SpotLITE: Jenny Brady, Project lead for Inclusivity at the University

For our winter edition we feature the Project lead for Inclusivity Jenny Brady, who takes her turn in the Bulletin’s Q&A hot seat.

 

Tell us a bit about your career before your current role?

I’ve spent the last 14 years working in Disability Services as a Disability Coordinator, specialising in support for students with specific learning difficulties, for example dyslexia.

Initially, the role entailed providing group study skills support for dyslexic students as well as overseeing the 1-1 support provision.

The role evolved significantly over time so I’ve had the opportunity to work with a broad range of disabled students and work closely with schools and faculties to help them to understand and accommodate students’ needs.

Prior to joining the University, I taught English to speakers of other languages and for academic purposes, in both FE and HE, so my current role combines both of these aspects of my career.

In 2016 I started the Inclusive Learning and Teaching Development project in partnership with colleagues in OD&PL, and I’m lucky now to have the opportunity to work on this project full time while being based in LITE.

 

What does your role as project lead for inclusivity at the University entail?

Essentially, I’m trying to embed a culture of inclusive teaching by establishing a baseline of inclusivity across student education for the benefit of all student groups, not just disabled students.

It’s a huge project with a number of strands to it and I’m supported by Dr. Beth Johnson, DSE the School of Media and Communication as Academic Lead.

My main focus is coordinating a network of School Academic Leads for Inclusive Practice (SALIPs) who are working to help colleagues understand inclusivity in their own disciplinary contexts, and reviewing current practices.

We currently have 27 SALIPs across all faculties and their combined outputs will enable me to form an institutional picture of what we’re doing well and where things need to change.

I’m working closely with LUU too as we’re launching a campaign to encourage students to feed back about their experiences of inclusive teaching.

Alongside this, I’m working to ensure that new developments in student education are in alignment with the baselines and that the University can support staff to make the necessary changes.

 

What is the Universitys strategy for inclusive teaching?

Inclusive teaching is just good teaching which enhances clarity, flexibility and variety as the best way to reduce barriers for all student groups.

These barriers can range from how students access content digitally, the physical learning environments, the complexity of language use or the assumptions of prior knowledge.

They can also be about whether students see themselves reflected in the curriculum and the impact this has on learning.

There are a range of projects being taken forwards to make teaching more inclusive, some of which are aimed at addressing awarding gaps for certain groups of students.

Others, such as my own, are aimed at improving the experience for all students, in the recognition of the needs of our increasingly diverse student population.

 

What do you hope to achieve?

The ultimate goal of the project is that, as an institution, we will confidently be able to say that we are inclusive in our approaches to learning and teaching and to know exactly what that means.

This will need to come with an understanding that as technology advances and we, as a society, become more aware of inequalities, we need to be open to evolving and adapting our approach to inclusivity.

At the very least, I want people to understand that inclusivity is about all of our students and it’s not just about making adjustments on request for students with obvious disabilities.

Most disabilities are not visible, and most of the commonly made recommendations for adjustments, will benefit all students. I want people to value and anticipate difference and for students to feel like their courses were designed with “people like them” in mind.

 

What excites you about this role?

This role combines two of my passions- equality and efficiency! It’s amazing to have the opportunity to develop a plan and see it through.

I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable about how disabled students learning needs are accommodated in higher education, and it’s really exciting to be taking a step back and understanding how things could be done differently, and planned in at the design stage.

 

What does the future hold for you?

I’m really passionate about creating inclusive learning environments so I imagine I’ll continue to develop my career in this area. I love the challenges of project management too and working with people to get the best out of them.

 

How do you relax away from work?

My favourite ways to relax are listening to music, walking, swimming or running with friends.

Exercise helps to keep me sane and I mostly try and keep things simple when I’m not in work- I have two young sons so life can get quite hectic if I try to fit too much in.

I do love travel and adventure though and spent three weeks travelling in Indonesia in the summer. We had an amazing time exploring and meeting people, and the project management skills came in handy with all the planning and logistics.