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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges


Learning session 3

Day 2: 10.45am - 12.15pm

You can choose one of the following learning sessions:

A: Panel of papers: Queering the academy

Paper 1: Towards an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. >

Dr Nicola Gale and Dr Nicki Ward, University of Birmingham.

Themes: LGBTQ; cross-disciplinary; language; role models; curriculum

This paper will share key findings from a four year funded project on developing LGBTQ-inclusive curricula in higher education. The project is unique with its focus on all the academic disciplines and professional services.  We conducted qualitative and quantitative analysis (of surveys, university admissions data and interviews) and feedback workshops by discipline to identify good practice.

We found that LGBTQ students were much more likely than their cis/straight counterparts to discontinue their studies and to report poor experiences (such as discrimination and abuse) and that these problems were worse in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The paper will present a model for LGBTQ inclusivity developed by the authors covering the domains of language, content and role models, at different levels – awareness, addition and transformation.  We will share examples of good practice from each domain and across each discipline.

Paper 2: Raising the rainbow Lanyard. LGBT+ identity, visibility and inclusion in a university with a church foundation. >

Dr Fiona Thompson, York St John University.

Themes: Faith; sexuality; visibility; inclusion; intersectionality

York St John University (YSJU) was founded in 1841 as an Anglican teacher training college and is now a university with a broad range of subjects. Three years ago an LGBT staff network was established. Whilst the university has both the policy and the practice of inclusivity, there was a lack of LGBT+ visibility that led to some colleagues assuming invisibility was an indicator of exclusion due to perceptions of the church foundation. For the past three years YSJU has been in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers Index despite being a relatively small university and employer.

Dr Fiona Thompson will (as Chair of the LGBT staff network, as Executive Dean Quality and as a theologian) explore the journey the university has travelled.  Since establishing the network we have raised consciousness and visibility across the university and the city and we have used the church foundation as an opportunity for discussion about issues of faith and sexuality. At YSJU we think we have identified the place for LGBT+ people in a modern Anglican University.

And the title? Our first action was to offer staff a choice of name badge lanyards, blue or rainbow. Almost overnight the University was filled with rainbows.

Paper 3: Proudly proactive: celebrating and supporting queer students at university. >

Hazel Marzetti, University of Edinburgh.

Themes: Queer; LGBT+; sexuality; gender

The absence of data regarding UK university students’ sexualities and gender identities has, for too long, rendered queer student communities invisible. This qualitative, interview-based study begins to close this gap by exploring experiences of queer students at one Scottish university. This study argues that despite perceptions from staff and prospective students that universities are morally liberal, welcoming and supportive spaces for queer students, and attempts from institutions to comply with equalities legislation, the reality for queer students involves a seepage of queerphobia and cis-heteronormativity into their everyday lives both on and off campus, compromising their capacity to engage in their studies.

This has necessitated the student-led provision of exclusively queer ‘safe spaces’ to allow queer students to explore and express their identities uninhibited by the threat of queerphobia or cis-heterosexism, which should be of concern to universities. In order to challenge the current campus climate therefore, this paper argues that although as a minimum standard provision compliance with equalities legislation is helpful where consistently and confidently adhered to, a radical shift is required in order to transform institutions to both successfully support and celebrate queer campus communities, allowing universities to truly call themselves ‘proudly proactive’.

B: Workshop: Challenging wicked problems and folk pedagogies to address the BME attainment gap in higher education.

Dr Liz Austen and Stella Jones-Devitt, Sheffield Hallam University.

Themes: BME attainment; differential outcomes; folk pedagogies; wicked problems’ institutional readiness

This workshop aims to use game based learning to explore folk pedagogies and wicked problems. It will begin by outlining the struggle of one UK higher education institution as it attempted to contextualise, research and then evaluate interventions to improve confidence and belonging of BME students.

This includes a discussion of why the BME attainment gap can be such a wicked problem (Rittel 1972, see Conklin 2005) by discussing a (mis)judgment of institutional readiness.  This barrier manifested in a variety of guises including; a lack of strategic leverage; a resistance to adapt curricula; and a resistance to challenge deficit explanations.  This workshop conceptualises these barriers as folk pedagogies – the lay theories and assumptions that are often used to explain how learning occurs (Bruner 1996).

This workshop asks participants to explore folk pedagogies prepared as vignettes.  Participants will draw on their experiences and the associated evidence base in order to critique them.  Groups will be expected to devise actions to address folk pedagogies using game playing techniques which have previously been used to develop critical thinking (Jones-Devitt 2013).  Teams will be asked to navigate folk pedagogies and provide solutions to the wicked problem of BME attainment in order to win the game.

C: Workshop: Inclusive practice, competence standards and curriculum design.

Katya Hosking (Devereux Chambers) and Christine Werrell (Cardiff University).

Themes: Competence standards; learning outcomes; curriculum design; reasonable adjustments; programme specifications

The aim of this workshop is to provide materials which participants can adapt for use in their own institutions to support inclusive curriculum design.

An important element of making a course of study inclusive is ensuring that the course specification accurately sets out what students will be required to do and identifies any competence standards which may limit the scope for reasonable adjustments. At the same time, there is an opportunity when planning and validating courses to promote inclusivity by building accessibility into the curriculum design.

Participants will be given a brief introduction to learning outcomes, competence standards and reasonable adjustments, and will then consider a number of sample course descriptions. They will work together to identify and evaluate any apparent competence standards, and devise questions which might be asked of the curriculum designers to encourage the development of a more inclusive programme and a more accurate course description. A series of hypothetical student case studies will be available to assist participants in imagining the kinds of barriers a course might present to students.

D: Workshop: ‘What works’ in advancing equality and diversity: A practical look at impact evaluation

Dr Florentina Taylor, Tinu Cornish CPsychol and Dr Ruth Gilligan, Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

Themes: Impact; evaluation; evidence; bias; Equality Challenge Unit

Impact is sometimes perceived as a fashionable buzzword or an admin burden that project leaders have to demonstrate in order to receive funding, support or recognition. But with limited resources and staff time, and different competing priorities to address, how do we know which initiatives are worthwhile and which are not? How do we know whether our actions have made a difference, and whether others can learn from our experience? How do we know ‘what works’ and what does not? And how can we be confident that a specific outcome is the direct result of our actions?

This interactive workshop will take a practical look at what counts as impact and impact evidence in equality and diversity settings, enabling participants to be better able to evaluate the impact of their initiatives. We will explore different types of evidence and methods of obtaining it, as well as possible sources of bias that may influence impact evaluation.

The workshop will be of interest to equality and diversity practitioners, training providers, ECU charters self-assessment panels and data collectors. It will consist of a mix of facilitator input, practical activities, small group discussions and personal reflection.