Inclusivity in Teaching


All education programmes should include and represent people with varied life experiences, belief systems and backgrounds. However on our programme, we believe there is an additional imperative to do this, not just for the benefit of learners, but because we are training health professionals who need to be able to engage with difference in their work with clients and wider professional activities. We are trying to develop our own practice around this, and as part of this learning process have run events on the topic, to involve, develop and learn from our teachers on the programme, many of whom are practising clinical psychologists in the region. We also ask trainees in teaching feedback to reflect on how inclusive each teaching session was. For example, they are asked to rate their agreement, or otherwise, specifically with the following statement: 'The teacher was sensitive to issues of inclusivity & social justice', and to give additional feedback in relation to this question. Teaching feedback is shared with teachers allowing discussions and learning to take place.

In the events we ran, a great deal of discussion took place about ways we could all improve our practice around inclusivity in teaching. Many suggestions came from a group of teachers on the DClinPsy Programme and members of our LUPIN service user group, who attended a workshop on the topic. It was agreed there that we would compile a 'Hints and Tips' document, for all teachers on the programme to read. The aims of this document are to provoke thought and develop skills in teaching in an inclusive way.

We hope you find it helpful, please feel free to give comments and additional suggestions to Clare Dixon, Chair of the Inclusivity Development and Implementation Group via If you would like more support in this area, please do get in touch with Clare, initially by explaining what you would find useful (e.g. discussion of your material, someone to peer observe you and provide feedback, ideas for developing the programme). She will pass on the request to the relevant person on the course team.

Clare Dixon, Jo Black & Jenny Davies, Clinical Tutors

Hints and Tips for Teachers

We request all teachers to send in their slides in advance of their session so these can be made available to all trainees online. A number of trainees have specific learning difficulties and recommendations include that teaching material is available prior to the day to enable them to read this in advance and/or utilise specialist software or equipment to access the material as a reasonable adjustment.

Ensure that all your handouts, presentations and online course materials are accessible. This means, for example, using high-contrast text/ background colours, legible fonts, or ensuring the text you write can be read correctly by screen-reading software.

The following are some ideas around being inclusive of different experiences and backgrounds in your teaching sessions.

Assume that the cohort you will be working with is diverse

Any class of trainees will be made up of people who 'differ' from each other and from the teacher in many ways- for example in their socioeconomic background, their cultural beliefs or their learning needs. As humans we can tend to focus on 'difference' that we can see (such as ethnicity or gender), rather than remaining aware of other less visible differences which are just as influential. We can make assumptions about what is 'the norm' based on our own life experience or on a 'majority view', which can exclude the many people who would not identify themselves with this.

In order that your teaching reflects the real diversity of life, and includes all trainees, we would ask you at every stage of teaching (from planning through delivery and to review) to hold in mind that there will be a wealth of different experience and backgrounds in the room. You can welcome and engage with this, to foster a rich learning environment which includes and is relevant to all, for example:-

  • Avoid treating certain ideas or behaviours as 'the norm', this can often be done just in the implicit messages which we give about what we assume or expect, the examples we choose, our discussion about life in general. For example, a teacher who always chooses examples from Christian festivals assumes this is the 'normal' religion; always asking about a person's 'Mum and Dad' presumes heterosexuality; referring to gay people as 'they' assumes 'we' must be straight.
  • Strive to give examples (in your presentation/lecture, in the case studies you use, in the literature you draw on, in small group discussion topics or when answering questions) that relate to a wide range of human experience. For instance when providing case examples of family work, you could use vignettes representing people from varied ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds, or with different configurations rather than just a heterosexual nuclear family.
  • When you are planning your teaching, run through it and imagine yourself listening to the teaching, as a listener who would class themselves as 'differing' to yourself (e.g. in sexuality, socioeconomic status, life experience, belief system, experience of using mental health services and more). Ask yourself, what assumptions have I made here about the world? How can I increase representation (or at least acknowledgement) of diverse views and experiences?
  • Promote discussion and critique about the theories/models/research you are teaching about, how may it be representative or unrepresentative of a broad range of life experiences, cultures, beliefs etc.
  • Consider service user input in some form, (e.g. co-presenting, on video, in a verbal account, or in an exercise to consider other perspectives). This can be one of the richest and most memorable ways of hearing about experiences which may or may not be familiar to learners.
Perfection is not possible (or necessary).

We so often feel scared to 'get things wrong' in this area; we are silenced by political correctness (e.g. not knowing the 'right' words to use, not wanting to cause offence) which stops us having genuine debate and learning about difference, and conversations become bland or avoid difference altogether. We believe that most people can sense when a question or discussion is respectful, open and interested and that this is more important than perfectly diplomatic language.

  • At the start of a session, explain that you are striving to represent a range of life experiences, beliefs and behaviours, but you recognise that there will be times when you inevitably fail in this. Ask trainees to help you by pointing out times when they don't feel that difference is being included or represented, or your material jars with their own experience.
  • At the start, talk about a culture of open discussion, it being OK 'not to know', that we can help each other learn about difference with an open and respectful attitude.
  • Don't feel that you have to be perfect, it can be useful to present both successes around inclusivity in your work, as well as challenges/failures. We want to acknowledge that we can only strive towards inclusivity, rather than be perfect at it.
Bring Diverse Experience into the Classroom. Life Experience is Welcome!

If we present teaching about mental health problems as being about people external to ourselves or the profession, it can foster a sense of 'us' and 'them', where service users are the 'other'. In reality, all of us will have experience of challenge and difference, and most will have encountered mental health difficulties in ourselves or our friends and family, which can give us a sense of shared experience and empathy, as well as existing knowledge and competence to build on as mental health practitioners.

Self disclosure is potentially threatening but provides a great opportunity for inclusivity, acknowledgement of experience or difference, and acceptance of different perspectives. We want trainees to be able and feel safe enough to risk being themselves and sharing their life experiences, in order to make a diverse, stimulating and representative classroom. To do this, it can be helpful to make sure you encourage and prepare for self disclosure: -

  • Acknowledge throughout a session that the material may be familiar to people NOT just in their working life but also in their personal experience and assume resonance. Model self disclosure about this, and explicitly encourage trainees to discuss examples and issues from their personal and professional experience, if they wish to do so, e.g. using the question "who has experience of this (in life generally)?" rather than "who has come across this in their work?"
  • Consider sizes of groups (or give chance for individuals to work alone at times), think about what you ask for in feedback, set ground-rules for safety, offer support to trainees in asking questions or discussing experience - while making clear there is no obligation to disclose.
  • Build in opportunity to share personal experience in a planned, predictable way, so trainees know it will happen, when and where (e.g. in plan of the day: "After the break, we will do an exercise around our own experience of this").
  • Consider the message you give to trainees about times when teaching resonates with them, encourage them to stay in the room and discuss their feelings and experiences, if they feel able, rather than giving an initial (often implicit and well-intentioned) message that they should leave the room if they get upset.
  • Consider the option of sending an email prompt to get people in the 'space' (e.g. that the session is experiential, reflective), and that you would like them to consider their own personal experience, how things may differ according to peoples' different beliefs, experiences and lives. Trainees are provided with a 'Personal Journey' reflective diary; you could provide quiet space at the end of the session (perhaps with some prompt questions) to allow people to consider their own position and learning in relation to the topic in hand, perhaps writing in their Personal Journey book.

Please let us know of any comments or additional suggestions which you have found helpful in your own inclusive practice, or any feedback for us as a programme. Please email Clare Dixon (

Thank you for your interest.

Useful resources!/file/The-inclusive-learning-and-teaching-handbook.pdf