Located learning spaces
Key principles, guidelines and strategies for inclusive teaching practice
The following guidelines will assist you to:
- design and deliver your coursework to allow for the divergent needs of student populations
- provide barrier free learning environments and activities in physical spaces
- cater for a wide range of students with or without disabilities.
The infographic below highlights a range of things to consider when you are trying to increase inclusivity in the physical learning environment. Providing an inclusive classroom is more than just ensuring access. Your students need to participate on an equitable basis once they get in the door.
(Hitch & Lim 2014)
An alternative format may be downloaded: Things to think about in the classroom (DOCX 15KB)
Classes and seminars
Teaching spaces, whether lecture theatres or seminar classrooms, often present barriers to students with differing abilities and requirements. Understanding the needs of our diverse student cohort is paramount to providing an equitable learning experience for all students. Here are some key factors that need to be considered and addressed.
Checklist for suitability of located teaching environment
- Has it got a hearing loop for students with hearing impairments?
- Is the microphone working correctly?
- Is there wheelchair access that does not make the student unnecessarily conspicuous?
- Will it accommodate a student with a guide dog?
- Are there accessible PowerPoints for students with recorders, laptops, and assistive technologies?
- Is the room going to be overcrowded and generate extraneous noise?
- Overcrowding and extraneous noise can be a distraction for ALL students resulting in poor concentration and difficulties recording/transcribing notes.
- If such conditions prevail and are beyond the control of the lecturer/tutor, it is good practice to offer quality lecture outlines, notes and handouts in accessible hard copy and digital formats.
- Darkened environments (for slide or video presentations) may compromise the learning experience for students with impaired vision, who lip read, or require a sign language interpreter.
- Ensure that you face your students when speaking to enable clearer delivery, particularly for students who lip read and for students for whom English is not their native language. This benefits ALL students, as speech is often unclear or inaudible when turning towards the screen or away from a microphone.
- Sometimes the only thing you are able to change are the seating arrangements. Training Room Design - Seating Arrangements provides an informative analysis of the relative merits of different types of arrangements.
(Adapted from Doyle & Robson 2002)
Practicals (laboratories, studios etc.)
Determine the required student learning outcome:
- learning by observation i.e. understanding a procedure
- being an active 'hands-on' participant.
- Support worker: Students with a disability may require an academic support worker to provide direction and guidance.
- Student preparation: Provide an outline of the practical in advance to all students to enable them to prepare prior to the task required. Students are then able to raise and discuss any potential barriers.
Good Laboratory practice
- Prior to beginning the practical session discuss procedures and safety. Provide written and electronic safety rules in alternative formats (e.g. large print, screen reader accessible).
- Give all students adequate opportunity and support to familiarise themselves with the laboratory layout and equipment before the first session, particularly exit locations, showers and extinguishers.
- Provide and discuss emergency evacuation plans ensuring these accommodate the needs of those with visual, hearing and motor impairments.
- Identify, discuss and resolve any limitations students with disabilities may encounter e.g. ensure hearing impaired students have an unobstructed view of the lecturer; place those with mobility difficulty in locations accessible to exits; determine if text is easily readable and if braille labels or raised-letter reagent bottles are available.
- Good laboratory practice enhances accessibility for all students: ensure aisles are clear of obstacles, shelves are easily reachable by all, and appropriate protective clothing is worn at all times by everyone.
- Ensure lightweight fire extinguishers are provided for mobility-impaired students.
Download an alternative format: Good laboratory practice (DOCX 14KB)
"We carried out experiments in a huge lab that was very noisy. I have a hearing impairment and on my very first class I found it very stressful that I could not hear the lecturer. I spoke to my lecturer who offered to give me typed instructions at the very next class. He did! It was so much easier." (Nick cited in Doyle & Robson 2002)
(Adapted from Doyle & Robson 2002)
Fieldwork, practicums, work integrated learning (WIL)
In accordance with the DDA (1995) staff awareness and knowledge of inclusive curriculum is imperative when organising work placements, WIL, field trips and practicums to ensure all students have the same learning experience. These should be accessible wherever possible, selecting settings and locations with this in mind. Providing alternative experiences or comparable opportunities may be deemed a reasonable adjustment but this is not necessarily the case.
- Provide equitable opportunity and access for all students.
- Build awareness of, and value and respect
- Ensure sustainable, workable, practicable and accessible conditions according to range of contexts and partner requirements.
- Account for of all aspects of students' lives and the implications of these for their fieldwork or placement experiences.
- Create strong collaborative and proactive relationships between universities and partners.
- Audit fieldwork, placements and excursions for accessibility and inclusivity.
- Adopt flexible and sustainable approaches for inclusive policies, teaching practices, curriculum design. and delivery that fosters a university-wide mindset and culture of inclusivity from the outset.
- Provide equitable support services and resources for students before, during and after placements/field trips to take account of specialist needs (including transport and mobility issues).
- Provide professional development support and resources for staff to implement inclusive principles and guidelines.
- Provide support for partner organisations to implement inclusive principles and guidelines and ensure accessibility.
- Provide specialist guidance on international placements and global mobility programs.
- Create strong collaborative relationships and partnerships.
- Make clear and manage expectations.
- Review and evaluate on an ongoing basis.
Practical strategies and tips
- Employ a range of assessment strategies.
- Consider relocating field trips to alternative sites.
- Consider alternative learning experiences with comparable learning experiences to placement (e.g. Virtual wil or virtual fieldtrips).
- Be flexible with timing and arrangements for placements.
- Explore online opportunities for industry engagements.
Virtual Legal Placements (VLP) – Queensland University of Technology
An online model that enables cost effective access of large numbers of students to WIL. Collaborating and partnering with a range of employers that includes legal firms, government, industry, and community organisations helps meet the diverse needs and interests of students. The VLP also allows flexibility required by off-campus and part-time students. Read more about QUT's Virtual Legal Placements
Build staff capacity
- Provide cultural competency training and raise awareness of student diversity and dis/abilities and the implications for work placement and excursions in both domestic and international settings.
- Make available risk management.
- Offer WIL scholarships.
- Reward and recognise best practice and contribution to workload.
- Create communities of practice and knowledge sharing.
- Showcase exemplars.
WIL Community of Practice (CoP) - RMIT
The purpose of the WIL CoP at RMIT is to provide staff involved with WIL an opportunity to share and learn from one another. The WIL CoP focuses on a range of both operational and learning and teaching WIL issues to help build the professional capacity of staff, particularly in relation to matters which are challenging or difficult. The group also helps those who may be 'working alone' to grow a network they can call on for support and advice. Read more about RMIT's Community of Practice (PDF 291KB).
Build student capacity
- Offer students opportunity to discuss/disclose/negotiate specific needs during the organisation and planning of field trips and placements e.g. mobility, physical impairments, fitness.
- Ensure effective liaison with Deakin's Disability Resource Centre.
- Consult with students to find placements that meet their requirements.
- Give timely and appropriate information about workplace/fieldwork requirements.
- Make reasonable adjustments to meet individual needs where appropriate.
- Ensure learning outcomes are clear and understood.
- Direct students to academic skills support and consider embedding this support in your unit site.
- Refer students to DeakinTalent for career advice including preparing CVs and job applications.
- Offer scholarships and financial support.
- Make clear procedures for disclosure of issues that may impact on learning.
- Provide access to disability, counselling and other student services and support.
- Offer institutional awards.
- Use personal stories and vignettes.
Media Public Relations – Macquarie University
This unit provides industry placements which occur mostly on-campus. This approach provides students some flexibility in terms of where, when and how their project is completed. Students are encouraged to disclose any specific needs early on so the program convenor can accommodate these when project teams are formed and projects allocated. Additional advice and support is provided in areas such as writing, critical thinking and time management. Read more about Media Public Relations inclusive industry placements (PDF 175KB).
Build partner capacity
- Adopt flexible and diverse approaches: policies, protocols and process must fully account for risk.
- Work with partners and providers to ensure accessibility, provision of assistive technologies, making reasonable adjustments, and provision of support (e.g. mentor).
- Seek projects and hosts that encourage student group work.
- Ensure the industry host can meet students' diverse needs and capabilities.
- Provide advice, resources, information, and training to hosts/partners on:
- effective and equitable teaching, assessment and feedback in workplace settings
- issues related to student's disability requirements e.g. equipment, software, hardware, signage, access to information
- projects and tasks that accommodate students with diverse learning needs
- governance of student learning: relevant university, government and industry policies and guidelines and accreditation frameworks
- reporting mechanisms to the university during and after workplace experience
Student with speech impairment
"Julie had a speech impairment. She had no experience in the workplace prior to commencing studies and as a consequence lacked confidence. Her project tutor liaised with the placement provider to ensure that the company was aware of the specific issues relating to Julie’s speech difficulties. For example, the tutor discussed with the provider that Julie would have difficulties with:
- confidence through her disability
- use of the telephone - Julie may need to use an alternative method of communication
- communicating with the line manager and work colleagues." (Doyle & Robson 2002, p. 40)
(Adapted from ADCET n.d.; Doyle & Robson 2002; Winchester-Seeto et al. 2015)
Deakin resources and services
- Safety in Design Principles will be applied by Facilities Services and its contractors in the design, construction, fitting out of all new or refurbished spaces to meet requirements under Section 28 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004).
- Refer to Deakin University Design Standards for Facilities. The latest version of this document can be obtained from Facilities Services.
- Also available from Facilities is the Access Manual 2010.
- Deakin's Disability Resource Centre (DRC) promotes inclusion and access. It provides information and services for students and staff with a disability, health or mental health condition that affects their work, study or participation in university life.
- Access, participation and progression in Work Integrated Learning is a project that addressed issues of access, participation and progression in work integrated learning. An Australian Government funded project that aimed to 'translate inclusive education principles into the work-integrated learning (WIL) context in order to improve student access, participation and progression', it adopted a 'strategic approach across four levels: principles, policies, guidelines, and procedures to support students from diverse backgrounds in the disciplines of built environment, business and health' (Australian Collaborative Education Network Ltd n.d.).
The following resources provide suggestions and guidelines that are relevant for students who cannot access an onsite placement:
- La Trobe University TARDIS—A simulated archaeological excavation: The project known as TARDIS (Teaching Archaeological Research Discipline In Simulation) uses an artificial site with a series of scenarios from various times and places in the past which students excavate.
- Guides for teaching and learning in Archaeology: Inclusive, Accessible, Archaeology (PDF 756KB). Good practice guidelines for including disabled students and self-evaluation in archeological fieldwork training (Phillips et al. 2007).
- Guides for teaching and learning in Archaeology: Employability and Curriculum Design (PDF 884KB) (Aitchison & Giles 2007). Experiences of academic colleagues (p. 5), Widening participation and employability addressing issues of diversity (p. 7).
- Making It Happen - Work Experience for all (National Disability Coordination Officer Program n.d.)(DOCX, 420KB)
- Teaching students with autism: ADCET What support could be helpful
Australian Disability Clearing House on Education and Training (ADCET) n.d., Fieldwork, Work Placements, Excursion and Practicums, retrieved 22 May 2018.
Doyle, C & Robson, K 2002, Accessible curricula: good practice for all, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, retrieved 6 April 2017.
Hitch, D & Lim C 2014, Things to think about in the classroom (infographic), Deakin University, Melbourne.
Winchester-Seeto, T, Mackaway, J, Peach, D, Moore, K, Ferns, S & Campbell, M. 2015, Principles, Guidelines and Strategies for Inclusive WIL (PDF 693KB), retrieved 22 May 2018.