Dear lecturer in higher education,
Disability scholars working in the art of inclusion encourage you to regularly ask yourself:
When you stand in front of your students,
who do you see?
Who don’t you see?
When you start talking,
who are you talking to?
Who do you ignore?
Have you ever reflected on these questions before?
I don’t know about you, but I had not given student diversity much thought when I started my teaching career. I was too concerned with my own performance to take into account that all students have unique health situations that influence their learning processes. Moreover, I was rather unconscious of my responsibility to take disabilities into consideration when I developed and executed my teaching strategies.
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Over time, my ignorance rose to the surface in a number of startling situations that occurred in class due to my disability unawareness. It started to dwell on me that I had unconsciously created a learning environment that was organised to suit one particular, homogenous, non-disabled student group. Furthermore, I found in the research literature that this tendency is not uncommon for lecturers’ in higher education, quite the opposite. Can you relate?
Through my new article in Teaching in Higher Education, I use an autoethnographic approach to explore my journey from a disability ignorant lecturer towards a more inclusive and attentive one. I invite you to join this reflexive experiment and connect with my story through you own experiences, thoughts, feelings or words–with the aim of increasing lecturer awareness of disabilities.
In my view, awareness is the first step in creating an inclusive environment, followed by willingness to provide adaptations and expertise in inclusive practice. Let us together explore the teacher role’s potential of inclusion. How may we–as lecturers–increase the access to higher education for all students?
Rannveig Svendby (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Read more: teachinginhighereducation.wordpress.com