Thursday, 5 September 2019

Research carried out on the experience of LGBTIQA+ [1] tertiary students at UWA in 2016 – the first of its kind – showed that while most (63.2 per cent) participants viewed their classes to be accepting of LGBT people, one in five LGBT students reported that their studies had been disrupted as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression.

Some of those disruptions can be challenging for us to address through our roles in learning and teaching – for example, LGBTIQA+ students are much more likely to experience homelessness and/or poor mental health – but the environment they experience in their physical and digital classrooms, and while on campus, is absolutely something within our control.

UWA highly values our culture of diversity and inclusion. We are consistently recognised for our pioneering work in creating a welcoming and supportive environment for staff, including through the Rainbow Project, Ally training and the Ally Network, as well as flying the rainbow flag prominently. As a result, we are nationally a top employer for inclusion and have been awarded platinum status with the Australian Workplace Equity Index (AWEI) in recognition of our high performance over a sustained period of more than five years. The University’s newest initiative draws on this rich history to support and celebrate our diverse and inclusive student community.

Project Peacock is a series of online staff development modules designed to empower professional and academic staff to support LGBTIQA+ students. Every staff member has the ability to do something in their day-to-day practice to support our diverse student population and help them to thrive. This set of three fully online self-paced modules will scaffold staff through an understanding of the LGBTIQA+ population, the experience of the community in tertiary education, and empower staff to take practical action to support LGBTIQA+ students’ educational experience at the University.

The modules will go beyond the level of professional development currently available to staff through Ally training. They will make the kind of opportunity, that is currently only available face-to-face on the Crawley campus, available in a fully online environment, which will offer greater flexibility to local staff as well as extending the opportunity to our regional and remote staff.  This in turn will extend support to students studying outside the metro area.

Participants in our face-to-face Ally training consistently report that the most valuable element is the perspective provided by a panel of the LGBTIQA+ community. The Project Peacock modules are centred on a series of personal narrative videos with students, staff, alumni, and members of the wider community sharing their lived experiences. The modules are entirely self-paced and hosted within our Blackboard Learning Management System, which allows the professional development to be delivered efficiently as well as making the experience flexible and self-paced for participants. The videos at the heart of the modules provide independent learners with a human connection and a real understanding of the importance of the content. The videos at the heart of the modules provide independent learners with a human connection and a real understanding of the importance of the content.

Project Peacock will be launched for pilot in November this year. For more information, or to express your interest in contributing or piloting the modules, please contact Liberty Cramer .

[1] Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual, and other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities


Education Quarterly