On September 16, 2022, I was lucky enough to be invited to present at the University of East London’s Teaching & Learning Symposium conference. The conference included keynote speakers, presentations of practice, and lightning talks. The variety of content was arranged primarily in parallel sessions, so while I couldn’t attend everything live outside of my presentation, many were recorded for myself (and anyone else interested) to watch afterwards.
My presentation focused on my research and practice on ways to make teachers and teaching behaviours more inclusive for neurodiverse and disabled students, as well as those students managing mental health conditions. The presentation is based on a workshop I regularly run for City staff members*, presenting my three-part framework for how to think through improving one’s inclusive teaching behaviours in the classroom.
In addition to presenting, I charted a path through the conference with an eye towards learning about practices from other institutions to improve teaching, learning, and inclusivity at City. Below are some of the presentations I found most relevant to the work currently undertaken by LEaD.
Integrating content & skills – undergraduate module design
As LEaD encompasses the Digital Education team (that I’m a part of as the Educational Technologist for the School of Science & Technology) as well as the Academic Skills team and Academic Pedagogy team, the presentation by Hayley Nova and Jude Ritchie from the University of East London on “Rethinking Module Design for Student Academic Empowerment” was quite relevant. Specifically, they showed how they’ve redesigned an undergraduate module to fully link the academic content teaching with academic skills training throughout the module, as a co-designed and in many ways co-taught module.
They highlighted that this integrated approach has substantial research backing but is rarely implemented in practice due to challenges of time and staffing. Nevertheless, they demonstrated that by choosing texts and materials together, then designing activities that intertwined thinking about the content of the source as well as explicitly thinking about the construction and skills of it, students could benefit significantly from this approach.
Adapting – learning about antiracism and decolonisation
I was very interested to attend the presentation by Dr. Emma Kennedy from the University of Greenwich on “Agile CPD: using a Moodle resource page to help staff learn about antiracism and decolonisation in HE.” This talk combined topical discussions about decolonisation within the university, as well as designing for asynchronous learning. Dr. Kennedy discussed how the Moodle module solved the problem of having hard-to-update webpages, either public-facing or in the Staff hub. She noted that this was an important improvement both because of the changing nature of the topic and to increase staff engagement by ensuring materials were easily located and in one place.
From staff feedback on the module so far, Dr. Kennedy emphasised the benefit of having interactive elements, especially a checklist of aspects to think about when considering how inclusive modules are. She also highlighted that staff found having subject-specific resources and examples around decolonisation to be especially helpful in understanding how this broad debate impacted their own teaching and practice. As LEaD’s asynchronous Digital Accessibility Moodle module has just launched, it was helpful to see how staff were responding to a similar type of effort.
Including students – with multiple languages
Dr. Mario Moya (University of East London)’s presented on ““I feel myself when I speak my language”: Linguistic Empowerment in a Master’s Course.” His talk highlighted some fascinating findings both in existing research and in his own teaching practice about utilising students’ existing multi-lingual skills in a predominantly English-language university setting. He noted being particularly influenced by Linguistically Responsive Pedagogy (Stembridge, 2019; Tyagi & Verma, 2033), which emphasises that international students are learning both the content presented, as well as that content in English; doing these two things at once adds cognitive and energy load.
Dr. Moya suggested several ways to not only acknowledge this reality, but help students use it to their advantage in English-language universities. For example, providing glossaries of key terms in the discipline can help students prepare in advance for live settings like lectures or tutorials. Moodle even has a glossary activity option, or a Moodle Wiki can be utilised to encourage students to contribute to the resource. He also discussed instances of explicitly encouraging students to connect terms in class to synonyms in their other languages, to cement learning and leverage existing knowledge. Some interesting ideas to consider, especially as student populations continue to become more diverse.
It was a great day full of thought-provoking examples, ideas, and discussions. I look forward to watching all the recorded sessions from the conference and continuing the conversations!