explore universal design for learning with more ideas in this quick guide (1-page .pdf document)

Coming soon – the Foundations of Inclusive Teaching Module

We hope you found the above ideas useful. There are more ideas and examples for putting inclusive teaching into practice in the upcoming module for staff. The module will:

  • Enhance your awareness of student diversity (including strengths, needs and characteristics) and policies and strategy for inclusive teaching at Macquarie;
  • Extend your knowledge of inclusive teaching principles, scholarship, resources and practices;
  • Identify resources to support you and your students’ learning and wellbeing.

Look out for an announcement about the module release.

Questions? Contact

Banner image: Photo by Andrey_Popov on Shutterstock
Image from Twitter provided by Sandy O’Sullivan

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email with questions or requests.

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