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Some thoughts on inclusion – It's just good practice

Please note this is not an equality and diversity piece, but it is a piece about ‘including all learners more often’….

I recently attended an online test learning event on ‘Equity in your Tutoring’. On listening to the presenter speak I began to recall previous views on this topic, as it seemed all the information and insight being shared was applicable to all learners not just those with a ‘special need’ or ‘additional need’ due to a life challenge (or social barrier etc.).

So I began to look deeper at this and thought ‘what could I take/learn from the material of others which could and should be applied to all learners regardless of life challenge or background’? I saw some powerful and simple advice being shared. So here is what I found and thought of value to share with those who ‘help learning happen’.

Use learners names: learn the names of all those in your group, not just the quite ones, disruptive ones or active ones but those who sit between these groupings often on the edge of conversation or bravery to raise a hand and ask a questions. This is particularly important in group discussions, find ways to bring in the quiet, calm the loud and motivate the indifferent.

Use getting to know you activities: the ones that allow you to learn about your learners, not just their names and interests but their ability and capability relevant to your teaching and their personality. Try to learn about their journey to the event (metaphorically speaking), what brought them here, personally and professionally, what’s happening in their world, show interest, curiosity and authenticity when listening – you’ll be amazed at the results.

Advocate failure: but without the risk of negativity. I would advocate making failure a normal part of your work as it’s great for learning and confidence building if done at the right pace. This way successes and failure of all learners can start to be treated with equal reward (it’s all learning and attempts in learning). Able and less able can be on the same footing more often and both are celebrated for efforts in testing, trying, failing and succeeding in equal measure.

Be aware of your own biases: Easy to say but hard to do. That said some biases (or stereotypes) can be helpful, in using the past experiences and shared views on society groupings that informed them to predict an individual’s support need. Although we MUST use them only as an informative tool rather than a blanket view. Consider individuality always!

Encourage story telling: draw on personal experiences of learners and encourage all individuals at a time right form them to share their story, their context and how this new learning fits for them. Contextualisation and allowing learners to generate their own thinking/meaning and placement of new material within their world is an amazing catch all opportunity – this is an inclusion multiplier for me!

I recognise this does take energy and requires you to go beyond delivery of content, and demands you delve into your reserves of noticing…but it’s worth it.

Inclusion is about recognising that each of your learners is different (in experience, background, interest, needs, challenges, motivation etc.) and giving them an opportunity to share these differences, learn collaboratively and create with others. It is not enough that learners simply ‘access’ learning (and we know that this alone can be a challenge for some), each must have the opportunity to be actively engaged – at a pace right for them.

A call to action: As practitioners in teaching and learning we must consistently challenge ourselves to engage more learners more often. Recognise the value of difference, we can learn a lot from it.

Kurt Ewald Lindley, sports coach UK, Development Lead Officer – Coach Developer