Inclusive Teaching for University Success: A "Charlotte's Web" of Understanding Student Diversity

Debra SHIRLEY
The University of Sydney, Australia
debra.shirley@sydney.edu.au

Natalie ALLEN
The University of Sydney, Australia
natalie.allen@sydney.edu.au

Melanie NGUYEN
The University of Sydney, Australia
melanie.nguyen@sydney.edu.au

Kerrie LANTE
The University of Sydney, Australia
kerrie.lante@sydney.edu.au

Sarah LEWIS
The University of Sydney, Australia
sarah.lewis@sydney.edu.au

Corinne CAILLAUD
The University of Sydney, Australia
corinne.caillaud@sydney.edu.au

Karen WILLIS
The University of Sydney, Australia
karen.willis@sydney.edu.au

Tina BARCLAY
The University of Sydney, Australia
tina.barclay@sydney.edu.au

Andrew GONCZI
The University of Sydney, Australia
andrew.gonczi@sydney.edu.au

Fiona NG
The University of Sydney, Australia
fiona.ng@sydney.edu.au

Abstract

Background:
Socioeconomic background is a major determinant for entry to, and success at, university with people from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds underrepresented at university. Additionally, people with poor English language proficiency are disproportionately represented in low SES groups and previous studies suggest that academics find inclusively teaching of students from diverse backgrounds to be challenging (Lante and Allen 2012).

The initiative/practice:
This study is part of a larger project which aims to develop a package to support academics in inclusive teaching. Students were surveyed about their English language proficiency, SES, learning experiences and barriers/challenges to their learning in higher education and, particularly, health sciences.

Method:
The survey was completed by 268 undergraduate students from the Faculty of Health Sciences, the University of Sydney. Content and thematic analysis was used to analyse open responses. The small sample size of LSES students warrants caution in the interpretation of our findings.

Evidence of effectiveness:
Preliminary results show 14.2% of students identified themselves as from low SES background and 11% of students believed they had below average levels of written English and 5% below average spoken English. Perceived proficiency in written and spoken English was more closely related to experiencing challenges with assessments than SES. Students perceived finances, work commitments and health issues were major barriers to their learning. Language, accessibility and cultural issues were also reported. The identification of these themes can be graphically displayed as a web of inclusiveness.

Print Close