Our understanding of diversity is broad – it encompasses gender, race, age, disability, linguistic differences, learning abilities, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and cultural background and so much more. Inclusive practice is understood to be attitudes, approaches and strategies taken to ensure that students are not excluded or isolated from the learning environment because of any of these characteristics.
As a tutor, your role is to ensure that all students feel welcome, accepted, safe, listened to, valued and confident that they can participate in all activities. You need to be sensitive to the needs of all students. You are the protagonist in setting the culture of your tutorial and thus able to set parameters for creating a learning culture which recognises and honours student diversity. You will likely have very diverse groups of students in your tutorials. We often think about diversity as being about whether students are from overseas or non-English speaking backgrounds, yet there are many other facets as noted above. It is crucial to foster an underlying environment of respect for and valuing of this diversity.
Your approach to this as a tutor is influenced by your own experiences and assumptions and, in some instances, those of other students. It is useful to reflect on this, as perhaps you are carrying some negative or fixed ideas into the classroom. Be aware (beware) of your own generalisations and stereotypes and those perpetuated by others. To aid you in this self-reflection, try the guidelines developed by Thompson and Kwitko:
You might like to consider these suggestions for inclusive teaching:
- When you ask a question make eye contact with all students
- When listening to a response, listen attentively
- Treat each student as an individual
- Call on all students by name where possible – make an effort to learn names
- Intervene when students show disrespect for another student
- Use small groups to foster collaborative learning
- Encourage students to share their varied perspectives and experiences & create a supportive environment in which this can occur
- Encourage students to know and listen to each other.
- Avoid stories, jokes and comments that denigrate others