The University of Queensland is a socially diverse environment with staff and students from many backgrounds.

Each member of this environment brings to the University unique experiences and knowledge that enrich our community.

As a starting point, all staff should complete UQ’s Inclusion and Diversity online training programs. In addition, the UQ Guide to Using Inclusive Language (PDF, 1.8MB) provides best practice advice on using inclusive language in work and education at UQ.

Inclusive teaching and classroom management practices

Creating an inclusive space in our classes enables richer discussions and deeper learning, adding value to the experience for all students. You may already be using methods and strategies that empower students with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles and recognise the value of diversity to society. Many resources exist, they can provide practical advice around intentional approaches. This page provides some guiding principles only – reflect on those that might be most appropriate in your current practice and discipline.

Kachani, Ross and Irvin (2020) identified five principles as pathways to inclusive teaching:

  1. Establish and support a class climate that fosters belonging for all students.
  2. Set explicit student expectations.
  3. Select course content that recognises diversity and acknowledges barriers to inclusion.
  4. Design all course elements for accessibility.
  5. Reflect on your beliefs about teaching to maximise self-awareness and commitment to inclusion.

For more information and strategies, please refer to the article 5 Principles as Pathways to Inclusive Teaching which includes links to further resources.

Inclusive teaching involves work across the entire teaching cycle from the design of course, to the expectations set in your first class, assessment, marking and feedback.

Some tips

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Inclusive assessment

Assessment is the critical element to any student's completion of a course at UQ. Some students struggle with their assessment tasks due to language difficulties, neurodiversity, learning or physical disabilities.

Awareness and a readiness to provide an inclusive classroom and inclusive assessment can make all the difference to these students’ success.

Here are some practical tips for increasing opportunities for success in assessment tasks:

  • Think of ways in which you can make life easier for your students such as enabling them to bring in a dictionary to their exams.
  • Read student essays for the content in terms of their understanding of concepts and theory and how it might relate to their home societies rather than focus on whether their punctuation is correct.
  • Enable students to use their experience from their home society to reflect upon and to grasp the concepts you are teaching. Enable them to talk about those either with other students, or to reflect upon them within their assessment.
  • Take time in the tutorial to explain what the marking criteria actually mean.
  • Make sure there are links to the course profile assessment page.
  • Take time to explain common errors, such as using thesis statements, and defending an argument. Provide examples. Point students to resources to help them. Include these on your Blackboard site.

UQ’s Policies and Procedures provide guidelines around equity and diversity, policy with regards to inclusive assessment and guidance for reasonable adjustments to ensure all students can participate equitably.

Students with learning difficulties

Putting pressure on students’ long-term and short-term memories is essentially what happens in an exam situation. The real understanding/knowledge that students possess is planted in their long-term memory. However, the information required for putting that information together and creating meaning and crafting an essay is in their short-term memory. When students come to an exam, they need to be able to shift information from their long-term memory into their short-term memory which puts a lot of pressure on students that have learning difficulties (Tai et. al).

Some tips

  • Consider what it is that you are assessing: are you assessing students’ ability to remember facts/figures and concepts, the ability to write essays under pressure, or are you assessing students’ ability to think critically and put things together? Are you assessing the construction of an essay, or are you assessing whether students have those underlying concepts and can evaluate critically how they go together? The answer to these questions may help inform the design of your assessment tasks.
  • Where possible, and if appropriate for your discipline, consider providing a variety of assessment options. For example: different forms of written assessment, the option to create flow charts or diagrams, or mind maps where links between concepts and information can be shown.
  • A method that may be useful for some students going into a written exam is to spend five or 10 minutes getting the information out of their short-term memories and writing onto their notes page the relevant content, facts and figures. This allows students to concentrate on answering the question correctly and making connections between the content and what is required to answer the question.

Support is available for your students. You may like to refer them to the following resources:

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UQ supports equity initiatives for students and staff through a variety of policies, procedures, committees and training:

Equity in online learning

In 2019, a UQ survey showed that 98% of students own a mobile web-enabled device. To ensure equity, when using web-based activities, ensure students either have the option to access a device, use formative learning activities or have students work in groups. Based on groups of two to five students, only 40%+ of students need to have a web-enabled device for activities to be effective.

Students who don’t have access to a suitable device for their studies can apply for a short-term laptop loan (ranging from one week to a whole semester).

Equal Opportunity online training
Inclusion online training modules
Managing Unconscious Bias Online Modules
Core Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Learning
LGBTIAQ+ inclusion at UQ

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Diversity of language and background

A student’s learning may be disadvantaged as a consequence of English being their second language. Challenges may also arise for students who are situationally disadvantaged by being distanced from the mainstream through location or generation.

Some tips:

  • Consider students’ familiarity with the use of academic language. If you have, for example, mature age students in your class coming back to study after 20 or 30 years, they may not have been exposed to academic language. Be aware of making the assumptions that people understand the jargon used at university – from administrative language and acronyms such as ‘ECP’, to academic writing terms such as ‘thesis statement’, and of course your discipline-related terms.
  • If you have a lot of international students, be mindful of using expressions or idiomatic language with which they may not be familiar – consider the expressions: ‘the devil is in the detail’, or ‘the proof is in the pudding’. These may not have an intercultural equivalent. Consider dedicating class time to explaining discipline-specific terms, or even day-to-day terms used in the professional environment.

Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) students and staff

UQ is fortunate to have a community of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) students and staff. This environment offers unique teaching and learning opportunities that enable students to become game-changing graduates who make outstanding contributions and address complex issues with a global perspective.

The Diversity and Inclusion programs provide training on how to ensure teaching addresses the needs of all students by considering CALD and English as an Additional Language (EAL).

To understand what bias is, where it comes from and how to develop strategies to overcome it, please review the Managing Unconscious Bias online course.


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The challenge for any teacher is for their teaching to be accessible to the student. This access could be impeded by ineffective delivery practices, the difficulty of the content being taught, or ineffective management of the class group.

Accessible online learning

It is essential that all students are able to access the Internet. This includes the courses you design and deliver online via Blackboard or Edge – their resources, activities, readings and links.

The UQ Library has developed a guide (Create accessible content) on how to make your content accessible and why it is important to remove barriers with inclusive universal design.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) identifies four key principles of accessibility relating to web content:

  1. Everyone should be able to access the website and information on it.
  2. Everyone should be able to use the website and navigate around it.
  3. Everyone should be able to understand the website and information on it.
  4. All websites should be consistent across different platforms, so that equitable information is provided whether you are using a browser window or a screen reader.

Some key principles of accessible design include:

  • provide equivalent alternative text (alt text)
  • create a logical structure to documents and pages
  • provide headers for data tables
  • make sure users can complete and submit any forms or text entry fields
  • write web links that make sense when read by themselves. Avoid using ‘click here’ and ‘more’
  • caption and/or provide transcripts for any videos or podcasts/audio files
  • make sure any PDF, Word documents, PowerPoints or other non-HTML content is accessible – particularly if they contain core course content
  • do not rely on colour alone to convey meaning
  • ensure your content is written in plain English and easy to read
  • if you are using JavaScript, make sure it is accessible
  • design to the latest standards of HTML and CSS, if you are coding a page from scratch.


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Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles – or framework – which can be used to improve and optimise learning and teaching. The principles are based on scientific insights into how humans learn. UDL can guide the writing of our learning outcomes, the shape of your resources, and assessments that are accessible to all students. The goal of UDL is to improve the learning experience and outcomes for all students, including students from diverse backgrounds, students with disabilities, mature and international students.

'Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.' (Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, 2014)

Another way of thinking about universal design is as inclusive design. This involves thinking about your users and trying to remove systematic barriers which prevent them from using the environments, tools and platforms that you may take for granted.

Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

  1. Provide multiple means of Engagement. These should tap into learners’ interests, provide appropriate challenges and the motivation to learn.
  2. Provide multiple means of Representation. Giving learners a variety of ways to acquire information and build knowledge helps to cater for preferred and diverse ways of learning and assimilating knowledge.
  3. Provide multiple means of Action and Expression. Students need the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. Aim to provide different ways in which they can express their learning.

Incorporating practical suggestions from these principles into your curriculum design, as outlined below and explained in detail on the UDL website, will provide the opportunity to develop expert learners who are:

  • purposeful and motivated
  • resourceful and knowledgeable
  • strategic and goal-directed.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Source: Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 2.2 (CAST, 2018)

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