Baseline standards agreed for inclusive learning and teaching

A new approach to embedding inclusivity in learning and teaching at the University has been approved.

Professor Paul Taylor, chairman of the University’s Inclusion and Engagement Strategy

Professor Paul Taylor, chairman of the University’s Inclusion and Engagement Strategy. September 2018

During the summer, the Taught Student Education Board – the University’s forum for decision making on policy matters relating to student education – has agreed Leeds will work to a set of overall baseline standards. 

The baselines support the practical implementation of both the student education and internationalisation strategies, and provide a framework for ensuring learning, teaching and assessment practices meet the needs of the University’s diverse student body. 

This is in response to a number of drivers, including:

  • the University’s duty under the 2010 Equality Act to be anticipatory to the needs of disabled students
  • a recognition of the need to ensure parity of opportunity and experience for our growing numbers of international students; and 
  • the ongoing commitment to encourage access and participation from a wide range of underrepresented groups of home UK students. 

About 18% of the University’s student population come from overseas, with 11.5% declaring a disability in 2017/18, some of whom will also be from our international cohort. 

Professor Paul Taylor is chairman of the University’s Inclusion and Engagement Strategy. He said: “It has been exciting to follow the progress of the Inclusive Learning and Teaching project through its pilot stage. 

“I know teaching staff across the University will appreciate the clear, practical guidance and resources that have emerged and will help us become a more inclusive institution.”

The following baseline standards have been devised by a cross-institutional working group, led primarily through a collaboration between Disability Services and Organisational Development and supported by a wide range of colleagues from across student education. 

Baseline Standard 1

We will ensure all learning and teaching practices, activities and supporting materials can be used by all students (reasonable adjustments will still be required in some circumstances).

Baseline Standard 2

We will release materials in advance so that students have sufficient time to engage with them prior to scheduled sessions.

Baseline Standard 3

We will ensure there is an appropriate range of assessment methods at a programme level, and that the language used in assessment tasks is clear.

Baseline Standard 4

We will ensure colleagues with marking responsibilities are up to date with the inclusive marking policy.

Baseline Standard 5

The University will support staff to achieve these baseline standards.

Baseline Standard 6

Schools will identify academic inclusivity leads to help embed guidance in local contexts.

From September 2019, all schools will be asked to review common practices against the baselines to identify areas where further development may be needed, to ensure students are not facing disadvantage due to cultural, linguistic or educational background or learning need. 

In practical terms, this will involve looking at things such as the clarity of language used in assignment briefs and whether students are able to access and review learning materials in a manner and format that meets their needs. 

Student feedback will also be important to this information-gathering exercise. 

Project Lead, Jenny Brady, said: “Implementing a baseline of inclusivity through all learning, teaching and assessment activities will help the University feel confident it is providing equality of opportunity and experience, and an environment where all students feel they belong and can thrive.

“There are many ways teaching can be made inclusive, and staff often find good practice in inclusivity is just good teaching, and they’re already doing it!”

Resources are also being made available to support staff during this process.

The Inclusive Learning and Teaching Development group has produced a set of resources, mapped against the UK Professional Standards Framework, which are quick and easy to read and full of tips on how to ensure staff take an inclusive approach to design and delivery, as well as ensuring the learning environment recognises and meets the needs of as wide a range of students as possible.

The resources, along with a number of videos of students and staff talking about inclusive teaching, can be found on the Inclusive Teaching website.

Jenny added: “If you’re not already familiar with these, it's a great place to start for working towards the baseline standards in preparation for the review in 2019/20.

“Anyone seeking professional recognition of their work teaching and supporting learning to gain fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – for example, through the university’s Professional Recognition in Student Education (PRiSE) scheme –  will also find the guides an invaluable tool for helping them evidence that their practice is inclusive.”

The Inclusive Learning and Teaching Development group will be running a one-hour workshop – Everyday Inclusion in Everyday Teaching – during National Inclusion Week (24-30 September) to give colleagues an opportunity to think about the small changes that can be made in design and delivery. The workshop is being run twice – on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 September, from 11am to noon. Register to attend the Tuesday or Wednesday sessions.

Visit the Inclusive Teaching website or contact Project Lead, Jenny Brady, or Academic Lead, Dr Beth Johnson, for further information.

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