An inclusive curriculum recognises that students in Higher Education come from a range of different backgrounds and differ by age, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and faith. They also bring with them a diverse set of learning styles, educational experience and cultural capital, as well as differing levels of confidence and self-esteem. An inclusive curriculum understands that this diversity is a key strength which provides learning opportunities for all our students and staff. It places the student at the heart of the learning process, recognising that inclusivity does not mean treating everyone the same.
An inclusive curriculum enhances the Higher Education experience for all students, improves student retention, progression and attainment, addresses attainment gaps, improves graduate outcomes and employability and reduces the need for additional or retrospective reasonable adjustments.
Developing an Inclusive Curriculum Framework
An inclusive curriculum is an important tool in addressing differential attainment as it embeds consideration of inclusivity in all aspects of the student journey. It does this by extending the consideration of inclusivity beyond what is done in the classroom to encompass important activities throughout the academic and institutional cycles. Without a strategic approach such as the Inclusive Curriculum Framework, interventions may be not yield the necessary changes needed to address the long standing BME attainment gap.
Approaching an Inclusive Curriculum
Drawing on inclusion policy, theory and evidence there are three core principles of the ICF:
- Principle 1: Create an accessible curriculum
- Principle 2: Ensure that students see themselves reflected in the curriculum
- Principle 3: Equip students with the skills to positively contribute to and work in a global and diverse environment
These three principles are depicted in the video on the left and can be applied to every level of the curriculum from teaching session, module, programme, to the whole university, and for every strand from the concept, to the content design and delivery, assessment, feedback, and review.
At Kingston, the ICF is mainstreamed into the academic framework, embedded in continuous professional development activities and supported by student involvement. It is a key mechanism used to improve course performance and satisfaction in the classroom and beyond.
De Montfort University
In October 2016 DMU launched the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) project. UDL champions were appointed to support faculties and a template was created to focus attention on three dimensions: Flexible study resources; Flexible ways to learn; Flexible ways to show learning. Staff began to engage in a conversation about inclusion although the primary focus was on disability and there was no institutional focus on race.
At the start of this project, given that staff were already viewing their modules through the lens of UDL, it was decided to mesh the Inclusive Curriculum Framework (ICF) with UDL reframing the second year of delivery as UDL Mark 2. The main focus was on the taught curriculum (lCF levels: teaching, module and programme). The role of the Fair Outcomes Champion, introduced for each of the four faculties, was to generate enthusiasm for the project overall, support courses in reviewing their (Value Added) data and to collate good practice on inclusive curriculum. Value Added (VA) and module data was used to identify those courses and modules which were having the greatest impact on differential attainment and these were required to use the Module Evaluation Plans (MEPs) and Programme Evaluation Plans (PEPs) to create SMART actions and to monitor progress against targets.
The ICF delivered through the UDL Mark 2 has made an important contribution. It is a conversation starter enabling staff to see how to make a difference to their practice at all levels
University College London
UCL had established a Liberating the Curriculum project, initiated by the student union and led by a working group. This had resulted in a radical rethink of some courses but it was not fully coherent or institution-wide. Their starting point in expanding inclusive curriculum activity was to seek to capture and share examples of good practice across the university. They drew on the ICF, De Montfort’s Universal Design for Learning and a meta-analysis of papers on inclusive curricula to develop the IC Health Check which features the three ICF principles.
All 82 undergraduate programmes were required to complete the IC Health checklist, identifying good practice and preparing action plans for improvements. A ‘how to’ good practice guide has been compiled and the IC Health check has been incorporated into quality assurance processes.
This project has enabled us to systematically collect evidence on the extent to which courses are delivering an inclusive curriculum
University of Hertfordshire
The University of Hertfordshire had developed a Curriculum Design Toolkit in 2012 to help staff take a considered look at their curriculum in terms of their learning, teaching, assessment as well as the environments that they create. The toolkit has eight strands each with a set of principles of good practice. One of these strands is on good practice in inclusive teaching. Like the other strands, Inclusive Teaching contains a self-evaluation tool and small bite-size case studies. Staff are encouraged to question their own practice in relation to the protected characteristics and in light of performance data. Inclusive Teaching was embedded in the Introduction to Learning and Teaching and the PG Certificate in Higher Education and a light touch feature of periodic review and validation.
The Learning and Teaching team delivered the Value Added metric and the inclusive practice as a package in workshops and discussions. As they already had the toolkit the ICF was presented alongside this and staff were encouraged to use whatever worked for them. Both models were presented as mechanisms for evaluation and enhancement. The ICF checklist was also adopted and over the summer of 2019 staff were asked to use the ICF checklist to improve the guided learning journey on Canvas (the VLE) ready for the new academic year.
The ICF checklist is specific and helpful, provides a practical approach and directs staff to take appropriate action
University of Wolverhampton
The University of Wolverhampton had already developed an inclusive curriculum framework called the Universal Educational Design (UED). The aim was to support all students through 3 dimensions: Understanding the curriculum; Engagement (drawing upon the Universal Design for Learning model); Demonstration of knowledge.
The ICF fitted alongside the UED model and can be used together in workshops. The ICF’s two principles, ‘creating an accessible curriculum’ and ‘enabling students to see themselves in the curriculum’, were particularly helpful in demonstrating what was meant by ensuring students ‘understand’ the curriculum. The ICF was also valuable in helping academic staff to think about the different levels: the teaching and the module level but critically also the course level. One of the key issues was the lack of co-ordination between the modules that comprise a course.
The ICF helped to reinforce the message that students experience a course not just a module so the visual was really helpful in subtly reframing each level.
University of Greenwich
At thestart of the project Greenwich did not have an institutional approach to inclusive curriculum though individuals took steps to improve their own practice. Greenwich has used the VA, additional module data and student feedback to target courses where staff need to review the curriculum. Because they were at the start of the journey they felt the ICF and accompanying documents needed to be made more accessible for distribution to the academic community. They therefore synthesised the documentation and drew upon the work of Bank & Bank and the material provided by the University of the Arts to create 10 dimensions of inclusive practice (IP). These were then presented, alongside the data, face to face with staff. They took the time to ensure staff understood that the kind of changes that they could make did not necessary mean going through academic quality processes. Changes could be small, such has how they engaged with students in their classroom or how they composed groups and people really appreciated that understanding
The ICF helped us to conceptualise a model that works for us and which reflects the stage we are in our journey. Without a doubt, the project has enabled us to challenge curriculum practice in an informed and strategic way – it has provided the ammunition we needed.