Views of inclusion across time and space: five years of perspectives from university tutors on accessibility and inclusion

Lister, Kate; Pearson, Victoria; McPherson, Elaine and Gallen, Anne-Marie (2022). Views of inclusion across time and space: five years of perspectives from university tutors on accessibility and inclusion. In: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 7-9 Nov 2022, Seville, Spain.



It is commonly accepted that in order to ensure students with disabilities have equitable chances of study success, educational institutions need to adopt inclusive approaches to teaching, ensure digital accessibility of content, and have robust mechanisms for student support. There is a rich body of literature on how these practices can be effectively adopted in education. However, many of these studies focus on one particular dimension of inclusive practice, such as technical accessibility, student support, or inclusive curriculum or pedagogy. This can lead to a siloed approach, overdependence on a single aspect of inclusivity, or dysfunction in inclusive practice.
Inclusive practices do not exist in isolation. An institutional approach to accessibility, inclusive teaching, and student support relies not only on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of individual staff, but is also dependent on wider institutional factors, such as leadership, resource, systems, and culture. The voices and views of Associate Lecturers (tutors) as front-line educators within a distance learning context are crucial to understanding how accessibility and inclusion are enacted in practice.
In this paper, we analyse 632 closed-question responses and 207 open comments from three biennial staff surveys, conducted in 2017, 2019 and 2021 with Associate Lecturers at the Open University, UK. These surveys capture views on accessibility and inclusion from tutors across different faculties, both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Comparative analysis of these survey responses and thematic analysis of the open comments reveals crucial insights into the challenges for inclusive practice across a large and complex institution, as well as Associate Lecturer’s perspectives on institutional culture, leadership, expertise and resource, and the fitness for purpose of the systems and structures in place. In this paper, we highlight the themes that remain constant despite time, space and global circumstances, and explore how these themes can help a complex institution move towards a more accessible and inclusive approach to teaching and learning.

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