The Open University

Embedding and sustaining inclusive STEM practices

Led by the Open University, this project will evaluate module design and delivery in STEM to embed values and practices of inclusive learning, most notably for disabled students.

Open university ABSS project

A collaboration between the Open University, University of Leeds and University of Plymouth, this project will embed inclusive learning values and practices in the delivery of STEM subjects.

The proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate STEM programmes has increased significantly over the past decade, with the largest proportional increases recognised among students with mental health issues, social or communication impairments, and specific learning difficulties (CaSE, 2014; ECU, 2015).

This project addresses how inclusive processes and academic practices become embedded within institutions, to enable equality of opportunity for students with disabilities studying STEM disciplines.

By engaging with successful and complementary institutional developments in fieldwork, labwork and online learning during the design and development phase, the project will develop case studies on STEM-specific pedagogies and institutional processes, presenting evidence of their impact on the success of disabled students. 

This work draws on the partner institutions’ track record of success in developing and delivering interventions to support inclusive STEM education, with developments ranging from entirely hands-on (e.g. Lab+ at the University of Plymouth) to fully technology-mediated (e.g. Open Science Laboratory at the Open University, and Virtual Landscapes at the University of Leeds), thereby offering a unique opportunity to explore the development of inclusive processes and practices across a spectrum of media.

Institutional differences, regarding student recruitment procedures, predominant delivery mode and student demographics, also offer opportunities to explore more broadly the impact of embedded processes, and collaboration will enable the knowledge and practice, which exists independently within each institution, to be consolidated as collective expertise.

The project therefore aims to facilitate:

  • embedded inclusive resources, module and curriculum design practices
  • sustained inclusive module and curriculum delivery practices
  • increased awareness of student diversity and inclusive design approaches among staff and students.

The project anticipates providing recommendations and principles for the higher education sector and associated professional bodies, to inform institutional policy and activities, with the aim of ensuring equality of opportunity for all STEM students.

Catalyst funding 

Total project funding £912,749
Project contact name Dr Trevor Collins
Project contact email [email protected]
Project contact telephone 01908 655731

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