This week is a guest post by College superstar PhD student, Ellen Lynch. On 13 July Ellen co-facilitated a session on inclusive teaching practices, led by the ANU Centre for Learning and Teaching, a wonderful unit dedicated to supporting innovative education at ANU. This post is Ellen’s reflection on the session, which was attended by more than 70 ANU College of Engienering and Computer Science (CECS) educators.
A huge thank you to Kelly Frame, Kim Blackmore, Ellen Lynch, Sophie Burgess, and Jenny Simmons for leading such an engaging session - and all in an online environment! An equally huge thanks to every educator who participated with generosity and enthusiasm, particularly in what must be the most challenging educational environment we have had in higher education.
Being inclusive in your teaching can seem like a large, fuzzy and difficult to locate mountain you’re told you must scale. At the CECS Teaching Intensive, I hope it began to look like a manageable, clear and supported journey that will benefit those around you.
It was marvelous to engage with you all during our session on inclusive teaching practices. As a tutor and student myself, it felt like peering behind the curtain and catching a glimpse of the pit orchestra tuning their instruments. The session covered a range of topics from proactive engagement of diverse people, issues such as hostile and benevolent sexism and workshopping ideas for increasing the inclusiveness of our teaching practices in CECS.
We all deserve to work and study in safe and inclusive environments. Proactive engagement is a key aspect of this and relates very closely with social belonging. Social belonging in higher education refers to the extent to which a student needs and experiences positive relationships with peers and staff and considers themselves to be a legitimate member of the learning community (Banchefsky et al 2019; Patterson Silver Wolf 2017; Walton, Cohen 2011). As people who interface directly with students, we have a key role to play in shaping positive interactions and relationships, ensuring that students know they do belong in your class, and removing the influence of negative intellectual stereotypes.
There are a number of ways to signal to people they do, or don’t belong in a learning community. This can be verbally, visually, or in academic materials. Our session on inclusiveness explored what we can do to help students feel they belong and are psychologically safe through student personas activities, sexism scenarios, groupwork and workshopping ideas to address different inclusion challenges.
To highlight one activity, small groups were provided profiles of diverse students they may encounter. Using one student, they were able to explore how they might be able to support that student (and others by extension) to succeed. Suggestions included changes to assessment, curriculum, examples provided in class and the diversity of teaching staff.
Across the sessions people discussed, explored and shared their ideas and experiences with open minds. Personally, I was elated hearing teaching staff reflect on their previous approaches, and identifying where they may be able to include course materials from other parts of the world, or enabling students to undertake assessments they are passionate about. There is already great work happening in CECS and I look forward to seeing that expand and grow to be standard practice, helping students feel they belong, create positive experiences and achieve their potential.
This session was by no means exhaustive or all encompassing. We hope this experience has provided an overview of what is out there and an opportunity for continued reflection, discussion and actions. If you’d like to learn more, reach out to the Centre for Teaching and Learning, watch out for the accompanying handbook with contributions from across ANU to be released by the end of 2020, or check out what’s happening in your field within education research.
Thank you to the ANU Centre for Learning and Teaching, College of Engineering and Computer Science and Gender Institute for supporting and running this intensive in partnership the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit, NECTAR and Family Friendly Committee.