Diversity, what’s the problem? Considering barriers to learning

Joanne Smailes, Pat Gannon-Leary

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Consider any course or programme. Is its make-up the same as it was 10 or 15 years ago? Would the majority of the class sail through their studies? Would they all be familiar and comfortable with the approaches to teaching, learning and assessment experienced? I suspect that the answers to these questions would be ”No”, “Maybe” and “No”, as they were at Northumbria University. Skilbeck and Connell’s (2000b p.6) summary of barriers to student access and progression includes, amongst staff in higher education, prejudice towards - and lack of understanding of - the needs of particular disadvantaged groups and unwillingness or inability to provide support for such groups and George and Gillon (2001) have indicated, the realistic implication of widening of participation in HE is significant institutional, curriculum and staff development, derived from a student-centred focus. Northumbria University through its pedagogy for diverse student needs (PDSN) group wished to develop a better understanding of the learning needs of diverse student groups through projects to identify and disseminate good practice. To investigate further the University undertook a large-scale survey based on a number of literature sources and respondents were asked to respond to eighty statements surrounding student learning. This paper highlights the areas where differences were found different groups of student dimensions (e.g. international compared with UK students; disabled vs. non-disabled; 1st generation compared with 2nd generation). These findings in combination with relevant literature informed the basis for staff development guides to create an inclusive learning environment minimising barriers to learning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2006
Event4th Annual Conference on Teaching & Learning - Galway
Duration: 8 Jun 2006 → …


Conference4th Annual Conference on Teaching & Learning
Period8/06/06 → …
Internet address


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