A group of students sitting around a desk in an academic English class talk to a teacher

What is inclusive learning and teaching and why is it important?

What do we mean by inclusive teaching and learning?

“Inclusive learning and teaching recognises all student’s entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences.”

Advance HE framework for student access, retention, attainment and progression

“The design and delivery of teaching, learning and assessment methods that allow all students to engage meaningfully with the curriculum and achieve their full potential.”

Phil Gravestock, University of Wolverhampton, presented at Institute of Physics, May 2017, Building momentum towards inclusive teaching and learning

Rowena Arshad OBE on Building inclusivity: engagement, community and belonging in the classroom

Rowena Arshad, University of Edinburgh

Rowena Arshad of the University of Edinburgh speaks about what inclusivity is and why it is important in this video, 'Building inclusivity: engagement, community and belonging in the classroom'.

University sector definitions

Inclusive teaching and learning recognises the importance of developing learning communities and valuing members’ diversity

“We will foster an inclusive and diverse community where different backgrounds and cultures in staff and students are cherished and celebrated, and their different cultural experiences and identities are embraced in order to better prepare all students for an increasingly diverse and complex future work environment. We will foster a culture that understands and embodies the values of diversity and inclusivity, ensuring this is reflected in campus life, in the curriculum, and in the application of knowledge to real-life problems in a global context.”

Imperial College, Learning and Teaching Strategy June 2017

Inclusive teaching and learning recognises the needs of individual students

“Our students benefit from learning in an environment where they feel included and where they are taught in ways that recognise and support their needs as individuals, and as part of a learning community”

Plymouth University

Inclusive teaching and learning recognises the wider value of diversity to society

The world is facing severe challenges and “needs people to undertake the challenges – people from different backgrounds, ideals, beliefs, abilities and ways of thinking. It requires an inclusive learning, teaching and research attitude and culture to enable students, staff and stakeholders to develop their full potential and ultimately contribute to the challenges of this day. Being inclusive within this context also requires understanding, preparedness and resources to enable us to deal with an increasingly diverse set of student backgrounds, ability and attainment and larger classes whilst endeavouring to provide an excellent learning experience”

University of Sheffield (PDF)

Inclusive teaching and learning avoids excluding certain student identities

"Many people who are not necessarily homophobic or transphobic can nonetheless unwittingly contribute to excluding LGBTQ identities from the classroom. They may know enough about LGBTQ issues to not want to get it wrong but, exactly because they are afraid of getting it wrong, they prefer to say nothing, hence further reinforcing the invisibility of the identities, or failing to challenge exclusionary language.”

University of Birmingham

Inclusive teaching and learning matters because diversity in STEM matters

"While there are strong imbalances in the racial/ethnic and gender representation across scientific fields, there is no evidence to suggest that cultivatable scientific potential differentially segregates across lines of social identity...Thus, the large and persistent underrepresentation of certain social groups from the enterprise represents the loss of talent."

Kenneth Gibbs. Jr., 2014

Why inclusive learning and teaching is important to us - the drivers

  • It’s a social and ethical responsibility that will have a positive impact on the way the Imperial staff and student community work together to improve the development of, and support for all its members.
  • It’s central to Imperial’s learning and teaching strategy, launched June 2017
  • Students come from over 131 different countries to study at Imperial so it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from different global perspectives. See our Student statistics (requires Imperial log in).
  • Students need to feel that they can bring their ‘whole selves’ to College, and that their differences enrich our community. They should feel that they are valued, equal, and able to participate and contribute fully to the social, cultural, and academic life of both the College and their disciplines. These values, when fully embodied, bring out the best in everyone.
  • “Imperial College Union has argued strongly that in recent years that there is a growing issue of poor mental health in the Imperial community and the way we teach and learn – and the expectations put on our students – are contributory factors.” National Student Survey Response 2015. Mental health is important:
    "I feel as though more could be done to address student welfare, in particular those who struggle with the pressures of exam periods/stressful terms. I am aware that there are workshops for this kind of thing, but more people struggle with it than meets the eye and I sometimes felt as though we were perceived/treated as high achieving students when in reality we are human beings who are affected by the course in all sorts of intangible ways"
  • It’s a legal requirement under the Equality Act (2010) that outlaws direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of the protected characteristics including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion/belief, sex and sexual orientation requires us to take positive steps to promote equality.
  • In 2016 allocation of the Disabled Students Allowance which paid for things like individual students’ note-takers has changed considerably. For guidance contact the Disability Advisory Service. As a result of funding cuts the onus is now in universities to make their teaching and learning more inclusive generally.
  • The new 2017 version of the National Student Survey  is interested in students’ experiences of our learning community and asks them to assess to what extent “I feel part of a community of staff and students.” and "I have had the right opportunities to work with other students as part of my course.”
  • Our graduates' employers are increasingly recognising the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Imperial's Careers Service offers specific opportunities and advice to our disabled students.
    'As a humanitarian organisation we embrace the skills, abilities and knowledge that only a diverse and inclusive workforce can harness. We are constantly striving for diversity across the firm. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s an important part of our values and aims and how we maintain our reputation for innovation and creativity.'