Learning & Teaching


In the TransEdu Scotland research, many students faced barriers and challenges with respect to teaching and learning. While students reported differing experiences – depending upon the specific institutional, departmental, disciplinary, and classroom cultures – many encountered difficulties with peers, teaching staff, curriculum content, and placements with respect to trans identities and gender diversity. Trans students faced particular challenges in group work with peers, the awareness and behaviour of teaching staff, and the perceived ‘laddishness’ of particular courses and disciplines. Particularly in Higher Education, many students and staff felt that academic staff are often beyond reproach and that they would not be made accountable by the institution for inappropriate or harmful behaviours.

25% of survey respondents said that they had experienced barriers to their studies in relation to teaching and learning, with 24% pointing to group work as problematic.


Some of the challenges around classrooms concerned safety and the attitudes of fellow students and members of staff. Whilst they may not have been the subject of prejudice personally, many students had heard their colleagues expressing transphobic views or using bigoted language about others. This made them feel they could not share their identity with fellow students and contributed to feelings of unease: Do I want to work for the next year with these people, knowing that that’s what they think?.. And then suddenly, I don’t actually feel safe with them anymore (Isla). For some interviewees, their concerns around safety were more focused on being ‘outed’. As Cerys expressed, because so much of being trans for a lot people is hidden, you live it in the shadows. Isla felt she could not come out at college, well I think the kinda social atmosphere in the class. You know what banter can be like… I wouldn’t feel safe as such. One survey respondent noted, peers have quite dreadful views on trans and I feel kind of scared to come out because of that. There was a low-level fear or anticipation of hostility, as a constant feature of life, something which must inevitably impact on wellbeing and academic progress. Another survey respondent wrote of the stress of being outed even when I was in a good environment was pretty heavy. Joshua referred to being, constantly on guard for transphobia and homophobia.



  • Consider the hidden curriculum, the norms, values and behaviours around your programme: the things students learn alongside the intended learning outcomes. Is the hidden curriculum teaching trans awareness and inclusion? Is it promoting respectful behaviour and language? Does it call out inappropriate behaviour, harassment or bullying? We would argue that as tutors/teachers/lecturers, we are as responsible for the hidden curriculum as for the visible one.
  • Challenge inappropriate language or behaviour within classrooms. It can be tempting to ignore comments but our research suggests that students feel doubly victimised when transphobia is ignored by teaching staff.
  • Reflect on the content of your curriculum – look for opportunities to introduce gender diversity. This will not only make trans and gender diverse people feel included and welcome but will raise awareness amongst a generation of students and future employees/employers/leaders


Group work


Group work was a particular cause for concern. In order to express the difficulties faced, below is a selection of quotes from survey respondents and interview participants:

"A number of my peers are uncomfortable around me because I am transgender. This has prevented me forming relationships with a lot of people in my year, which has made it harder for me to be an effective team member now that we’ve started major group projects."

"I do very little interaction with other students on my course and struggle with group work."

"Group work with people who said mean things about gender identity." 

"In one class, we’ve been assigned small groups by the lecturer without any consultation, which is stressful for me because I don’t know how open minded the other members are, and if they are hostile about it, it’ll impact on my marks

Robin described their classroom experiences during their computing degree: "Most women in the class accepted me, they welcomed me. It’s obviously a mostly male class and the guys can be a bit iffy. They sort of don’t know what to make of me."



  • Allow space before class for one-to-one discussion with trans and gender diverse students about how they would like to approach group work – facilitated discussion, introduction by staff, icebreakers where everyone gives preferred pronouns. Ideally, this can all be negotiated by the named contact in the first instance, so that the student does not have to instigate separate conversations for each of their modules.
  • Spend some time with students agreeing the ground rules for group work in terms of acceptable behaviours, language and respect.
  • Establish and publicise clear processes for reporting concerns about behaviour



Developing Inclusive Curricula

Accessibly written and presented, these resources are ideal for sharing with colleagues and integrating into your own teaching practice.

Kingston University London: Developing Inclusive Curriculum

The Kingston University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit has created an Inclusive Curriculum Framework which informs the University's educational offer by embedding equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion into the curriculum.

Click here to view the Kingston University Inclusive Curriculum Framework resources.

University of Birmingham: LGBTQ-Inclusivity in the Higher Education Curriculum

The University of Birmingham has published a Best Practice Guide to LGBTQ-Inclusivity in the Higher Education Curriculum which provides advice on guidance across the disciplines. The have also developed the Ward-Gale model, an evidence-based reflective tool for use by individual teaching staff, teams or an entire institution: 

Click here to view and download the University of Birmingham's Best Practice Guide.

Further resources for lecturers & teaching staff

These resources provide further insight into the experiences of trans, non-binary and gender diverse students in learning and teaching environments. 

'Ask Me': What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know 

Video resource featuring LGBTQ college students in the US, discussing their identities and experiences in Higher Education.

By Julia Schmalz. Running time: 11 minutes, 50 seconds.

[Image: Screenshot of 'Ask Me' video resource and article]