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Creating more inclusive group learning environments - Dr Ben Habib IRD Peer Focus

Creating more inclusive group learning environments – Dr Ben Habib

Posted in Peer Focus

Name of Academic: Dr Ben Habib


Challenge

A student with a print disability was enrolled in a third year international relations unit (POL3IPP). In this unit, students formed groups and delivered the learning content for weeks 5 onward. Two groups would present each week, identifying and posting pre-readings on LMS. To enable equitable participation for a student with a print disability, it was essential that pre-readings be provided in a HTML format. This format enabled greatest ease of use for screen reading software. The challenge was for students to be aware of, and adopt, minimum accessibility requirements in the selection of pre-readings.


Solution

Ben Habib (subject coordinator) met with Inclusive Resource Development staff in the second week of semester to discuss the learning requirements of POL3IPP. In response to this, a resource entitled ’10 tips for making your learning materials more inclusive’ was created by IRD staff. This resource was presented in week four with discussion of these strategies facilitated by Ben. Where a strategy was particularly complex, for example, the need to provide content guidance notes, students broke off into pairs allowing them to flesh out the more nuanced concepts.Of note, the first four weeks of teaching in this unit was dedicated to explaining the process and expectations of group work. Setting this time aside was viewed as a critical success factor as per SFS data (see below).

While this document was created to ensure the accessibility of pre-reading material, additional strategies of inclusion were detailed in this resource. Adopting a broad view of inclusion these included the need to understand the diversity of the audience, to identify readings that use inclusive language and terms and to provide content guidance notes.


Outcome

Pertaining to print accessibility, all pre-readings as selected by students were in an accessible (HTML) format. This meant that the student with a print disability could access learning materials on the same basis as their peers. There was no mention of this requirement in SFS data, suggesting that integrating the requirement to identify accessible learning resources was seamlessly adopted.

Regarding a broader definition of inclusion, SFS qualitative data attests to a felt sense of safety and autonomy in POL3IPP. This is expressed in the following quotes:

“The subject also has a strong and unique pastoral care element, which let students really get to know their cohort and feel comfortable presenting and discussing some of the more sensitive topics. I also really appreciated his opening up about how he has tackled his issues with anxiety and public speaking. Ben is an incredible educator who facilitated a safe and friendly environment for us students to learn in.”

“I appreciated the autonomy Ben gave our cohort by allowing us to vote (democratically!) on the topics we wished to cover this semester. I could also see that he was trying to show us that there are ways of learning outside of traditional uni structures (lectures, tutorials, just throwing information at students etc) by encouraging peer–to–peer learning.”

“[Ben] is so accommodating, willing to help and he has such a fresh take on teaching IR. I loved the idea of exploring issues that have not been spoken enough about throughout our degrees. Many important debates were had, and I think the reactions that some presentations received illustrated just how under educated some of us are on certain topics.”

While the 10 Tips for Making your Learning Materials more Inclusive was not central to the student experiences detailed above, this resource may be viewed as supporting a continuing discussion of inclusion and equity in group learning environments. Ben demonstrated reflective and pastoral care practices that were not detailed in this resource, but were essential to facilitating a safe(r) space in discussion of sensitive content. As one instance on this, Ben wrote a blogpost on literacies of power (link below), a resource devised in response to a presentation on colonialism in week 1. Utltimately, Ben’s seamless adoption of inclusive practices, and commitment to creating safe(r) learning spaces is viewed as a critical success factor for the inclusive teaching and delivery of sensitive subject content in this unit.


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