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The key principles of inclusive learning

In this article we delve a bit deeper into the concepts that inform the creation of an inclusive learning experience.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the concepts that inform the creation of an inclusive learning experience…

‘Inclusive Learning’ is not a singular, linear concept. In fact, there are many different overlapping dimensions of inclusion within a higher education institution.

In this article, we will explore some different concepts and terminologies that are important to consider when thinking about the creation of an inclusive learning environment, including ideals that we strive towards at the University of York. The terms we are referring to here do have a particular emphasis and basis within a UK context, however many are still relevant on a global scale.

Inclusive learning principles and key concepts

Definitions with an asterisk at the end have been taken or adapted from the University of York Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Glossary

Access, Participation, Continuation and Attainment: These terms refer to the progressive stages in a University student’s ‘student lifecycle’. (Taken in reference from the Office for Students APP glossary)

  • Access: Successfully entering into higher education
  • Continuation: This is part of the ‘success/ participation’ stage of a student’s life cycle and refers to a student’s continuation from one year of study to the next.
  • Attainment: This makes up the second part of the ‘success/ participation’ stage of a student’s life cycle and refers to the academic outcome achieved by students.
  • Progression: This refers to students’ progression from higher education into employment or further study

Allyship: Being a supporter of a different marginalised group (often from a perspective of privilege) who actively helps advance the interests and rights of the marginalised group within particular socio-political contexts.

Co-construction: Staff and students working collaboratively together as partners in the development of all areas of learning and teaching.

Equality: Ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and skills. The belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of where, what or whom they were born, or because of other characteristics.

Equity: Where ‘equality’ sometimes indicates uniformity and the even distribution of resources among all people, ‘equity’ tends to represent the distribution of resources in such a way as to meet the specific needs of individuals by acknowledging that some groups and individuals require more or less resources in order to access the same opportunities as other people and groups.

Decolonisation: Decolonising aims to reflect wider global and historical perspectives through a process of questioning sources of knowledge, theories and intellectual traditions; identifying how knowledge production can reproduce power hierarchies and how new perspectives can emerge from sustained engagement in dialogue and discussion around this.

Decolonisation in relation to higher education is something that we will go into more detail on in week 3 of the course [UoY Statement of Approach to Decolonising and Diversifying the Curriculum]

Diversity: Recognising that everyone is different in a variety of visible and non-visible ways, and that those differences are to be recognised, respected and valued.

Inclusion: The creation of a learning, working and social environment that is welcoming, which recognises and celebrates difference and is reflected in structures, practices and attitudes.

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

Learning and teaching environment: The environment in which learning takes place. This includes both the physical and online spaces where learning occurs (e.g., the university campus, classrooms, zoom calls) and refers to the collection of interactions and influences that a learner is exposed to during their learning experience. It does not have to exclusively refer to the direct teaching experiences of the learner in a traditional classroom setting.

Lived Experience: This refers to the unique knowledge, perspective and interactions an individual gains through direct, first-hand experience of living their life while identifying with one or more protected characteristic, such as race, religion or sexual orientation etc.*

Peer Support: When groups of learners support one another within their learning environments, socially and academically.

Protected characteristics: This is a term used in the UK Equality Act 2010 to describe the characteristics that people have in relation to which they are protected against discrimination and harassment. Under the Act, there are nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.*

Privilege: Privilege refers to the unearned social power (set of advantages, entitlements and benefits) afforded by the formal and informal institutions and structures of a society to the members of a dominant group*.

Reflective Thinking: The practice of thinking and learning from our experiences, taking time to consider something from multiple perspectives before taking action.

© University of York
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Inclusive Learning for Students: Building inclusive practice into your life during higher education, and beyond

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