Teaching & Learning


Inclusive teaching

How to ensure your teaching provides opportunities for all your students and where to find resources. 

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1 August 2019

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UCL’s student population is more diverse than ever, encompassing a range of identities and experiences. Different groups of students learn best in various ways and progress at different rates.

Teaching inclusively is essential to ensure all students enjoy the fullest possible learning experience.

Valuing individual strengths and contributions enriches the learning environment, fostering a more diverse and equitable experience for everyone.

A wider range of views and experiences in the classroom can lead to a more critical understanding of a subject. As educators it can challenge us to rethink approaches and broaden the materials used. 

What inclusive teaching involves

Respecting the diversity of students

For instance, when discussing historical events, include perspectives from different cultures and regions or consider who is credited with developing a concept or tool and their ethics or the perspectives of their time compared to current views. 

Enabling all students to participate in learning

Accommodate different learning styles and abilities through tools such as practical demonstrations, group discussions, and visual aids. For example, offer a mix of written assignments, oral presentations, and group projects to cater to diverse preferences.  

Meeting students' learning needs and preferences

Ensuring these are met, irrespective of their backgrounds, learning styles, or abilities. Implementing flexible assessment methods allows students to showcase their understanding through various formats. 

Removing barriers to learning

Actions could include conducting accessibility checks to ensure all materials are accessible and provide transcripts for audio materials and alternative formats for visually impaired students.  

Inclusive teaching is integral to UCL’s Vision, Mission and Values. It also means meeting our obligations under the Equality Act (2010); not discriminating against students – directly or indirectly – because of their protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief (including lack of belief)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation. 

Putting it into practice

Before your first teaching session

  • Try to find out as early as possible who is going to be on your course so you prepare and make appropriate provision. Request demographic data on your students' backgrounds and learning preferences. 

  • Ensure you know which students have a Summary of Reasonable Adjustment (SoRA) and incorporate these reasonable adjustments. Remember adjustments are retrofits, design with inclusion in mind when you can and fewer individual adjustments will be needed. 

  • Familiarise yourself with UCL's student support services and networks. E.g. Student Support and Wellbeing.  

  • Read about different cultural practices, inclusive language and supporting different groups of students. Utilise other Arena teaching toolkits to pick up some tips and quick wins. 

Creating agreements and setting expectations 

  • Establish informal agreements for 'inclusive behaviour' at the start of the course, promoting respect, empathy, and open-mindedness – decide on these with your students. For instance, it may be appropriate to agree on the use of a common language in the classroom. See Sample Agreement. 

  • Explain to students how being inclusive can benefit the whole class. For example, by contributing to a group discussion, students will build their communication and critical-thinking skills. Discuss what you mean by terms such as ‘critical thinking’ to ensure students understand what this means in practice. 

  • Use icebreakers to aid social bonding by establishing commonality and talking points. For example, encourage students to share aspects of their cultural background, like favourite family meal. Be careful not to ask students to share information that could be perceived as too personal and be sure to clarify that information shared should be within the confines of individual comfort. 

  • Some students may not have a SoRA – invite requests for adjustments routinely, so students feel safer to approach you and you can encourage them to request a SoRA if needed. 

Sample agreement for 'inclusive behaviour'

Listen actively – be respectful when others are talking. 

Speak from your own experience instead of generalising ("I" instead of "they," "we" and "you"). 

Participate to the fullest of your ability - inclusion values individual voices. 

The goal is not to agree – it is to gain a deeper understanding. 

Try to hear the truth in what is said instead of looking for exceptions to the case. 

Assume good intentions but acknowledge the impact of saying something hurtful, even inadvertently. 

Maintain confidentiality. All stories shared stay in this space unless explicit permission is given by the person sharing the story. 

Use a language everyone in the group can access. 

Preparing teaching materials and activities 

Put all your teaching materials on Moodle (UCL’s online learning environment) well before your teaching sessions so that your students can access these and prepare themselves. Providing materials in advance may be an adjustment for some students but accommodates many different styles so benefits many students.  

Ensure that all your handouts, presentations, and online course materials are accessible and meet the e-learning baseline. This means, for example, using: 

  • High-contrast text/background colours 
  • Legible fonts 
  • Ensuring text can be read correctly by screen-reading software. 

Guidelines on accessibility: 

Try to be aware of your own biases when choosing teaching material – offer as diverse a range of opinions as possible. 

What to be aware of in your teaching 

Be alert to practical issues

These could include students with visual impairments, hearing aids, or wheelchairs. If possible, present content in different, more interactive ways. For example, objects, images, and video can be more engaging for students than always having text-based materials (see the toolkit on active learning).  

However, it is crucial to ensure content is accessible, and providing alternative formats can be a good option. For instance, a Word document for visual impaired students instead of an online flip card activity… but ask yourself if the alternative format provides an equitable experience. If so, why not use the Word document for all students? 

Make sure that all your students can be heard and are encouraged to participate.

Get every student involved through techniques such as group work and peer learning. Try to reduce the potential for discussion to be dominated by an individual or specific group of students (see the small-group teaching and large-group teaching toolkits).

Online tools like discussion forums, Mentis may help engage students who are hesitant to participate in class. 

Explore collaborative learning and peer-to-peer interactions.

Facilitate group work and create opportunities for students to learn from one another, fostering a sense of community and solidarity.  

Top tip

When organising group work, allow students to collaborate with those they know already – although this might seem to counter good practice of working with diverse peer groups, it is important to recognise that partnering with a familiar person can be crucial for some students. Striking a balance can be achieved by suggesting that students initially form pairs and then blend these pairs to create larger, more diverse groups.

For further information see ‘Empowering Learning: Presentations and Group Collaboration’. 

Consider using diverse assessment methods and help students understand the standard of work they are expected to produce.  

Check that the feedback you give is helpful to students

See the guide Enhancing and giving quicker feedback. Consider using Lecturecast, a system for recording lectures and making them available online. Lecturecast reinforces learning by giving students 24-hour access to the taught components of their courses. This can benefit students who have English as a second language or learning differences.  

Evaluate your progress 

Check if all students are engaged in teaching sessions and be alert to student behaviour that could indirectly feedback on whether your teaching is as inclusive as possible. This could include, for example: 

  • Changes in attendance. 
  • Distribution of grades throughout the group. 
  • Students’ assessments choices (such as essay titles).  
  • Look at your student outcomes – are particular groups doing better/worse? 
  • Ask students to feed back to you about whether they feel included. For example, create a short Menti for students to anonymously comment on what they think is working well or could be improved. See Continuous Module Dialogue for templates.  

Follow up by suggesting some changes based on students’ feedback. 

Consider engaging with Student Curriculum Partners and/or Arena’s Programme Development Unit to review your module/programme. 

Where to find help and support 

If you would like to improve your inclusive teaching, there are several sources that can help. 

  • Ask a colleague if they would be willing to watch some of your teaching sessions and give you feedback. For more information, see the UCL Peer Dialogue Scheme

  • For inclusion issues around disability and neurodivergence, contact Student Support and Wellbeing

  • Attend a UCL Arena session. These provide an opportunity for colleagues across UCL to discuss issues and share approaches and best practice. Learn more about Arena’s Professional Development opportunities 

  • Accessible teaching practices: provide access to all using Universal Design for Learning and create accessible learning environments that support students with learning differences, disabilities, and long-term health conditions. 

Next steps 

  • Engage with ongoing development programs and resources, focusing on inclusive teaching practices.  
  • Include strategies for involving students actively in decision-making processes for course content and assessment methods.  
  • Address the importance of incorporating global perspectives into teaching materials and discussions.

Key takeaways 

  • Provide more detailed guidelines on inclusive language use, including examples and potential pitfalls.  
  • Expand on the role of technology in promoting inclusive teaching, ensuring online resources are accessible to all students.  
  • Offer specific examples of assessments that cater to different learning styles and abilities.  


UCL resources

External resources 

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This guide has been produced by the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education. First published in August 2019 and updated in December 2023. 

You are welcome to use this guide if you are from another educational facility, but you must credit the UCL Arena Centre.