8 December 2020

After June’s Tech TeachMeet, we hosted our second online TeachMeet on Friday 27 November. This time, the theme was ‘Inclusivity: creating a culture of inclusion and belonging’. Over 80 people from organisations across the sector joined the session on Zoom to learn from variety of presentations around this topic.

The TeachMeet was organised in partnership with Derby College Group, with staff from the college delivering each presentation. Attendees gained a wide range of strategies to provide inspiration for creating a culture of inclusion within their own organisations. Here are five of the highlights.

The importance of positive language

In the first session, Sarah Le Good (Director of Inclusion) and Julie Walkerdine (Advanced Practitioner) provided five inclusive teaching tips for teachers of all subjects, one of which was ‘consistency’. Sarah and Julie talked about the importance of using consistent, positive language across the whole organisation. Rather than focusing on what students struggle with, staff at Derby College use language focusing on what students CAN do and what they aspire to do.

Furthermore, staff only use language about students that students use about themselves. Acronyms such as SEN and SEND are never used, as, first and foremost, students are students.

The College’s positive approach to inclusivity is best summed-up by the pledge that all staff are asked to sign:

“I pledge to look out for the lonely, the isolated, the left out and the excluded. I pledge to overcome fear of difference and replace it with the power of inclusion. I am an “INCLUSIONIST”

Using different technologies to meet the needs of different students

You may have heard of Virtual Reality, but did you know it can be used in a college setting?

The second presentation of the TeachMeet was delivered by Ben Walkerdine (Lead on Digital Strategy for Inclusion). He shared a number of ways in which the college is using technology innovatively to meet students’ needs.

For example, the transition from school to college is different for all students –some may not be comfortable in classroom or workshop environments. Therefore, the college provides VR headsets for these students to have a virtual tour before they arrive at the college in person. The headsets are also used for the students’ mental wellbeing and to ease exam stress.

The Learning Zone – Where the Magic Happens

In the third presentation, Seraya Cliff (Character Education and Tutorial Lead) took us through a range of social pedagogical theories and how an understanding of these can help pupils to reach their potential. One of these theories was the Learning Zone vs the Panic Zone.

The Learning Zone is outside students’ familiar environment and therefore pushes them to learn and grow. However, students can find themselves in the Panic Zone, where no learning can take place because all of their energies are being used to control anxiety and fear. Students may not have the emotional maturity to navigate themselves out of this zone and back into the Learning Zone – which is where you, the staff member, can help them.

“Positive behaviours facilitate success more than qualifications do”

The above quote was one of the key messages from Pete Benyon’s (Team Manager for Student Engagement) session on positive behaviours. Pete spoke about how ‘positive behaviours’ can be broken down into the key behaviours required of people in the workplace: positive, polite, punctual, prepared, and professional.

As practitioners, it is important for us to promote these behaviours in our classrooms or workshops in order to help our learners be successful in education and to prepare them for working life. However, everyone has their own perspective of what ‘positive behaviour’ means to them. Therefore, part of promoting inclusion is creating an environment that is not only conducive of positive behaviour, but also inclusive of difference.

Working with the students, for the students

One thing that was clear throughout all of the presentations was that Derby College Group create a culture of inclusion by working with the students rather than simply dictating to them. Whether it’s by understanding the language that the students use about themselves, involving students in the process of creating support plans, or co-designing curricula with students, the learners are involved every step of the way.

Our next TeachMeet

This was our second themed virtual TeachMeet following our successful Tech TeachMeet in June. We are keen to host another online TeachMeet next term and would like to theme this event around the topic of ‘assessment’. If you are interested in supporting us by sharing content and successful strategies that have been adopted within your organisation, please feel free to get in touch.

Aside from TeachMeets, we also deliver a range of professional development sessions throughout the year. Head over to our events page to see what is coming up soon.