Inclusive Student Engagement

The project researched and developed an evidence-based, integrated, and sustainable student engagement model to improve access to post-secondary educational opportunities for students with diverse needs.

Needs Addressed

In an increasingly knowledge-based society, education is a critical component for citizenship, health, economic and social well-being. Alberta is not well positioned, despite its current economic prosperity, to leverage its human resources to participate in a knowledge-based society and economy. Alberta’s participation rates in post-secondary education are low; the participation rate for Albertans facing barriers is even lower.

This project created an evidence-based framework to inclusively engage students to attract, retain and support the success of all learners in post-secondary education. Direct outcomes for the project include increased student services staff ability to support diverse students, transfer of knowledge on practice in inclusive student services within the Alberta post-secondary system and enhanced accessibility for student services environments, systems and services.

Project Funder

The Inclusive Student Engagement project was funded by Alberta Advanced Education and Technologies, through the Access to the Future Fund.

Project Deliverables

  1. Inclusion = Diversity + Engagement model for action presentation
  2. Inclusion Fusion presentation
  3. Inclusion Fusion event guide
  4. Inclusion Fusion poster
  5. PhotoVoice Video documentary
  6. PhotoVoice project guide
  7. Assessment of Informational Materials (AIM) tool
  8. Text Readability Tester
  9. Inclusive Student Engagement Final Report

Key Project Activities

  1. The Inclusive Interactions stream of the project completed the following activities:
    • Inclusive Student Engagement Model for Action Framework including implementation of the model through inclusive training for front-line student services staff
    • Inclusion Fusion Event and Guide
    • Photo Voice Project and Guide
  2. The Inclusive Information stream of the project completed the following activities:
    • Assessment of Informational Materials (AIM) validation study
    • Text Readability Tester

Project Time Frame

January 2010 to June 2012

Target Audience

Community College staff, faculty, and students developing intercultural communication skills, colleges looking to expand their welcoming campus initiatives and researchers interested in intercultural communication and welcoming communities.

Number of people Involved in the project:

1813 people including:

  • 1540 NorQuest students, faculty and staff
  • 273 external stakeholders

Summary of Project Lessons Learned

Inclusion and Exclusion is a Matter of Perspective

The experience of inclusion (and exclusion) depends on your perspective. Our perspective of difference and diversity shapes how we define inclusion and how we understand the “problem space” of inclusion (Cook-Greuter, 2005). The college staff member who seeks to pro-actively include the students he or she engages with, the student leader who engages other students, the student seeking services may all have a different perspective of what inclusion means, feels like and what is needed to create an inclusive college. We applied the AQAL meta-framework as a useful tool to hold these multiple perspectives while inquiring into the lived reality of inclusion (and exclusion) in a college environment. Each of the quadrants of the frame is a doorway into understanding and creating a more inclusive college.

The Inclusion mapping tool (described in the Inclusion = Diversity + Engagement model for action presentation) can be used as a way to identify current activities to support inclusion and also as a way to recognize gaps in organizational activities, systems and culture. The map makes visible activities that support student inclusion. This tool supports ongoing capacity development; once current activities are identified, gaps can also be identified and longer term planning can be supported to maximize inclusion efforts within a college. A multi-year inclusion strategy is currently underway at NorQuest College; the inclusion mapping tool is supporting this initiative.

Proximity to difference does not assure engagement with difference

The Inclusive Student Engagement project engaged students, staff and College community members in conversations that mattered on the topics of inclusion and exclusion. Through the intercultural training with student services staff and work related transfer tasks to apply their learning in their workplace, staff engaged with issues of providing services to students and how cultural differences show up in the service engagement. Through Inclusion Fusion events like Photo Voice, student perspectives and photos of how they see the reality of inclusion in the College and how they make sense of it were shared and discussed, as an example of how an intercultural event encourages perspective taking across cultural differences.

Being in the proximity of diversity does not equal engagement. When we create a space for conversations and engagement to happen, this creates the opportunity to listen to and understand another’s perspective. The multicultural event is typically a celebration of the visible, exterior aspects of difference, showcasing different foods, dress, and cultural artifacts. The multicultural event is effective to raise awareness of exterior differences. The intercultural event can be a celebration of similarities and differences; intercultural engagement allows for an exploration of invisible, interior aspects of difference; the values and culturally informed patterns that guide how we communicate and behave. The Inclusion Fusion intercultural engagement activities created a variety of spaces (e.g. Art of Inclusion, PhotoVoice, Conversation CafĂ©, Speakers Corner) to engage with interior perspectives of culture and questions of welcoming, inclusion and exclusion. Both events are doorways into inclusion. Hosting both types of events create an enhanced inclusion environment by providing multiple doorways to engage with diversity. From an ethnorelative perspective of intercultural competence, the space for an intercultural engagement is a safe place to practice interacting with unfamiliar, different others guided by agreements of curiosity and discovery (tolerate ambiguity), respect (how we value others), openness (withhold judgement), and to develop greater cultural self-awareness and cultural other-awareness. It is a place to practice receiving and understanding the perspective of others.


  1. Inclusion activities should be linked through an overarching inclusion strategy that is evaluated.
  2. The lessons learned through applying the model to address cultural diversity should be expanded to include other diversities in our College community, e.g. Aboriginal, people with learning and physical disabilities, sexual orientation, age, literacy levels, etc.
  3. The Mapping the Reality of inclusion tool should be used to increase the visibility of inclusion initiatives from multiple perspectives and areas of the College.
  4. Inclusive engagement events should be hosted annually as an ongoing opportunity for student, staff and instructor development of intercultural competence for inclusion.
  5. Future inclusion training is customized to department and staff service goals related to diversity.
  6. The Inclusion = Diversity + Engagement model for action and project deliverables are shared beyond the CEIE and the college community.

Project team:

Team 1:

  • Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership:
    • Todd Odgers
    • Kerry Louw
    • Cheryl Whitelaw
    • Yuji Abe
    • Sarah Apedaile
    • Erin Waugh
    • Jake Evans

Team 2:

  • NorQuest Applied Research:
    • Pamela Young
  • Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership Supports:
    • Flo Brokop
    • Kim Dudas
    • Eva Wasniewski
  • NorQuest Centre for Excellence in Intercultural Education:
    • Yuji Abe
    • Cheryl Whitelaw
  • Evaluation and Research Services, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta
    • Brad Arkison
    • Sandra Olarte


The Inclusion Fusion events and resources were made possible through extensive collaboration with faculty, staff and students at NorQuest College and with community members. We want to thank the following:

  • Students Association
    • Cherie Sawaryn
  • Faculty of Foundational and Intercultural Studies
    • Amy Abe
    • Kent Lee
    • Bonnie Nicholas
  • Marketing and Communications
    • Katherine Rankin
    • Corey Stroeder
    • Jeff Jenkins
  • Library
    • Eve Poirier
  • The students from the Youth in Transition and LINC professional programs
  • NorQuest Student Association council members
    • Carly Young
    • Lincoln Nanaquawetung
    • Gerard Amani
    • Lisa Andreas
    • Orane Rowe
    • Elizabeth Routledge
  • Student Support Facilitators
    • Deanna Malcolm
    • Krystal McCann

Drumming circle was provided by David Thiaw. Graphic design and editorial services for the Inclusion Fusion and PhotoVoice materials provided by Greg Miller and his team at Backstreet Communications. Organizational change and AQAL/Integral consultation services provided by Meg Salter from Megaspace Inc . Design and layout of the Inclusion Fusion presentation provided by Elizabeth Hanlis from eHanlis Inc. Stakeholder engagement facilitation was provided by Sharon Matthias from Matthias Inc. Art of Inclusion services provided by Michael Wallace.

For More Information Contact: 1-780-644-6770 or email

Project Deliverables

  1. Inclusion = Diversity + Engagement model presentation

    This presentation provides an overview of the theoretical framework for the Inclusion = Diversity + Engagement model and how the model was applied in the Inclusive Student Engagement project.  Watch the presentation below and follow along in PowerPoint (ISE_webpage_presentation_model_narration.pptx).

    Can't see the video? Try downloading the video: WMV MP4

  2. Inclusion Fusion presentation

    This presentation provides an overview of the Inclusion Fusion events held at NorQuest College in 2010 and 2011 with information on how to host your own Inclusion Fusion event.

    Inclusion Fusion PowerPoint file (18.6M)

  3. Inclusion Fusion event guide

    This guide supports you to plan, organize and host an Inclusion Fusion event in your organization, including a Project Outline beginning on page 1 and the Event Guides to be downloaded beginning on page 23.

    Inclusion Fusion event guide (6M pdf)

  4. Inclusion Fusion poster

    This poster features the components of an Inclusion Fusion event.

    Inclusion Fusion Poster (2.5M pdf)

  5. PhotoVoice Video documentary

    This documentary features the PhotoVoice project in 1 class at NorQuest in 2011. The documentary was developed to support instructors to incorporate a PhotoVoice activity into their classroom. It features the photos and perspectives of students inquiring into their experience of inclusion and exclusion at NorQuest College.

    Can't see the video? Try downloading the video: WMV MP4

  6. PhotoVoice project guide

    This guide supports you to incorporate a PhotoVoice project into your teaching practice.

    PhotoVoice project guide (2.5M pdf)

  7. Assessment of Informational Materials (AIM) tool

    The AIM tool is a user-friendly tool to guide the development of information resources for students. Our research confirmed that using the criteria in the AIM tool supported student’s ease of reading and comprehension of information.

    Assessment of Informational Materials Guide (50K pdf)
    Assessment of Informational Materials Tools (86K pdf)

  8. Text Readability tester

    This online tool helps you to determine if you are using language that may not be easily understood by most learners. The tester uses the Dale Chall list of commonly understood words to identify accessible language.

  9. Inclusive Student Engagement Final Report

    This report provides detailed information about the Inclusive Student Engagement Project including project goals, activities, stakeholder engagement and outcomes.

    Inclusive Student Engagement Final Report (1.2M pdf)