Sharing and Enhancing Inclusive Practice - our 2022 Symposium
2022-09-21

The University of Aberdeen Annual Academic Development Symposium ‘Global Communities: Building Communities and Improving Collaboration’ in May 2022 was once again a huge success. This year, it was a genuinely hybrid event, with speakers and participants on-line and in person, with excellent colleague support to ensure that all were involved.  This received positive feedback and highlighted the inclusive nature of the event. Colleagues who, for a variety of reasons, may be unable or choose not to attend in person could have an equal part in the day – from the online café, to on-line viewing and voting of posters and with all session recorded for wider dissemination and for further revisiting and reflection.  A recording of the event is available.  

This inclusive environment provided a strong foundation for the discussion panel on “Learning Together: Continuing to Support an Inclusive, Accessible and Diverse Learning Culture” chaired by Abbe Brown, Dean for Student Support.  We had staff and student speakers from across the University with a stimulating, open and supportive discussion; and sharing of practice regarding some of the ongoing activities reflecting the Aberdeen 2040 Inclusive commitments.  Two of our speakers, Mary Pryor (of the University’s Student Learning Service and Sian Wallace (of the Aberdeen University Students Association’s Disabled Student Forum) have further developed some of their thoughts.     

Student Learning Service and Learning Together – by Mary Pryor

The Student Learning Service (SLS) works with students across the University who wish to improve their academic skills, from pre-entry to PhD levels.  SLS is committed to helping students to achieve their full academic potential; we are fully aware that academic success and wellbeing are intrinsically linked, and that every student is unique. We offer students a variety of ways in which to access our service, including one-to-one tailored study advice sessions across a range of topics, including study strategies (e.g. effective reading; time management), academic writing (e.g. structuring arguments; academic integrity), and maths skills (contextualised for the area of study). We also offer tailored one-to-one study advice sessions for students with specific learning differences (e.g. dyslexia; ADD/ADHD; ASD). For those who like to join a learning community, we offer interactive group workshops, and for independent study and improvement, we have online resources in MyAberdeen: Achieve for undergraduates and Achieve+ for PGTs.  More information is available on the University of Aberdeen website.

Disabled Students’ Forum, openness and enabling self-advocacy – by Sian Wallace

The Disabled Students’ Forum represents anyone in the student body who identifies as disabled, and bring their concerns forward to staff. We work hard to make University events more accessible and make sure that the quality of exam and study provisions remains consistent across departments. The symposium  is an integral part of creating a network between Universities across Scotland and I was pleased to answer questions from staff and students I would not otherwise have reached. At an event dominated by staff from various departments, I was pleased to see the keynote speech of that morning being partially directed by a student from Edinburgh Napier University. I felt that many of the points she made in the opening discussion on ‘decolonising the curriculum’ about allowing students the space to share their experiences and feel part of the wider student body were extremely relevant in discussions about identity intersectionality. The points raised at this event highlight the importance of the student perspective in adapting the education curriculum and allowing them to be more organically involved in the learning process.

I was inspired by Jasmin Millington’s closing comments in the keynote speech, saying that students feel unable to bring forward concerns to staff due to feeling underrepresented in class. Consequently,  in our discussion panel, I raised awareness of the fact that many disabled students feel unable to bring attention to their anxieties about coursework or physical difficulties with attending class, since they feel no-one is experiencing similar problems. My answers to staff questions which followed on this topic focussed on the similarities in student experiences and emphasised the role of tutors and lecturers to create a more open environment in the class, and to make the contact information of relevant support staff and accessible learning resources more readily available. Having been an active member of the Disabled Students’ Forum for three years, I strongly support self-advocacy for disability provisions. However, I believe my message was very well received by attendees at the panel that University staff should help make the appropriate resources for self-advocacy more readily available.

Join the conversation

All staff and students (including prospective) students who would like to know more about the work of the Student Learning Service, the Disabled Student Forum and other work ongoing across the University, such as the Accessibility and Inclusion in Education Framework, please contact Sian Wallace (via disabled-forum@abdn.ac.uk), Mary Pryor (m.r.pryor@abdn.ac.uk) or Abbe Brown (abbe.brown@abdn.ac.uk).  

Published by StaffNet, University of Aberdeen

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