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Student engagement explores how students engage with learning and are encouraged to commit to their studies. It’s about developing independent learning and making the most of contact time.


 Microaggressions in the Classroom


Hello! My name is Claire Sutherland. I’m head of the teaching excellence and student outcomes team here at Northumbria University, and also a professor of politics.

As we all prepare for induction, here are five things to think about making it as inclusive as possible, followed by five practical suggestions.
1.            Start with yourself: how do you present and how will you come across to students? What messages will you be sending out before you even speak? As an academic you are clearly in a position of authority. If you are white, for example, what initial impression does that convey about the University?
2.            Consider each student as an individual with their own expectations and fears, unique backgrounds and experiences. There is no need for you to second guess these. Is there a way to elicit some individual perspectives from the outset?
3.            What can you do to break down barriers between you and the students, and among students?
4.            Be alert to your body language. Are you acknowledging all contributions positively and equally? How do you know – could you ask for peer and student feedback on this during the coming year?
5.            Familiarise yourself with microaggressions. We highly recommend watching the first few minutes of this video, which has lots of real-life examples as told by students themselves.
Here are five practical suggestions to make teaching more inclusive from induction onwards.
First impressions last, so if you spend a 30 minute induction lecturing to students, that will shape their expectations of university. Do you need to lecture? Can you get the information across in a more interactive or even playful way?
For example, ask each student to write one question they have on a post-it note, then spend the session responding to a selection of these, only referring to slides as necessary.
How is the room laid out? Are you the ‘sage on the stage’? If so, can you come down from that pedestal and shift the focus to students as participants?
For example, ask a question like, where would you go to find study resources? Get students to discuss the answer with their neighbour. Move round the room for a few minutes before eliciting answers from students you have overheard and you know have something to say.
How will you put your students at ease and avoid making them feel left out? Induction may be a rare opportunity for you to bring students together before friendship groups are formed. Can you think of an inquiry based, small group activity?
For example, go to the library together and find three sources on a given topic to present back as a team.
Induction involves students being exposed to a torrent of information. They cannot hope to retain it all. Is there one key thing you need them to remember (for example, where to access module resources as they need them?) Can you devise a way to make that stick?
For example, get them to find a resource for themselves on a device, perhaps shared with their neighbour, rather than just pointing them towards it.
What impression do the programme team want to convey to welcome all students and make them feel included? Have you discussed this? How can you flag additional support available for particular groups?
For example, can you involve 2nd or 3rd years in the discussion and ask them what they wished they’d known as freshers? Include their past experience and have first years start out by learning from their peers.

To further develop induction support for new students by providing guidance, inspiration and resources to our Academic colleagues across the University. This is designed to aid successful student transition and integration into the academic and social life of university via pre-entry input and interactive, welcoming induction programmes.

The benefits of an inclusive programme induction include

  • Starts the process of social and academic integration
  • Increased sense of belonging
  • Awareness of what to expect at the beginning of the programme
  • Address academic and non-academic issues
  • Increased student retention
  • An opportunity for peer mentoring from current students
  • Overall, a more positive student experience


The induction event which welcomes sports students to Northumbria University is innovative for several reasons. The decision to redevelop first year induction was made after careful staff consideration as to how to improve declining student engagement, attendance and achievement in first year sports students. Historically, the approach was mainly lecture-based and involved key academic staff presenting information using direct delivery methods.

Since 2017, programme induction has been transformed using an evidence-based approach. It now requires students, in partnership with academic staff, to undertake several team-building, practical sport, enquiry-based learning and social activities over an intensive two-day period. Intertwined throughout each aspect of the experience is a core emphasis on providing greater opportunities for nurturing social and academic integration, development and cohesion of communities, forming of new friendships and feeling accepted by peers and academics in a fun and inclusive environment. To date, over 600 students have experienced the pioneering model, which has achieved consistently high levels of student and staff satisfaction. It has also achieved faculty recognition as a ‘model of excellence’ at Northumbria University.

This inclusive, evidence based, cost effective induction approach was implemented based on the knowledge that whilst a student’s decision to withdraw from university is multifaceted, it is strongly influenced by factors relating to a lack of social integration, including homesickness and difficulties in making new friends, which can negatively impact the opening months of a student’s university experience.



In Social Sciences, Programme Leaders have decided that for Induction 2020-21, Criminology, Sociology and Criminology-Sociology students should have a joint induction, and that there should be separate Foundation and International Relations and Politics inductions. The focus will be on creating a sense of community and belonging, engaging the students in thinking about social sciences, and having some fun! Staff introductions and ice-breakers will be followed by zine-making around campaigning on a key social issue of students’ choice. Students will be introduced to some possible topics in a fun way. There will be no separate guidance tutor sessions. Instead, guidance tutors will be invited to attend the induction event to interact with students. A broader plan is being developed around how best to provide students with essential induction information. This may be embedded in programme Blackboard sites as bite-sized chunks, for example in short videos.

Fine Art and Design
This video showcases induction activities for first year Fine Art, Interior Design, Fashion and Graphics students


The Law Foundation year induction was designed as an inclusive introduction to the Law School. The cohort was divided into small groups of 12-15 to ensure the workshop tutors could give individual attention to each student and make sure the experience was not overwhelming. Each student had to attend for one day. The main aim was to demystify the library - feedback from previous years suggested that students found the library daunting. The induction, supported by a RISE resource, was designed to build on the students’ pre-existing knowledge of the law- however small. It introduced three legal cases via podcasts, text books, law reports and electronic resources- it also introduced the University IT systems in a step by step process. The students did some work individually but mainly worked in groups. The Law Foundation induction is different from the year 1 Law induction: if foundation students move onto the degree they get a different induction experience. The interactive resource, designed with the help of content developers, was linked to podcasts and University guides. It used QR codes to lead the students around a ‘treasure hunt’ in the main library and the law library, (to find different resources) and the library staff were available to assist in the treasure hunt. The students had to design and produce a poster that illustrated the results of their research during the treasure hunt (in groups of 4 or 5) which were uploaded to Turnitin to ensure that the students had used Turnitin before needing to use it for assessment. Prizes were presented for the best posters. 

Library resources available to academics and students during the induction period and beyond:

  • Practical sessions with PCs/laptops: introducing students to searching for information, evaluating it using the tools and resources provided by the Library. Using tailored keywords and references to specific programme learning outcomes to contextualise the sessions.
  • Tailored sessions using a combination of searching, critical thinking, essay writing or searching and literature reviews for direct entry level 6/PGT/PGR.
  • Specific task sessions developed with academic input. Previous examples include:

          - Adult nursing students: Hands on session with a worksheet task introducing the students to reading lists and how to use them effectively, finding and reading an electronic book and journal article, saving a journal article to their U: drive for future reference, searching more widely for resources and storing them using the My Favourites function within a Library Search.     
         - Law students: demonstration of finding case law/legislation followed by practical sessions using both hard copy and electronic resources with staff on hand to support the students.
         - PG Business students: Induction task in conjunction with academics. Library colleagues introduce a task which involves students working in groups to locate a recent article on a topic selected by the academic (i.e. corporate social responsibility). Over a period of 3 days (usually in week 1 of teaching) students have to prepare a 3 slide/5 minute PowerPoint presentation covering how they found the article, provide an accurate reference for it in the appropriate style and a short critical evaluation. Library staff provide two drop in sessions later that week to support with searching, evaluating group work and presentation styles.  

  • Library tours - this could be appropriate for smaller groups, such as international students who are unfamiliar with large Higher Education Libraries. Self-guided tour leaflets are also available.
  • Library staff readily available to students at the start of year to help with practical issues which can be daunting - i.e. getting in and out of the Library, how to find a book on the shelf, how to borrow/return a book, how to book a study room in the Library.
  • Library drop ins - for skills related queries or borrowing queries.

To enquire about Library options available to you please contact Kathryn Smith, University librarian on extension 7970 or email the Library Skills Development team directly.


Learn about Kingston University's award winning induction initiative The Big Read

The University of Manchester have a very useful compilation of inspiring ice breaking tasks for your induction sessions

The University of Exeter conducted the Transforming Transitions project, specifically looking at how to support students with BTEC qualifications

Take a look at how Newcastle University have promoted a better understanding of gender and language inclusivity

The video entitled Microagressions in the Classroom gives many real life examples of how students can feel excluded by others' comments and their underlying, often racialised, assumptions. One example is the loaded question, 'Where are you from?' that is explored in this video, and also in this clip entitled 'What kind of Asian are you?'

Insights into issues care-experienced students face during induction week are summarised in this research report and recommendations, an accompanying WonkHE article, and a short animated video.

This resource offers some practical tips for designing inclusive teaching and assessment, based on a framework developed for York St John University.

The Higher Education Academy have some great resources to help you build inclusivity, engagement and a sense of belonging in the classroom.

Theo Gilbert from the University of Hertfordshire has created a framework to get students from diverse cultures to mix using a compassion focused pedagogy. You can find more about this on his webpage Compassion in Education

Higher education inclusivity: when the disability enriches the university.’ This article analyses the perspectives of faculty members on disability in higher education.

Faculty members who engage in inclusive pedagogy: methodological and affective strategies for teaching.’ In this article, 119 faculty members from 10 Spanish universities who engage in inclusive pedagogy reveal some of the methodological and affective strategies they use to motivate their students, including those with disabilities, and help them learn. 

Finally, values affirmation exercises have been shown to improve students' self-integrity and self-worth, helping to make them more resilient and perform better.



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