AccessAbilty Services is a support service for JCU students who identify with temporary or permanent disability, injury, illness or health condition. The Inclusive Practice Acknowledgement Award (IPAA) has been part of JCU’s AccessAbility Services since 2000. Recipients of the IPAA are recognised for their efforts to be flexible, consultative, proactive and/or innovative.
In 2010, students registered with AccessAbility Services nominated Samantha Morgan for providing additional support. In this personal account, the first time IPAA recipient reflects on her teaching practice that shows strong commitment to inclusive teaching practice.
Tutor, School of Arts and Social Sciences
The nomination for and IPAA award informs my teaching practice by prompting reflection on what that practice is. On being notified of my nomination, which came out of the blue, I began to think about what I might be doing that counted as “inclusive practice”, since I wasn’t conscious of doing anything deliberately.
I think an early source of awareness of the specific needs of students with disabilities came from AccessAbility Services, who advised me to “talk to the person, not the disability”. I find this approach has always worked well, especially when combined with an awareness of different learning styles. I try to use a range of methods of coming to grips with new concepts: verbal presentations of ideas can be supplemented with images, or physical demonstrations using students as props; written information can be made more effective with colour-coding; both can be supported by student tasks which involve practicing new knowledge, or discussing it other students.
A Queensland Education report about primary school pedagogy suggests the most successful teachers are “warm and demanding”, and I think this applies equally in the university environment. Learning people’s names, encouraging questions and comments, praising success, and inviting participation can all contribute to the creation of an inclusive classroom environment. I think the combination of passion for the topic with equal passion for positive student experiences and outcomes is translatable to any discipline.
On a personal level the award made me feel appreciated – by the student who nominated me, and by the university – and made me realise I must be doing something right. Reflecting on what the right thing might be, I’ve realised the personal is as important as the pedagogical to inclusivity.