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Student engagement and belonging through their learning are integral to student success. In order to ensure that all students are engaged and feel like they belong, an inclusive learning approach can be employed to improve the experience and outcomes of students from diverse groups.

Supervision is at the heart of Cambridge undergraduate education. Practices rightly vary between subjects, but there are common aspects: supervision is an intensive, flexible, feedback-rich process which supports students’ independent studies and their ability to engage in collaborative learning with peers and supervisors. Larger-scale teaching in Departments provides the essential broader context for this focussed, personalised and flexible mode of study.

Inclusive teaching means enabling learners in supervisions, lectures or practicals to prepare themselves for a face-to-face session or other learning activity. It means being explicit with students about the rationale for your approach to teaching and how they are intended to learn, and also ensuring that your teaching respects diversity, avoids stereotypes and presents a range of voices and perspectives. Inclusive teaching involves mainstreaming the common requests for learning adjustments by, for example, providing teaching material in advance and in an accessible format, prioritising reading lists, ensuring that those reading lists includes a balanced representation of sources.


Guiding Principle 4: Embed inclusive practices

Educational practice should be purposely designed to meet a diverse range of needs, enhancing the quality of education for all learners, rather than being focused upon individual students or groups in a deficit approach.It also means proactively addressing the barriers that may prevent students from learning.


Example 1: Clarifying expectations and learning goals

"I endeavour to co-construct the goals of my supervision with my supervisees from the beginning of the term. I discuss with them their expectation of the course and our supervision. I also talk about my understanding of the supervision and what I expect them to learn from the supervision. With frequent communication on this topic, by the end of the first term, my supervisees always have a clear understanding of the learning goals for the course and for the supervisions. I place a great deal of importance on helping my supervisees develop as self-directed learners, so I also ask them to think about how the learning of the course might align with their study on other courses and with their personal ambitions."

- Supervisor in Education

Strategies used:

  • Clarifying expectations about learning goals
  • Discussing the purpose of the supervision with students
  • Tying supervision work to broader course of study


Example 2: Encouraging student agency in teaching

"As part of a recent revision supervision, I attempted a “muddiest point” type of exercise, asking students to name a topic that they struggled to understand and then asking their supervision partner to present a 5-10 minute explanation of that topic. This enabled both students to revise the topic in a novel way and enabled better learning as I have found the best way to find out how much you know, is to teach it. I was then able to fill in any gaps in their knowledge and facilitate discussion. The students who took part found it quite useful and, from my perspective, it was a success."

- Supervisor in Chemistry

Strategies used:

  • Designing structured peer interactions
  • Asking students to self-identify difficult topic
  • Developing communication skills


Suggested readings


Download the inclusive teaching practices self-evaluation checklist. This provides prompts for reflection about the inclusivity of your approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom.