Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Poster of Project - Inclusive teaching design to better support all students: Toward a best practice model for RMIT (Stage 1)

Project title

Inclusive teaching design to better support all students: Toward a best practice model for RMIT

Project leaders

Associate Professor Andrea Chester

Project team

  • Mr Tom Coverdale, Study and Learning Centre
  • Professor Peter Wilson, School of Health Sciences
  • Dr Berenice Nyland, School of Education
  • Mr Shahin Rahimigolkhandan, Project Assistant
  • Professor Ken Greenwood, School of Health Sciences

Project summary

Inclusive teaching is an attempt to teach in a way that embraces as many forms of difference as possible across the student population, including low SES, differing language abilities and learning preferences, as well as disability (Grace & Gravestock, 2009). Inclusive teaching is shifting from relying on post hoc adjustments to accommodate marginalised students to a “universal design” approach, which aims to include diverse student cohorts pre-emptively, thus improving the learning experience for all students. A range of teaching strategies have been proposed as “inclusive”, however, few studies have examined their efficacy in higher education settings.

This inclusive learning and teaching project had two aims:

  • To describe the inclusive teaching strategies currently practised, as well as attitudes towards and knowledge of inclusive teaching amongst RMIT staff.
  • To pilot three low-cost, high impact strategies (note-taking and note-making, concept mapping, and argument mapping) in undergraduate higher education curriculum at RMIT across all three Colleges, including students at RMIT Vietnam. A mixed method design, using a quasi-experimental approach, complemented by focus group data, determined efficacy and acceptability of these strategies.

Results from the staff survey indicated that less than one quarter of respondents were familiar with the concept of universal design, however, staff beliefs, goals and expectations, delivery modes, as well as feedback and assessment practices were largely consistent with inclusive teaching principles. In general staff expressed interest in learning more about specific inclusive teaching practices.

Results of the student efficacy study support the value of note-taking and note-making as a useful intervention. Little empirical support was noted for concept and argument mapping, although the results need to be read with caution given the limitations of the project.

A series of recommendations are proposed, including the value of inclusive teaching professional development for staff and embedding training in note-taking and note-making into the first year curriculum.

Outcomes

Outcomes of the project include:

  • Collation of information about current inclusive teaching practices and attitudes amongst academic staff at RMIT, to support institutional change.
  • A rigorously designed mixed-methods evaluation of three low-cost, high-yield strategies to support the development of evidence-based practice with recommendations for inclusive teaching practices, which can be implemented to better support all students.
  • Proposed development of online resources to support staff engaged in inclusive teaching and showcase good practice.
  • Two journal article in review:

Nyland, B., Coverdale, T., Chester, A., Rahimi-Golkhandan, S., & Wilson, P. (in review).

Inclusive teaching: Using computer software mapping tools to assist higher education students in their studies. International Journal of Inclusive Education.

Rahimi-Golkhandan, S., Coverdale, T., Chester, A., Nyland, B., and & Wilson, P. (in review).

Visual strategies for inclusive teaching in Higher Education: Concept mapping and note-taking with diagrammatic note-review. Journal of Educational Psychology.

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