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One of the reasons for introducing more flexibility into teaching and learning is so that all students, regardless of their diversity, have an equal chance to learn. Consider how to provide inclusive access to course materials, learning activities, class interactions, and assessments. Learning styles and preferences are just one aspect to consider. Cultural sensitivity is an understanding of the way in which cultural factors and practices shape and influence the way people behave and learn. There are several factors at play: ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, location, professional role, belief systems and gender. People develop particular perspectives and values depending on the group or community in which they reside.

In some situations diversity also relates to disability - physical, psychological, and learning. All these factors can impact on access and equity when it comes to learning. Remember the strategies you introduce can become inflexible if issues of access and equity are not addressed. For example, using a lot of online resources when learners do not have ready access to computers and the Internet. Very importantly this topic requires an awareness of Universal Design and inclusive learning and teaching as well as cultural diversity.

Universal Design

A design approach called Universal design is where "environments, objects, and systems that can be used by as many people as possible" (NC State University, 1997). This means that flexible choices must be provided with multiple alternatives for access and use. This is to ensure that people of any age, ability, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity or culture etc. can be accommodated. To do this, spaces, products, and information systems etc. that humans use, manage or create must be designed appropriately.

Cultural Diversity

For this topic it is useful to have an understanding of how the culture of learners influences how they approach their study and respond to the learning environment. Guiding students to understand their learning styles and how they prefer to learn (learner preferences) can assist them to engage more effectively in the learning environment you create. However, to design a learning environment that is optimal for all your students, it is essential that you have an understanding of the factors associated with diversity. In that way, any barriers can be recognised and access to the learning environment more likely.

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Activity Four: Reflect on factors associated with diversity in your context.

  • Reflect on the factors that impact on students' access to the environment and their success. This may relate to the subject, resources, technologies, culture, socio-economics, ethnicity, assessments, learner motivation, engagement and abilities etc.
  • Discuss what your learners might need to access the learning environment more fully, and what you can provide.
  • What are the barriers?
  • What support is needed?
  • Add to your Learning Portfolio - your explorations, descriptions, discussions and reflections.