Student diversity at Deakin
We are now experiencing a rapid population increase for diversity students in the tertiary education sector. This is a response to a government focus on widening participation policies over recent years. The following infographic illustrates Deakin’s diverse domestic student profile and provides a strong case for developing your inclusive teaching practices.
Ways of seeing diverse learners
We recognise that becoming and inclusive practitioner is an ongoing and lifelong pursuit. Wherever you are on this journey we trust you will find practical information and strategies here that will enable you to develop a greater awareness of the diversity of students and their perspectives at Deakin.
Diversity is a multi-faceted landscape wherein students face complex intersections of identity and experience. Whether students are domestic or international, they will range across visible axes of difference, such as appearance, language, able-bodiedness, age, and gender. Other diversities may be hidden or not as visible, such as learning skills, work experiences, socioeconomic status (SES), rural/regional background, first in family, and health issues etc. It is vitally important to assume diverse characteristics will not always be readily apparent – therefore, it is always better to pre-empt that there will be diversity in the room in every time you interact with every group of learners. Welcome diversity as a valuable resource. It is a rich repository of knowledge and experience to be embraced as a strength not a problem to be solved. Inclusive curriculum content and teaching practice should reflect and draw on different socio-cultural perspectives to enhance students’ engagement and their learning journeys. So how do you do this?
Ways of teaching diverse learners
There are many ways you can make your teaching more inclusive. Whether you’re starting out or already have a well-developed inclusive practice, in what follows there are resources to get you started or to further deepen your knowledge!
Ways of creating supportive and inclusive learning environments
As a first point of call consider your learning environment (whether physical or virtual). How do you get to know and communicate with your students? Do you offer your students flexibility, variety and choice while upholding academic standards? Are your expectations clear and do you use accessible language? These are just some initial considerations when planning for and undertaking teaching. For a more comprehensive list check the accordion below.
Devlin et al. (2012 CC BY-NC 3.0) offer the following key practical suggestions. While these were written as a guide to teaching low socioeconomic status (LSES) students, they are integral to teaching inclusively, irrespective of student backgrounds.
Know and respect your students
Understand students are time poor; communicate with them, embrace and integrate their diversity and enable contributions of their knowledge to everyone’s learning.
Offer your students flexibility, variety and choice
While upholding academic standards, offer students flexibility, choice in assessment and variety in teaching and learning strategies. For more information and teaching tips see the sections below: Accommodate learner variability and Use multiple modes of content delivery. See also topics Online/blended learning, Teaching large groups, and Make assessment inclusive for tips and examples.
Make expectations clear, using accessible language
Speak and write in plain language to ensure students understand the concepts being taught, your expectations of them and what is required to be a successful student. For more information see the sections below: Teaching tips for international/CALD students and Break down language barriers.
Scaffold your students’ learning
Take a step-by-step approach to teaching to ensure students build on what they bring to higher education and are taught the particular discourses necessary to succeed.
Be available and approachable to guide student learning
In addition to being available, be approachable so that students may make use of your expertise and guidance to improve their learning and performance. See Get to know and engage your students for strategies, tips and examples.
Be a reflective practitioner
Reflect and seek to act on your own reflections, those from peers and informal feedback from students, to continuously improve your teaching practice and your students’ learning.
Ways of employing inclusive teaching strategies
Having considered your learning environment think about what strategies you can use to implement inclusivity in your teaching practice. Do you have any biases (both conscious and unintentional)? How do you view your students, as individuals or members of a group? Do you need to learn more about specific cultural groups? For more information regarding inclusive teaching strategies, see below.
- Reflect upon your own biases or adoption of stereotypes (both conscious and unintentional).
- Treat and respect each student as an individual.
- Foster an open cultural climate in your student group—ask if any aspect of the unit content is making them uncomfortable and respond to their feedback.
- Be sensitive to and rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups. For more information see the section below: Use inclusive language and examples.
- Introduce discussions of diversity at staff meetings (teaching team, discipline, school, faculty).
- Develop cultural competency and become more conversant about socio-cultural groups other than your own.
- Be fair and equitable in how you provide feedback, constructive criticism or acknowledge students’ good work.
- Try to select materials that offer gender-neutral language and are free of stereotypes, or cite and critically examine any shortcomings that do not meet these criteria.
- Strive to include multiple perspectives and global experiences (PDF 1.1MB) in your curriculum design.
(Adapted from Diversity and Inclusive Teaching, Vanderbilt University, CC BY-NC 4.0)
Ways of using inclusive language and examples
Select and communicate unit material that uses inclusive language and examples. This will contribute to building student engagement and success. Importantly, aim to use learning resources that reflect the diversity within the Australian community, avoid including people only in relation to their diversity, put the person first and don’t make assumptions about someone’s lived experiences.
Select and communicate unit material that uses inclusive language and examples. This will contribute to building student engagement and success.
The following recommendations have been adapted from the University of South Australia (2014):
- Use learning resources that reflect the diversity within the Australian community. These should not portray stereotypes or present people from diverse backgrounds as 'special cases'. Not every resource needs to include someone who is 'diverse'.
- Avoid including people only in relation to their diversity. For example, the use of people with disabilities only in situations where their disability is foregrounded or a focus.
- Put the person first to emphasise their identity more than any particular diversity characteristic. For example, instead of referring to someone as an 'epileptic', refer to them as a person with epilepsy.
- Don't make assumptions about someone's lived experience. For example, instead of saying someone 'suffers from a learning disability', you could say they are a 'person with a learning disability'.
- Identify practices or resources that are contradictory to inclusive language principles. Point these out (particularly if they are being used in teaching) and make adjustments as soon as possible. If a complaint is made about the use of non-inclusive language, it should be addressed promptly.
Useful inclusive language guides
- Inclusive language guidelines (University of Newcastle 2006) includes many alternatives to commonly used (and often unintentionally exclusive) language.
- Inclusive language guide (State Government of Victoria 2017) is a useful resource for inclusive language in relation to LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) communities.
- Deakin's policies and procedures that relate to supporting inclusive teaching include: Diversity and Inclusion Policy and Victimisation and Vilification (Staff) Complaints Procedure.
Ways of embracing learner variability
The diversity of Deakin’s student community has significant implications for pedagogy and curriculum design, because it means that as teachers, you will encounter a range of learner variability in your classes. Learner variability is a broad term that encapsulates the rich differences in learning skill sets and capacities. Be sure to consider whether content is accessible (for assistive technologies), use a range of formats as learning activities or tasks that comprise a mix or choice of textual, visual, aural, and tactile components, have the potential to generate greater student engagement and understanding. Additionally, any learning activities or materials you choose have the potential to disadvantage or exclude some learners. As recommended by a Universal Design for Learning approach, by using a range of ways to gain and demonstrate knowledge you are more likely to meet the needs of your student cohort as a whole.
The diversity of Deakin's student community has significant implications for pedagogy and curriculum design, because it means that as teachers, you will encounter a range of learner variability in your classes. Learner variability is a broad term that encapsulates the rich differences in learning skill sets and capacities1. Therefore, you should aim to:
- Check content is accessible
Ensure that your content is accessible for all students e.g. students who use assistive technologies or have some form of impairment. This is particularly important for online teaching. For more information, tips and guidelines go to the webpage on this site Create accessible content.
- Use a range of formats
Catering for learner variety in your curriculum design and seminar/class planning offers students with differing abilities multiple ways to approach their study content. Universal Design for Learning principles emphasise the efficacy of using a range of formats in learning activities, materials and assessments. Learning activities or tasks that comprise a mix or choice of textual, visual, aural, and tactile components, have the potential to generate greater student engagement and understanding. For example, comprehension of complex or dense academic readings (which many students find challenging initially) can be complemented by or substituted with oral or visual presentation of content (e.g. videos, podcasts, mind-maps, diagrams). This will have direct benefit to not only particular students (such low socioeconomic status (LSES), international/culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), or those with a disability or learning difficulty) but for all students who find reading disengaging or problematic.
Therefore, consider offering a variety of ways to impart information. For a particular task, experiment, or activity you might:
- provide written instructions with diagrams
- read and explain the instructions to your students
- model part of the task, such as the set-up or implementation.
Ways of using multiple modes of content delivery
Any learning activities or materials you choose have the potential to disadvantage or exclude some learners. As recommended by a Universal Design for Learning approach, by using a range of ways to gain and demonstrate knowledge you are more likely to meet the needs of your student cohort as a whole. Take a look below to compare and contrast various content delivery modes.
As shown below, every type of learning activity has its relative merits and barriers, and these need to be considered holistically.
- Efficient way to teach large numbers of students
- Increased teacher control over content
- Logistically straightforward
- Encourage passive learning
- Lack of individuation
- Often limited time for questions
- Interactivity and chance to learn by discussion
- Consolidating text or lecture materials
- Mimics activities in many workplaces
- Dependent on facilitator
- May not be scheduled at convenient time for students
- Thorough risk assessment needed
- Interactivity and chance to learn by discussion
- Consolidating text or lecture materials
- Mimics activities in many workplaces
- Resource intensive
- May not provide enough chance to practice
- Thorough risk assessment needed
- Hearing a voice can be engaging
- Reduces screen time
- Can be heard whilst driving, doing housework etc.
- Scripting is labour intensive
- Audio files take up a lot of space
- Accents/speed of speech can be distracting
- Decreases reading load
- Great for visual learners
- Skills can be demonstrated
- Less interactivity
- Dependent on streaming and adequate audio
- Can be expensive to produce
- When and where students want it
- Builds skills valued in the modern workplace
- Can be delayed e.g. asynchronous chats
- Technological barriers
- Hard to simulate some activities
- Compatible with screen readers
- Easily formatted to handouts
- With narration, can be converted to a video
- Too much animation; colour can be distracting
- Slides may move past too quickly
- Can be confusing if not linked to audio of the presentation
(Danielle Hitch & Cindy Lim, Deakin University 2014)
For more SIPU information, data and reports about Deakin’s student diversity and equity group access and participation, retention and success visit: Equity and Diversity Reports – To access general information about student equity data and how it is used in the higher education sector.
More resources to support diverse learners
While these resources may ‘target’ specific equity groups, remember that what is essential for some is beneficial for all.
English for Uni: Deakin study support resource to help students improve their English language skills at university. It offers a variety of language learning strategies and explains to students how to use the feedback they receive in classes and assignments.
Teaching Indigenous Australian students: Deakin's inclusive teaching resource on this site provides a range of practical strategies, tips and examples on best practice for teaching indigenous students. It also includes excellent resources on building cultural competency.
Teaching international/CALD students: Deakin's inclusive teaching resource on this site provides a range of practical strategies, tips and examples on best practice for teaching international/CALD students. It also includes excellent resources on building cultural competency and inclusive teaching pedagogies such as:
- The good practice guide to internationalising the curriculum (PDF 986KB): Produced by Barker (2011) from Griffith Institute for Higher Education (now Griffith University Learning Futures), this guide focuses on building cultural competency to enhance inclusivity in all aspects of teaching practice and course/unit design. Reproduced for Deakin staff with permission by Griffith University, 26 April 2018.
- Teaching international students: improving learning for all: This edited book collection explores the challenges presented to lecturer and student alike by increased cultural diversity within universities. It is packed with practical advice from experienced practitioners and underpinned by reference to pedagogic theory throughout.
- Teaching international students: strategies to enhance learning (PDF 308KB): This publication from Melbourne University covers a range of key curricula areas to enhance learning for international/CALD students.
Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds (PDF 1.45MB): In particular, we highly recommend this first resource by lead author Professor Marcia Devlin (ex-Deakin academic and researcher, now at Federation University). The findings and recommendations in this report, although aimed at teachers of LSES students, offer practical strategies, suggestions and examples that will help you to teach inclusively for all your students, irrespective of their backgrounds. See 'Practical Advice for Teachers' (in Devlin et al. 2012, pp. 15–37).
First in family: The University of Wollongong website (funded by the Australian Government) offers a practical toolkit for teachers of first in family to attend university students.
Teaching LGBTIQ+ students: Deakin's inclusive teaching resource on this site offers practical information around language use, curriculum design, teaching practices, and student engagement to build staff awareness and capacity that fosters safe and inclusive learning environments.
LGBTQ—inclusivity in the higher education curriculum: a best practice guide: This University of Birmingham guide presents best practice for an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. It aims to support teachers to be inclusive about LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer) identities in their teaching practice and to feel confident in making gender and sexual diversity visible within the curriculum. The guide offers examples, tailored to different academic disciplines, on how to do this in practice.
Gender transition at Deakin: Information and resources supporting gender transition for Deakin staff and students. This includes the Deakin Gender Transition guide (PDF 608KB) and Gender Transition Procedure.
Let's talk gender (PDF 1.96MB): 'This publication has been developed for LGBTI inclusive workplaces seeking to better understand the complexities of gender. It has been designed to challenge us on our definition of gender diversity and pose questions that will make us question the way we design our forms, our processes and our diversity practice' (Pride in Diversity 2015).
LGBTI Inclusion poster (PDF 665KB): This poster gives a quick guide to inclusive practice for the LGBTIQ community in the workplace.
Accessible curricula: good practice for all (PDF 595KB): This book will assist you in designing and delivering coursework to allow for the divergent needs of student populations. It will help you to create and deliver 'barrier-free' course materials. This facilitates access for a wide range of students with or without disabilities.
Inclusive teaching with mature-age students: Plymouth University's teaching and learning resource explores inclusive ways to teach, support and engage mature age students in the university classroom with suggestions for good practice.
Disability support services at Deakin: Teachers should become familiar with Deakin's Disability Resource Centre (DRC), which promotes inclusion and access, and provides information and services for students with a disability, health or mental health condition that affects their study or participation in university life. For further information go to our ICCB page Disability Resource Centre.
See also the following topics: Plan your teaching and Create accessible content.
Deakin’s policies and procedures
Deakin University has a range of policies and strategic documents that relate to supporting inclusive practice. Take the time to check these out below.
Deakin University policies, procedures, and strategic documents that relate to supporting inclusive practice include:
- Diversity and Inclusion Policy (see item 13)
- Higher Education Courses policy (see items 7c, 7d and 28c)1
- Higher Education Courses Approval and Review procedure (see items 5 and 6b)1
- Gender Transition procedure
- Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification (Staff) Complaints procedure
- Reasonable Adjustments Procedure
- Accessibility of Materials Procedure
- LIVE the Future Agenda 2020 (PDF 2.47MB)
- Student Learning and Experience Plan 2016 – 2020 (PDF 1.49MB)
- Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2018 – 2020 (PDF 1.69MB)
- Disability Access and Inclusion Plan 2017 – 2020 (PDF 3.55MB)
- Gender Equity Plan 2017– 2020 (PDF 856KB)
- LGBTIQ+ Plan 2017 – 2020 (PDF 3.5MB)
1Compliant with external legislation, including the Higher Education Standards Framework.
Deakin Curriculum Framework
- A new version of the Deakin Curriculum Framework has been approved by the Academic Board meeting 20 Nov 2018 (see 15.3) and can be found in Section 6 of the Higher Education Courses policy.
- The Deakin Curriculum Framework includes new Principles for Premium Learning and Teaching, item 28 (c) of which states:
Read and find out more about teaching and supporting diverse learners .
Barker, M 2011, The GIHE good practice guide to internationalising the curriculum (PDF 986KB), Griffith Institute for Higher Education, now Griffith University Learning Futures, Southport. Reproduced for Deakin staff with permission by Griffith University, 26 April 2018.
Carroll, J & Ryan, J 2005 (eds), Teaching international students: improving learning for all, Routledge, London.
Devlin, M, Kift, S, Nelson, K, Smith, L & McKay, J 2012, Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds: resources for Australian higher education (PDF 1.45KB), Office for Learning and Teaching, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Sydney, retrieved 21 August 2016.
LIVE the Future Agenda 2020: Triennium 2015 – 2017 (PDF 2.45MB), 2015, Deakin University, retrieved 17 December 2016.
Pashler, H, McDaniel, M, Rohrer, D & Bjork, R 2008, 'Learning Styles', Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 105 – 19.
Scott, C 2010, 'The enduring appeal of 'learning styles'', Australian Council for Educational Research, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 5 – 17.
State Government of Victoria 2017, Inclusive language guide, Minister for Equality, retrieved 20 March 2017.
University of Newcastle 2006, Inclusive language guideline, Equity and Diversity, retrieved 15 December 2015.
University of South Australia 2014, Inclusive Language, Learning and Teaching Unit, retrieved 10 February 2017, (http://w3.unisa.edu.au/academicdevelopment/diversity/inclusive.asp#education).
Zhang, K & Bonk, CJ 2008, 'Addressing diverse learner preferences and intelligences with emerging technologies: matching models to online opportunities', Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 109 – 31.