• Author(s): Dr Holly Smith, Dr Colleen McKenna, Dr Jenny Marie, Dr Rosalind Duhs, Dr Phyllis Creme, Dr Jane Hughes
  • Title: Designing the Curriculum
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: UKOER, UKPSF, OMAC, CPD4HE, curriculum, curriculum design, curriculum development, literacies, key skills, values, learning technologies
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Presentation
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, DOC, PPT
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 31 October 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA


Activity - How Inclusive is Your Course?

I hope that we are all confident that our academic practice does not include stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on such grounds as ethnicity, gender, disability, age or sexuality. However, ensuring that we have a truly inclusive curriculum goes beyond avoiding discrimination. There is a simplistic notion that equality involves treating all learners equally, but people are not all the same; we are diverse and that diversity can be respectfully acknowledged, and incorporated into the curriculum to enrich it for all learners. This activity is designed to help you think about how you can positively promote diversity in every aspect of the curriculum.

Take a curriculum, programme or course that you know well as an example to work though in this activity. Using my definition of the curriculum as including syllabus, processes and participants consider how each of these can be inclusive.

1. The Syllabus

The syllabus, in the choice of topics, resources, examples or case studies, requires you to make choices about what is valued and what is excluded, and questions of representation come to the fore. There are profound disciplinary differences, in applied subjects, like engineering, business or nursing that make extensive use of examples or case studies it is easy to audit how culturally and internationally diverse these are. In pure subjects, like mathematics, it is generally considered that issues about inclusivity are less relevant to abstract material. However, pure abstract subjects do often use metaphor or analogy to aid conceptual understanding, and the diversity of these can be considered. How does your syllabus make use of diversity?

2. The Processes

The processes, the methods and activities can either be disempowering and didactic, or empowering to participants by valuing the experience that they bring to the course and enabling them to share it with their peers. Problem Based Learning, group work, project work, case study, enquiry methods, peer tutoring, self-assessment, peer-assessment all disrupt a didactic model of education. All require new skills of learners, developing their intercultural communication, maturity and ability to take responsibility for their own learning, planning and judgement. In your curriculum what opportunity do your students have to engage in such processes and share their ideas with co-learners and tutors?

3. The Participants

The participants in any programme may be more or less representative of the population of the UK in terms of ethnicity, gender, disability, age or sexuality. Most universities collect EO monitoring data on applications, admissions, retention and achievement so that this can be examined. However, university students in the UK today are drawn from an international constituency, which makes equality targets for representation from different communities based on UK census data of limited value. No HE programme in the UK is likely to be representative of a global population due to the profound inequalities in access to education globally, but you are very likely to have a classroom with participants from many nations. If your discipline is vocational it may be particularly important that your students' diversity represents that in the population. For example, a judiciary, or medical profession in which certain ethnic groups are very under-represented is more likely to systematically misunderstand the cultural practices of that ethnic group, leading to discrimination. How, representative are your students of the population they will be working with? What can you do to reach out to under-represented groups encourage their participation in your curriculum?

Having addressed how inclusive your curriculum is already see if you can make plans for one change in each area of the curriculum to make it more inclusive.


Creative Commons Licence
Designing the Curriculum by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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