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

Implementing inclusive practices is not an onerous or difficult task. You may already be using methods and strategies which are best practice for all students, and therefore inclusive. There are many resources around which provide practical advice around intentional approaches. We have synthesised one such resource from Kachani ,Ross and Irvin (2020) below, as an overview. These are guiding principles only – reflect on which might be most appropriate in your current practice and discipline.

Five principles as pathways to inclusive teaching

1. Establish and support a class climate that fosters belonging for all students

  • Build teacher-student rapport. Learn students’ names (and how to pronounce them), get to know students through in-class surveys and activities, office hours, and online chats.
  • Build student-student rapport. Incorporate group work or pair work to allow for shared learning experiences.
  • Treat each student as an individual.
  • Avoid making assumptions about students’ abilities based on stereotypes.
  • Convey the same level of confidence in the abilities of all of your students.
  • Address challenging classroom behaviours and attitudes. Make it a teachable moment, asking students to reflect critically on assumptions and positions without attributing motives.

For more information, go to the Creating a sense of belonging in your courses page.

2. Set explicit student expectations

  • Explicitly articulate assessment criteria. Share grading rubrics and practice applying those rubrics to anonymised work.
  • Provide timely, clear and actionable feedback that helps students take ownership of their learning.
  • Establish community agreements and discussion guidelines. Work with students to create those guidelines to promote an inclusive learning environment.
  • Provide examples of exemplary work. Use those examples to communicate expectations, facilitate understanding, demonstrate discipline-specific skills and help articulate assessment expectations and standards.
  • Model expected behaviour. Adhere to community agreements and display the skills that students are asked to demonstrate in their assessments and assignments.

3. Select course content that recognises diversity and acknowledges barriers to inclusion

  • Select content that engages a diversity of ideas and perspectives. Consider whether some perspectives are systematically underrepresented or absent.
  • Choose content by authors of diverse backgrounds. Discuss contributions made to the field by historically underrepresented groups.
  • Use multiple and diverse examples that do not marginalise students. Use examples that speak across gender, cultures and socioeconomic statuses, ages, and religions.

4. Design all course elements for accessibility

  • See the Accessibility section and the Universal Design for Learning section below.

5. Reflect on your beliefs about teaching to maximise self-awareness and commitment to inclusion

Reflect on the following questions:

  • What are my identities and how do my students perceive me? Consider your positionality and take inventory of the way your affiliations and identities shape your perceptions of others and their perceptions of you.
  • What are my implicit or explicit biases? Do I propagate, neutralise or challenge stereotypes in my class? Take an honest inventory of your own conscious and unconscious biases and strive to create an explicitly centralising classroom climate.
  • How do I handle challenges in the classroom? Build your awareness of student behaviours that trigger strong emotions for you and strategise how to maintain your equilibrium.
  • How might the ways I set up classroom spaces and activities foster inclusion or exclusion? How do you use the space in the classroom (where do you stand and sit, for example)? Vary your class activities to offer opportunities for students to participate in large group, paired, small group and individual work.

For more information and strategies, please refer to this article which includes links to further resources.

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Inclusive philosophies

Diversity within a university should be seen as a microcosm of the world. With the move to flexible and fully online modes of teaching and engaging students from across the globe, it is more important than ever to consider philosophies of teaching and of inclusivity that underpin your course.

These can be simple, universal philosophies to more specific philosophical frameworks, as discussed by Dr Helen Johnson in this video: Using the diverse backgrounds and knowledge which students bring to the classroom

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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.

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 to either:

  • a short-term laptop loan (ranging from one week to a whole semester)
  • receive a brand new free laptop from UQ.

More information is available on the Student Laptop Scheme page, which we invite you to share with your students.

Equal Opportunity online training
Inclusion online training modules
Managing Unconscious Bias Program
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 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.

Additional resources

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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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