Making learning accessible for everyone

Making learning accessible for everyone

Making learning accessible for everyone

27

MAY, 2021

Good Practice
Inclusive Education
Teaching and Learning

This week we launched the Accessibility Champions Project, which is an initiative to develop a passionate community of accessibility specialists from across the University to become leaders in this space. This project is led by Danni McCarthy from the Teaching Capabilities Team, in Deakin Learning Futures. Funded by the Higher Education Participation Partnership Program, the project is focused on optimising access and success for diverse learners. One way this can be achieved is through the development of a unified and consistent approach to accessibility in our online teaching and learning environments. The project has been designed to include a variety of participants, with representatives coming to the project from the faculties of Health, Science, Business and Law, Arts and Education, and Deakin Learning Futures. 

Like our physical learning environments, we have standards for our online teaching and learning environments. This project was developed in response to the impact of Covid and the subsequent unprecedented migration to deliver education online. As a result, it has also revealed a growing inequality of access to information for students with a disability in our online learning environments. Therefore, the goal of this project is to generate a genuine commitment and enthusiasm for the implementation of inclusivity and accessibility practices in a clear and targeted way.

We have selected nine Accessibility Champions who represent a diversity of professional backgrounds. A core part of this project will be the professional development that each participant will engage with through Vision Australia or The Centre for Inclusive Design. The goal is to develop a consistent and sustainable approach to accessibility that is appropriate to our context and needs within Deakin University. 

This project seeks to develop a knowledge-sharing community of accessibility experts. To achieve this, the champions will work to develop their capabilities in mentorship, training, and modelling best practice accessibility standards in a sustainable way that will support teaching and learning staff. As they build this critical knowledge and expertise, they will be seeking out partnerships, developing learning assets, mentoring others, and facilitating training sessions.

In the coming weeks the champions will begin their training during the incubation phase of this project. Once this phase is complete, the champions will begin to reach out to develop partnerships with other areas of the Deakin community and beyond. We are just at the beginning of the project and given the talented and passionate individuals who will put their shoulders to the wheel, there is no doubt that this project will achieve great things. 

Contact Danni McCarthy, Lecturer, Inclusive Education to register your interest in working with an Accessibility Champion.

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Transition Pedagogy or panic-gogy: The first year experience of emergency remote teaching

Transition Pedagogy or panic-gogy: The first year experience of emergency remote teaching

Transition pedagogy or panic-gogy: The first year experience of emergency remote teaching

10

DECEMBER, 2020

Inclusive Education
Teaching Online
Good Practice

In early December Professor Sally Kift presented a talk at Deakin’s Inclusive Education Community of Practice about the first year experience of emergency remote teaching due to COVID-19. In her talk Professor Kift ranged widely across data, research and good practice frameworks to articulate what we needed most to learn from our experiences in 2020.

Acknowledging the ‘pedagogy of kindness’ that students had acknowledged gratefully in their surveys at Deakin and elsewhere this year, she developed further the theme of fostering strong relationships between students, and between students and staff, as a foundation for learning, mental wellbeing and ongoing connection with university.

She noted the strong 2020 student success and retention figures at Deakin, including for several equity groups, and pointed to our pre-existing foundations for quality online and inclusive education, quoting at length from the Inclusive Education and Division of Student Life (DSL) student support websites, and even our Unit Minimum Standards. She also acknowledged CRADLE’s leading contribution to contemporary assessment research, in particular around online assessment.

She revisited the Transition Pedagogy she pioneered, drawing on recent research and good practice at a range of universities to demonstrate the ongoing usefulness of this framework as a way to organise the multitude of considerations that are necessary to support diverse students into university. These examples showed fresh ways of thinking, such as fostering autonomy through developing assessment literacy, using interactive planners to help students to organise their time, and taking a whole of institution approach to supporting students’ mental health.

She reflected that students commencing university in wholly online mode were coping with an even greater cognitive load:

They are learning content and skills, and they’re learning the platform, and they are learning how to learn online, and how to manage the first year transitions, and for many they are managing their mental wellbeing. Acknowledge the importance of wellbeing, talk about it!

She also noted that students entering university in 2021 ‘could be a fragile, vulnerable cohort who have just got through’, and it will be doubly important to avoid assuming entry knowledge, skills and capabilities:

If anything has become so abundantly clear out of the pandemic for all of us and for the students who are coming in in 2020-21, it is the reality of digital poverty. And that the burden has not fallen equally.

Academic and professional staff should find much in the recording of Professor Kift’s talk to enrich and refresh their thinking as they move through Trimester 3 or into Trimester 1, 2021, about how to teach and support students well online or on campus.

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First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in learning and teaching

First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in learning and teaching

First Nations views on tackling racism and bias in learning and teaching

30

OCTOBER, 2020

Inclusive Education
Good Practice

Banners for the Inclusive Education Community of Practice and the Office of Indigenous Strategy & Innovation

More than 100 Deakin staff came together via Zoom in October to learn effective ways to tackle racism and unconscious bias in education, with a panel of Wadawarrung regional educational leaders leading the discussion. The panel was co-hosted by the Inclusive Education Community of Practice and the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation, with Prof. Mark Rose, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy & Innovation, moderating the event.

Panellists

Prof. Mark Rose (Moderator): Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy & Innovation, Deakin University

Sandra Brogden: Koorie Education Coordinator, Department of Education and Training Geelong

Ilona Sliwa: Koorie Engagement Support Officer, Department of Education and Training Geelong

Denise Charles: Koorie Engagement Support Officer, Department of Education and Training Geelong

Deb Milera: Officer Indigenous Inclusion, Deakin University

 

Panellists addressed the uncomfortable subject of whether racism exists in Australia, and in our education system, with a ‘truth-telling’ but ultimately positive approach. The statistics speak for themselves: 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991, a suicide rate twice that of non-Aboriginal Australians, and surveys showing widespread negative bias towards Aboriginal Australians. The panellists also shared moving personal stories of the long-term human impact of racism, not least by teachers in schools.

With only 2% of school teachers in Australia being Aboriginal, panellists reasoned the wider non-Aboriginal community needed to work with Aboriginal people to achieve significant change. They urged teachers to go beyond a symbolic, ‘cultural Kontiki tour’ approach to Aboriginal history and culture to educate themselves more deeply about our shared Australian history, build relationships with community members, reflect on assumptions and bias, and engage in difficult conversations to tackle racism when issues arose.

The panel emphasised the importance of taking a systemic approach to developing students’ (and teachers’) knowledge and respect for Aboriginal history and culture, including embedding this knowledge in curriculum. The panellists have been doing this work for some time in regional schools, and have shared some links to useful resources on the event page on the Inclusive Education Community of Practice website.

Prof. Rose outlined the program being undertaken by the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Innovation at Deakin, in partnership with local Aboriginal elders, to embed Australian Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in curriculum throughout the university. The program is in the process of development and more information is available from Tom Molyneux, Coordinator of Indigenous inclusion.

The event recording is available from the Inclusive Education Community of Practice web page.

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