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Inclusive approaches are important both inside and outside the classroom environment, where both physical and psychological factors can impact students’ sense of belonging and academic performance. This is particularly important at Cambridge, where the devolved nature of the institution means that students’ educational experience occurs across Departments, Colleges and the spaces between. Just as the layout of the room can have a significant impact on accessibility and social dynamics, equal consideration should be given to the environments students are expected to navigate outside the teaching space, such as libraries and laboratories, or during placements and fieldwork where students might be isolated from support structures.


Guiding Principle 2: Ensure a positive educational environment

The promotion of positive attitudes in education is necessary for inclusion; a shared culture and ethos based upon welcoming attitudes towards a diversity of learners is crucial and needs to be fostered by individuals, as well as by larger institutions such as Colleges, Departments and Faculties.


Example 1: Facilitating peer learning in supervisions

"I have come to realise that I can allow and encourage students to create a better dialogue among themselves. More often than not in supervisions, I had been taking on the role of a lecturer rather than a facilitator, making myself the centre of all information, and left less space for students to interact with and create positive impact on each other. To shift this approach, I did two things: (i) When I am asked a question, I first ask the student’s supervision partner(s) to try to answer the question, or when it is a comment, I ask the supervision partner(s) to reflect on the comment before I shared my own answer or views; and (ii) I ask students to put their questions from the lectures and readings on the Microsoft Teams chat one or two days before the supervisions so that everyone in the group could read the questions and reflect on them, which they then share during the supervision. My aim through these practices has been to allow space for students to build their confidence more, as they no longer rely on me as the authority, and see that they too can answer questions and reflect on comments. The former (that is, asking students to reflect on each other’s comments or answering each other’s questions has worked very well during supervisions. Students engage more, and the discussions are richer. This also shifted my worries from covering enough material to developing learning skills for students."

- Supervisor in Sociology

Strategies used:

  • Encouraging peer interaction in supervisions
  • Shifting focus from content to skills
  • Developing student agency


Example 2: Induction programme for Black students

"This was a really important event for so many reasons. Firstly, I think it is invaluable to be welcomed into an institution by people who have a similar background to you and will be able to relate you and your story. As an incoming black student, one of the things you want the most when preparing to come to Cambridge is advice. This event allowed us to share advice, tips and experiences in a comfortable setting, in a way that was personal but also involved academia. I think it is also important to recognise that this event is of great benefit to the student co-facilitators. The event allowed me to reflect on my own time at Cambridge and prepare myself for my second year."

- Student co-facilitator, Black Advisory Hub

Strategies used:

  • Building community and networks
  • Mentoring incoming students
  • Addressing imposted syndrome


Suggested readings


Download the inclusive learning environments self-evaluation checklist. This provides prompts for reflection about the inclusivity of the educational environment, both physical and online.