Blog post

The importance of an inclusive curriculum

In recent times, the concept of curriculum and what type of curriculum is best for learners has come under much scrutiny.

By Dr Sarah Charles - 7 July 2020

Regardless of the age of the learner, whether they are primary age or adult learners in Higher Education (HE), equality of opportunity should be promoted through an inclusive and diverse curriculum. These two concepts, combined, can serve to empower learners.When considering the development of an inclusive and diverse curriculum, the aim here is not to project issues and associated strategies as being relevant to particular groups of learners but to develop assessments, learning materials and learning opportunities that will benefit all learners. An inclusive and diverse curriculum is an integral factor in the creation of a truly inclusive environment and one which benefits all.

Taking responsibility

Research indicates, for example, that when learners are exposed to diversity, in real-life situations, through texts and experiences, they are likely to exhibit less prejudice.

Reducing stereotypes and fostering greater understanding of marginalised groups is central to ensuring our learners are prepared to be effective members of a global society. This notion is at the heart of our Initial Teacher Education provision and embedded in the learning experiences we co-create with our students, here at the University of Derby. An inclusive curriculum is not one person’s responsibility, it is everyone’s
The Equality Act (2010) is there to protect learners and their rights but those working in the field of education should not be driven by legal obligation alone.

Educationalists should consider what is morally and ethically right. It is not comfortable to think that the way we are behaving discriminates individuals or groups but we need to have honest and frank reflections about whether the curriculum we have designed, and the way in which it is being taught and experienced, is making it more challenging for some learners to fulfil their true potential or to feel included.

We also need to give consideration to those learners who may be unfamiliar with studying in a Higher Education environment. Perhaps, they are first in their family or community to attend University. In these instances, we need to be mindful that the norms and expectations of HE study may, unwittingly, not be as inclusive as we believe them to be. It is our duty as curriculum designers to consider how we can best support such learners and remove barriers to success.

Decolonising the curriculum

We cannot discuss the notion of an inclusive curriculum without consideration of ‘decolonising’ the curriculum. The importance and scope of this discussion far outweighs the space available here. Arguably, we all have some connection to the colonial legacy of the UK. For far too many, this connection is underpinned by exploitation and disadvantage.

It is fair to say that our international students, some of whom may come from ex-colonial countries, will have a different relationship to colonialism than ours. Those responsible for curriculum design must undertake a wider and deeper engagement, from a decolonising perspective, if we are to develop truly inclusive curricula fit for 21st century Great Britain.

Evaluation, reflection & development

When designing an inclusive and diverse curriculum it is important to consider a number of key factors including whether or not the subject discipline privileges some forms of knowledge over others; whether our behaviours support the construction of a diverse and inclusive community of learners; whether our assessment strategies privilege certain students over others; whether our content represents a global world and whether or not our programmes and their associated curricula prepare our students for employability in a diverse, global world economy.

To conclude, we must not forget that an inclusive and diverse curriculum has the power to shape not just individuals but the future of society – wherever that may be in the world.

About the author

Sarah Charles at an open day.

Dr Sarah Charles
Head of the Institute of Education

As Head of Discipline for Primary ITE Dr Sarah Charles has responsibility for overseeing the leadership/management of the Core PGCE, School Direct Primary, BEd/MEdu and iPGCE programmes. She also teaches on a range of modules across these programmes and supervises a number of Doctoral students.

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