The following post was written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, who has been a BILT Fellow since January 2018.
I am a BILT fellow (based in Academic Staff Development), working on the BILT theme of inclusive assessment. On the 14th of November 2018 I attended a two-part workshop lead by Pete Quinn (Pete Quinn Consulting) and Dr Mike Wray (inclusininhe.com) that explored inclusion from theory to practice at University of Leicester.
The first part of the day focused on inclusivity from a disability perspective and the session looked at the current situation in universities regarding inclusivity and reflected on where we are at 8 years after the Equality Act was introduced. Even though all stakeholders agree on inclusivity in principle, “making it happen” can prove somewhat difficult as new initiatives can meet resistance. Lecture Capture (new in some institutions) would be a very good example, it is a very important step for a great number of students and, in particular, students with a disability and yet this practice is still being greatly challenged by lecturers within universities and in the news. The main criticism is that students no longer attend lectures but the USS pensions-strike in 2018 also highlighted issues regarding who owns the rights to the recordings.
While universities must assure legal compliance, it is important to define what it is “reasonable” when it comes to reasonable adjustments we make to support our students learning. Pete Quinn highlighted the risk, stated by the Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a Route to Resilience publication, of “insufficient institutional oversight” which could lead to “unduly influenced [decisions] which are made by what individual members of staff perceive as reasonable” without a proper understanding of what the Equality Act requires or with appropriate emphasis being placed on relevant considerations”. It is therefore essential to break silos of practice within an institution and ensure all the relevant stakeholders work together to assure consistent and appropriate adjustments are in place.
Pete Quinn also presented the overview by Abi James (Assistive Learning Ltd) of public sector website and application regulations that all websites will need to comply with to ensure accessibility for all. Websites and content shared on intranets and extranets (this includes Blackboard) created after 23.09.18 will need to be compliant by September 2019, with anything created before 23.09.18 has September 2020 as a deadline. Finally, the deadline for mobile apps will be September 2021. You can find more information on this on the government’s website.
After looking at the work of the Office for Students, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and the equality and human rights commission we reflected on our institutions’ situation regarding the following themes:
- Non-medical help provision
- Assistive technology
- Lecture capture
- Inclusive teaching, learning and assessment policy
- Inclusive teaching, learning and assessment in practice
- Placement and internships
In the afternoon, Mike Wray presented Inclusive Learning and Teaching and Assessment Framework (ILTAF), an audit framework to help universities improve their level of inclusivity. The framework contains four sections:
- Quality assurance
- Before teaching
- During teaching
We were also given time to discuss inclusive learning and teaching in our institutions with a view to share good practice, agree goals and take stock in the future. I am very grateful to colleagues from the Universities of Leeds, Durham, Bath and Edinburgh for very interesting exchanges.
A number of questions arose from the day and left me wondering how best to initiate change and champion inclusivity within Bristol and what can we do in our practice to support this? I will be working on developing a self-assessment document that would support unit/programme leads in reviewing inclusive assessment (and teaching) practices across their units and programmes.
If you are interested in finding out more on inclusive practice, you might want to look into the following MOOC, from the University of Southampton, recommended by the speakers: Inclusive Learning Teaching.
Here are a few reading suggestions from the event:
On key actors and texts regarding inclusivity mentioned by the speakers: