Strategizing Inclusivity in Teaching Diverse Learners in Higher Education
AbstractPurpose - As the classrooms in higher education are growing increasingly diverse, it is imperative that higher education practitioners build a responsive learning environment for diverse learners to optimize their potential. Continuing professional development programmes (CPD) are central to such strategic approaches that equip educators with essential knowledge and skills to handle diversity related issues, achieve equity and increase participation by students. Therefore, the present study aims to examine strategies used by higher education practitioners to address diversity and inclusion in teaching and learning.
Methodology - Participants were nine academicians (6 males and 3 females) who emerged from natural retention along the iterative cycles on Community of Practice (CoP) participation. The present study adopted CoP as the theoretical lens and a methodological tool to understand what strategies higher education practitioners devise for their inclusive teaching and learning practices in response to the diversity related challenges. The data was collected through a series of observations and reflective journals. Initially, thematic analysis techniques were used to reduce data into two categories- strategies and challenges. Later, according to the prevalence and frequency count the strategies were analysed against the challenges reported and finally the strategies were reduced into major themes.
Findings - Three major themes emerged that report the inclusive strategies conceived by the participants. The themes were - Inclusive/differentiated assessment which suggested that creating differentiated assessment that are inclusive in nature and can provide equal opportunity to every student to participate. The second theme, Motivation and Goal Strategies, revealed that students were found to be diverse in their goals for learning, hence, a variety of motivational strategies such as including students’ voice, providing them a clear rationale for studying and fostering relatedness were deemed suitable to address those differences. The final theme, inclusive pedagogy suggests a variety of accommodations to be made in pedagogy such as integrating technology, adopting culturally responsive material and initiating collaborative learning to address students’ differences.
Significance -The findings have implications for faculty professional development, classroom teaching practices for inclusive pedagogy in higher education institutions and use of CoP as a framework for such developments.