Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Development of online professional development module around inclusive teaching in higher education (#211)

Robyn Everist 1 , Juliana Ryan 1 , Danielle Hitch 1
  1. Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Although discourse around inclusive practice in higher education is often tied to students with a disability, embedded inclusive practices in teaching and curriculum can improve the experience and outcomes of all students (Larkin, Nihill & Devlin, 2014). Inclusive learning outcomes, resources, assessments and environments remove the need for retrospective adjustments to individual needs, and are therefore cost effective and sustainable as well as more broadly inclusive.

In 2014, Deakin University began an Inclusive Curriculum and Capacity Building Project, supported by funding provided by the Commonwealth of Australia Higher Education Participation and Participation Program. This showcase will focus on one aspect of capacity building, the development of an online professional development module around inclusive teaching in higher education. The module was built in the university’s learning management system (Cloud Deakin) to use a platform already familiar to staff.

The module is designed to be both self-paced and flexible, and to be applicable to teaching staff across all faculties and areas. Innovative features of the module include interviews with both staff and students about the lived experience of inclusive teaching, the explicit modelling of the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) throughout the module and the opportunity for participants to construct a personal action plan for embedding inclusive teaching into everyday practice.

Staff undertaking this module are invited to take part in a mixed methods pre-post survey, which assesses their understanding and confidence around the principles of UDL and their intentions regarding the application of inclusive teaching practice. This method was piloted in a face to face professional development session based on the module’s content, which indicated a significant improvement in attendees’ knowledge of UDL.

This module has recently been released across the University, and survey responses collected in the first six months of this year will be presented in this showcase. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This showcase directly addresses the conference theme of ‘Navigating uncertainty and complexity’. The promotion of inclusive teaching practices supports higher education staff to meet the needs of increasingly diverse cohorts of students. Existing research indicates that many higher education staff are uncertain about inclusive teaching, particularly for students who are not part of an obvious ‘equity’ group (i.e. with a disability). The development of this resource aims to help higher education staff engage effectively with diverse communities of students, in ways which are authentic to their discipline and support success.

This showcase also addresses the question of developing skills and dispositions required to access, filter and critically engage with new knowledge and new ways of knowing. By applying the principles of UDL, teachers support students to engage with learning and develop a more varied repertoire for demonstrating what they know. Supporting students to access multiple methods of representation, engage in multiple ways and produce outcomes in multiple formats also promotes the development of skills and knowledge essential to successfully taking up the opportunities provided by new knowledge and ways of knowing.