To learn more about First and Further Year Experience (FFYE) Program or to get involved, contact Kathy Egea, FFYE Coordinator.

Inclusion is at the centre of all that FFYE does. This forum took a deep dive into the guiding principles that structure our approach to implementing inclusive practice, exploring the Six Curriculum Principles of Transition Pedagogy and the UTS Inclusive Practice Principles in action. Run as a hybrid session, the forum brought together the diverse FFYE community of academics, professional staff and students. 

Revisiting the UTS Inclusive Education Principles: Alisa Percy and Katie Duncan 

Alisa Percy (Senior Lecturer, IML) and Katie Duncan (Inclusive Practices Coordinator, LX.lab) led a discussion on the ideas behind the nine UTS Inclusive Education Principles. Katie reminded us why inclusive education matters, reiterating that “Inclusive education is critical for providing an equitable experience for some students, but benefits all students”.  

Ensuring your learning and teaching is inclusive may require intentionally taking a different perspective. Alisa and Katie offered the concept of ‘designing for the edge’ as a helpful approach. As the diagram below shows, this process encourages learning designers and educators to look beyond students whose needs are easily covered, and towards those who may have more complex accessibility and learning requirements. 

Three concentric circles diagram. Centre circle is ‘design works for’, then ‘design works with difficulty’ and third ‘design doesn’t work for’. Centre has highest number of dots, third has very few
Designing for the edge infographic, from The Centre for Inclusive Design

After Alisa went through the Inclusive Design Principles (as described in her recent blog post), Katie reflected on the importance of weaving lived experience into inclusive and accessible learning design, which has recently been drawn on at UTS through mental health co-design workshops. These processes, along with the Inclusive Practices Review and ongoing support for academics who want to make their learning design more inclusive, are instrumental in ensuring that inclusive practice is implemented at UTS.  

Dr Annabel Sheehy on the power of gesture

Annabel offered insightful strategies that any academic can use in their classes to build belonging and embed inclusive practice. In addition to her practice of ‘never underestimating the power of a small gesture’ (read more on this in Annabel’s recent blog post), Annabel emphasised the importance of knowing your cohort as much as possible, suggesting a range of strategies including:  

  • Orientation activities at the start of session 
  • Creating posts on Canvas to welcome students to the subject 
  • Canvas discussion boards 
  • Conversations with your students during and after class 
  • Using storytelling strategies to develop communication skills 
  • Providing visual maps of the subject topics over the session to show students where they should be 
  • Employing the use of content warnings and encouraging students to do the same 
  • Inviting interruptions and giving permission for students to make mistakes through their learning journeys 

Panel discussion

The panel included presenters Alisa and Katie, Zozan Balci (Casual academic, professional staff in CSJI (Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion), and winner of the 2022 UTS T&L Award for Casual Academics) and Lucy Allen (academic in TD school and frequent contributor to FFYE).  

Zozan, expanding on her recent blog post, emphasised the importance of building confidence in students by sitting down with them during small group discussions, providing verbal affirmation to their questions and comments, and asking their consent to call on them when participating in whole class discussions. Zozan also discussed some of the barriers that can prevent students from engaging in learning, including language and cultural barriers, drawing on her own lived experience to help students develop a sense of belonging.  

Lucy emphasised the importance of drawing on diversity as an asset in transdisciplinary practice, pointing out that TD School could not exist without a diversity of perspectives. She seeks to amplify diversity, rather than seeing it as a challenge or hindrance. An important strategy she uses with her students is the embodied experience of being ‘stuck’ and being able to move past a barrier or block (written about in this post).  

Katie highlighted the shift to remote teaching as a factor in the push to identify ways to ensure learning is accessible, while also ensuring staff are supported throughout these processes. Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility, but it can also be difficult for people to fit this into their workloads, so the LX Inclusive Practices team focuses on finding opportunities and building bridges in the learning and teaching community.  

Alisa encouraged learning and teaching practitioners to enrol in the GCHETL (Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching and Learning), describing it as a space of learning together, with, and from each other. Within the GCHETL, there is a new social inclusion focused micro credential that will be offered as an elective to those enrolled in the GCHETL. This elective begins in May, and more information can be found on UTS Open.  

One audience member asked about how to manage student expectations when embedding inclusive practice. Lucy affirmed it was a difficult balance, and recommended asking students for feedback, discussing changes to subjects with transparency, and using a ‘getting to know you’ survey to understand student expectations and needs.  

Group activities

Forum participants also engaged in activities that identified practice designed to support the inclusive education principles. In small groups, they were able to share their own practice and learn from others. Interestingly, most participants rated many of the principles as practices that they were doing already (see Mentimeter feedback below). Of the 46 respondents, 34 indicated that they recognised and embraced student diversity in both the curriculum and classroom. However, the two principles: ‘assess equitably’ and ‘representing diversity in the curriculum, were lowly rated (14,19). Future FFYE forums and blog posts will draw on these reflections to introduce new ways of working towards an inclusive curriculum and classroom. 

a screenshot of mentimeter feedback showing which inclusive practices participants use – highest ratings are for diversity and equitable assessment.
Mentimeter feedback from forum participants.

Loved this and the activities and meeting peers. Enjoyed the presentation with simple and practical ideas on understanding students, making small gestures and helping students develop their own communication skills. 

Forum attendee

Curriculum Management Modernisation Project

FFYE community members may be interested in the Curriculum Management Modernisation (CMM) project, which Lucy (a TDI FFYE Transition Coordinator) has joined representing the FFYE program. The CMM team would like to hear from a wide range of people with lived experience in learning and teaching. More information can be found at (UTS ID and password login).  

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