Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Quick feedback from Inclusive Learning and Teaching events as part of Good Practice Week

I went to a session on Inclusive Learning and Teaching today that was a front for a number of different workshops on various aspects of the project. The over-riding message of the day was that practices for inclusivity were also practices for high quality teaching and learning, and that small adjustments made to benefit one group of students would usually also benefit others. Elena described pitching ILT to departments as a way of helping them meet the aims of the University's LTAS and Sheffield Graduate characteristics, and this seems to have worked, helping raise awareness of issues and engaging with a wide range of departments. It could be worth adopting a similar strategy when discussing TASH.

Elena also fed back on an event in April where students had outlined what they saw as do's and don'ts of inclusive teaching (on a handout in the pack - suspect you've seen it already); the detail of these was as interesting as the more creative work they'd done, suggesting metaphors for the ILT project. They talked of "isolated islands" of students wanting to cross the sea (with support) and come together under the sun of ILT; and of there being certain ILT-based keys to unlocking the box of their award and learning. This last in particular deserves some unpacking, as while it has strongly teleological undertones, it does strike a nice balance between supporting students and allowing them to develop their own ideas.

The other prevalent theme of the sessions was lecturer assumptions , especially in the guise of cultural or linguistic references not everyone could follow. There was one student who had felt excluded from a module by being on a joint honours programme and not understanding the references to previous modules that single honours students had done. Again, this could be one way in with TASH, and certainly provides another aspect to the continuing problematisation of student and tutor expectations. Ali Hayward said nice things about TILL and the support she'd received, and emphasised the importance of a holistic understanding of the student, not seeing them as disabled, foreign, etc. but as a whole person, with a whole person's needs. Again, potential material for use here.

On another note, as a passing remark at the end, Margaret Freeman mentioned that HCS were considering offering tandem learning sessions for English pronunciation, which could be of great benefit to some of our learners. It would be really interesting if this took off, and might help integrate some of our students with other departments and the general life of the university.

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