With inclusion a key theme for the Learning Design Meetup during 2022, we invited UTS staff in our latest Meetup to explore perspectives on inclusive learning design. We started with some ABCDs (Accessibility, Belonging, Compliance, Diversity), and invited a panel of speakers to share their hands-on experience working with different aspects of inclusive learning.

Our invited speakers were Ashley Willcox (Inclusive Practices Support Officer, LX.lab); Katie Duncan (Inclusive Practices Coordinator, LX.lab); Franziska Trede (Associate Professor, IML), and Melinda Lewis (Senior Lecturer, IML). As the panel introduced themselves, we invited them to share their stories about how they came to be involved in the topic of inclusivity,

Ashley’s story 

“I was actually studying to be a high school teacher, and came to teaching because my partner is Brazilian. I’d been connected to the Brazilian community because being a native English speaker, they asked me, ‘Can you teach us English?’ – and so it was a very natural thing to do. Then this spread via word of mouth, and I ended up having this business teaching English for years.

The biggest thing I found (in teaching) was this lack of confidence, how difficult it is when you come to another culture to learn.

At the same time, I also had a casual job teaching disability inclusion in primary schools. So I had this very broad experience of understanding disabilities teaching about that, and then educating migrants as well. That’s why I wanted to get my qualifications to be a teacher so that I could empower more people. And that fortunately brought me to the LX.lab and to this wonderful role [Inclusive Practices Support Officer] with Katie.” 

Katie’s story 

“I was previously a Learning Design and Technology Specialist in the LX.lab. I was often talking to academics and teaching them how to use heading styles and making the content accessible, and I realised that I didn’t really understand what that meant. So I went to a workshop on how to use a screen reader. From there, I just really saw how frustrating it was to actually access content that was really inaccessible for someone who uses a screen reader. We did a couple of different projects on trying to support that in the lab, and which has led me to this role and working closely with the accessibility services to help support students with access requirements.” 

Franziska’s story 

“I am a originally a physiotherapist from Germany, and when I came to Australia, I had to learn very quickly that physiotherapy can be practised very differently! Although we all have muscles and joints and the human body is the same, regardless of race and birthplace, physiotherapy is practised differently depending on health care systems and practice cultures.

Very early on, it made me think about the macro levels that shape the way we practice and what we take for granted.

I also started working as a diversity health coordinator in a hospital. When I was there, I tried, and I succeeded with some cardiac surgeons to embark on a narrative therapy approach with their patients, and to actually start by listening to the patient stories and what’s actually important for the patient. That has actually led to some surgeons not doing surgery, because the patient said, “Look, God decided this is going to happen, and I’m happy with my life”, and with others, it led them to really understand “what do I need to do here for this patient, in this moment?”

So trying to have more democratic relationships between health professionals and patients, translated to higher education, you’re looking at students and teachers, and we’re talking about co-design. It sounds great, but how does it really look in the detail? And who actually does make the decisions? Or how are they made together?” 

Melinda’s story 

“I’ve got a similar but non-clinical, allied health origin and story. I was working with patient information, patient records and the medico-legal space; the underlying principle there was that every part of a person’s piece of information was private and confidential to them. It wasn’t somebody else that made the call on that, it was actually up to the individual and their rights. That really opened up for me an idea around the social relation of information and knowledge.

That was sort of just brewing for many, many years until more recently, in the last six or so years, I found myself working in the Indigenous curriculum space, and now at three universities.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting on country with the Bathurst Wiradyuri elders and receiving cultural mentoring. They invited me into their mentoring, which led to thinking about the social relation of knowledge, the nature of knowledge, the way that people hold, use and privilege their deep knowledge and their deep history, stories and identities.

That made me open up to thinking about the nature of knowledge, and particularly a practice that was gifted to me that I’ll share with you, which is what we’re doing now. It’s called my story, your story. So perhaps there is a little bit of something sometimes in my story, that may or may not resonate to something in your story and biography. In that way, there’s a practice of whilst we are unique, looking at perhaps as a touchstone, or something that we can touch, or a touch point between our stories. And for me, that feels very inclusive and a beautiful practice.”

Exploring inclusive practices – together

Our panel continued to share their experiences with inclusive learning practices throughout the rest of the session, exploring common challenges for inclusion and diversity in different aspects of the educational experience. We’ll share more on their discussion and contributions from other participants in a later post.

As always, we welcome your contributions to this important discussion, too. To be part of ongoing conversations about inclusivity in learning design, join the Learning Design Meetup group in Teams.

If you would like to learn more about inclusive practice in education, UTS is offering a new micro credential, Practising Inclusion: Working and Teaching for Social Justice. Find out more in this article by Franziska Trede and Sonal Singh about how this credential introduces the fundamentals of equity, human rights and social justice in the higher education space.

Feature image by Theo Crazzolara

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