What is an inclusive curriculum?

We are grateful to the Open University for this concise explanation:

'Inclusive teaching means recognising, accommodating and meeting the learning needs of all your students. It means acknowledging that your students have a range of individual learning needs and are members of diverse communities: a student with a disabling medical condition may also have English as an additional language and be a single parent. Inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students into specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning.'

Inclusive teaching

  • takes a coherent approach which is anticipatory and proactive
  • has a strategy for delivering equal opportunities and diversity policies
  • involves the whole institution
  • matches provision to student needs
  • incorporates regular reflection, review and refinement of strategies and methods that actively involve disabled students.
Experience has demonstrated that adjustments made for disabled students can often benefit all students. Inclusive teaching is good teaching. For example, when reviewing how to describe a diagram to a blind student, it might become apparent that there is a better way to present the information for all students. In making your teaching inclusive you reassess the material you use in your teaching and the way in which it is delivered and assessed.

Providers should place learners in the best possible learning environment for their needs, whatever those needs may be. Several strategies may be required to ensure that the specific needs of an individual are met. Providers should devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle every aspect of an individual learner’s need – this may become complex and is a growing challenge for providers who have to cater to an increasingly diverse population of learners.

Why does inclusive teaching matter?


  • Inclusive teaching is more likely to be good teaching


  • We live in a diverse society: education should reflect, promote and facilitate this


  • More and more disabled people are entering higher education


  • The DDA requires universities not to discriminate, and to provide equality of opportunity for disabled students


  • Disabled students are increasingly aware of their rights and less prepared to accept inadequate provision


  • Although provision for disabled students has dramatically improved in recent years, it is still patchy, under-resourced and inconsistent


  • Inclusive teaching leads to better retention and attainment.
  • InCurriculum recommends the following as basic ways to check for an inclusive approach:

    Teaching: making course materials accessible


    • Start with an overview which gives the ‘whole picture’
    • Make presentations as diagrammatic as possible
    • Show acceptance of the use of sound recording (including in individual meetings)
    • Indicate key items on reading lists (and key chapters)
    • Provide glossaries of technical terms
    • Provide handouts (see below for points on presentation)
    • Provide handouts electronically (e.g. on BlackBoard or other VLE)
    • Use non-book source material (e.g. sound recordings, videos, CDs) where possible
    • Use at least 36 point text size in OHTs
    • Remind students that they can reserve books via the library website, to save them struggling with the Dewey system (and that extended loans are available to dyslexic students)

    Tips for paper-based materials


    • This font is ComicSans which many find easy to read (note the a and g)
    • Use a sans serif font such as Arial, in at least 12 point
    • Justify text on the left only (to keep word spacing even)
    • Use plenty of bullet points
    • Keep blocks of text short
    • Use boxes and diagrams
    • Avoid sentences or headings in capitals
    • Consider using two columns of text (short lines can be easier to read)
    • Use wide spacing between characters and lines
    • Avoid black text on white paper: a pastel shade of paper (e.g. cream) reduces ‘glare’ and eyestrain

    Web site design

    • Ensure navigation is easy. A diagrammatic site map is essential
    • Ensure downloaded web pages can be read off-line
    • Avoid moving text. It creates problems for people with visual difficulties. It also causes a problem for text-reading software
    • Offer a facility to change the background and font colours. If this is impossible, use dark lettering on a pale yellow or pale blue background
    • Keep the layout simple


    Assessment (1): Coursework


    • Make expectations very clear
    • Include oral assessment, to cover a wider range of all students’ abilities
    • Consider non-linear assignments such as portfolios
    • Allow time-bounded extensions for those with identified learning differences, because such students take a long time to read/write
    • Assess work against learning outcomes, which will reflect your subject priorities
    • Correct selected spellings only (e.g. technical vocabulary)
    • Use two different pens, neither red: one for the material, one for spelling etc
    • Write comments legibly. Many students struggle to read handwriting
    • Correct English by talking to the student along with written comments. This will contribute to the long-term effectiveness of your feedback
    • Do not say ‘please use spell-checker.’ The student is probably using it a lot, and choosing the wrong options
    • Ask for a skeleton plan (or a draft) first, if time permits

    Assessment (2) : Exams - helpful approaches (for those formally identified with a learning difference)include:

    • Extra time (10 or 15 minutes per hour), in line with University regulations
    • Questions on tape
    • An amanuensis
    • Questions printed on coloured paper
    • Questions printed in large font size
    • Use of a computer
    • Working in a separate room
    • Provision of a spelling list
    • Oral examination
    Amendment of assessment must be carried out only by prior arrangement with the Subject Authority Board or equivalent (or if the course is validated for such procedures).

    Group sessions

    • Minimise copying from boards and flipcharts
    • Make reading aloud voluntary
    • Make all handouts on coloured paper, rather than just for certain students
    • Write up difficult spellings for all, rather than indicating who they are for
    • Leave OHTs on long enough for slow readers/writers
    • Maintain confidentiality: students may not want others to know about their learning difference/s
    We also recommend a series of six inclusive practice e-bulletins published by the Higher Education Academy

    They can be found at www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/networks/sig/

    The titles are:

    • Competence Standards
    • Inclusive Teaching Practice
    • Inclusive Curriculum Practice
    • Student Engagement
    • Inclusive Assessment
    • Inclusive Technology