D. Operationalize equitable and inclusive practice in short-format training as an ethical obligation
SFT instructors and instructional designers need to recognize inclusivity and equity as an ethical obligation. Acting on this obligation requires appropriately resourcing implementers, reducing their barriers, and countering structural inequities.
We know that without institutional commitment and support, inclusion will be inconsistent or lacking in SFT 1 2. The short timeframe of SFTs limits opportunities for instructors and learners to understand and communicate needs, expertise, and context. These limitations can make mandates equity, inclusion, and accessibility seem difficult or even “unnecessary” (i.e., “yet another thing to comply with”). Placing all responsibilities on individuals does not work. Without a collective and standardized framework, the application of policy or programs to support inclusive teaching, and/or accepting responsibility for ensuring this is part of teaching, could be uneven, unfair, or incorrect. Policies and practices are best implemented at a group level (e.g., organization, institution 1). This facilitates integration of inclusive and equitable teaching throughout all SFT across an organization. Engagement by individual instructors across organizations could be facilitated by within-institution commitments that are shared with the wider community. Emergent communities of practice on SFT equity and inclusion can share their strategies with individuals without institutional support 3.
How might this work:🚲
Funding agencies, government organizations, as well as grassroots stakeholders (i.e., instructors, learners) could collaborate on sets of guidelines for equitable and inclusive practice in SFT. A commitment to engaging with those practices should be facilitated by concrete and actionable guidelines 4. The ecosystem of accessibility and inclusion expertise is often separate from subject matter and organizational expertise within the SFT space, although there are a few groups and professionals who are both accessibility and inclusion experts in STEM disciplines. Creating an accessibility services framework, guidelines, and instructor training resources for SFTs – akin to that which exists in Post-Secondary Education (PSE) in the US and Canada - could support this operationalization. Mechanisms for ongoing feedback and evaluation related to accessibility and inclusion must also be developed for SFT; accountability is necessary to support claims of the use of guidelines. This includes evaluation prior to the start of the course, during the course, and at the end. This also includes evaluation of both programs and individual courses or modules.
Long-term positive impacts of policies and practices on inclusion and accessibility have been reported in educational and workplace settings. Policies are not perfect, but they do drive long-term change. Ultimately, learners could expect a “standard of equitable and inclusive training” in SFT that is at least as good as what is usually legally guaranteed in formal instructional settings.
- Core: Inclusive
- Community: Reach
Benefits to the learners:🚲
- Learning materials, instructional formats and settings would become accessible and inclusive.
- Instructors who articulate and follow through on a commitment to equitable and inclusive teaching would be easier to distinguish.
- Instructors who effectively utilize accessibility and inclusion practices can reduce burdens on learners and increase the chances of success of the SFT in meeting learning objectives.
- A wider range of learners (i.e., from historically excluded groups) would enjoy fuller participation.
Incentives to implementers:🚲
For Instructors and Instructional Designers
- Shared standards and strategies would save time and increase confidence by using vetted approaches. This would also improve learner experience by creating a more uniform experience with fewer unknowns in how equity and inclusion will be approached.
For Instructional Designers, Funders, and Organizations
- Wider range of attendees, applicants, and fuller participation from groups that are under-represented today. This includes engaging and retaining new scientists — who are currently being lost when instruction fails to recognize/engage or accommodate them — and empowering them to do their best work.
- SFT that follows these practices will better meet the broadening participation objectives of funders as well as meet their own goals to promote equity and inclusion.
Barriers to implementation:🚲
- An adequately funded, appropriately resourced, and diverse group would have to develop a set of guidelines. Additional groups would need to be supported in adapting and adopting the guidelines to be appropriate for various contexts and cultures (e.g., incorporating community-developed principles 5 in instruction).
- Collaborations with disability and inclusion experts in higher education and professional development (SFT) will be needed and that expertise may be in demand.
- Training on inclusive practices may be required for the instructor and instructional designers/administrators to ensure that courses all reflect the standards and policies, and that Instructors all know how to implement them.
- Changes will be needed at the individual and at multiple organizational levels, to ensure equity and inclusion are seen as ethical obligations rather than “nice to have” features of SFT 4.
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