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The first step towards making your teaching and assessment more inclusive is at the planning stage, within an inclusive curriculum. This article provides some key advice for meeting the needs of all students. 

The word ‘curriculum’ is used here to refer to what is taught in one subject, i.e. the design of a programme.  

Best Practice Tips

When planning a curriculum, take into account the following:  

  • Curriculum design is best done with all stakeholders’ interests taken into account. Of course the students are key stakeholders in an academic programme.  
  • Curriculum design can be undertaken by a group of colleagues working together. Approaching the design of a new programme or module (or the redesign of a current one) in this way can ensure there is minimal overlap between modules on a degree programme, but also that a sufficiently wide range of perspectives are considered.  
  • If a single lecturer designs the curriculum for a module, it is helpful for them to get feedback on early drafts from colleagues, not necessarily only within the same department, but also across the University, since similar subjects may be taught in different departments. Consider for example bringing in colleagues from Careers or DCAD to bring alternative ideas to the table. 
  • Whether an individual lecturer or a group of lecturers design a module, it is helpful to invite students to provide feedback on what is covered, how the module will be taught, and expectations for formative and summative assessment. Students may need support with topics or modes of teaching, learning and assessment which seem ‘obvious’ to the lecturer, but not to all students.  

While teaching, take note of the following:  

  • Difficulties students have with any particular aspect of the curriculum: be aware that different students may find different parts of a module or programme difficult and also that there may be ‘troublesome concepts’ which are problematic for all students (Meyer & Land, 2003). 
  • Assumptions of prior knowledge: every learning activity you design will make some assumptions about students’ foreknowledge. Try to avoid making assumptions based on your own social and cultural norms, which may lead to students who don’t share these norms feeling excluded. 
  • Parts of the curriculum which can be covered outside class time: identify content and concepts that could be introduced asynchronously, e.g. via quick videos, online resources, or readings.  
  • Parts of the curriculum it would be helpful to zoom in on through projects, conferences, or even assessment exercises: doing this might help some students who have difficulty with these areas to work on them in different, more collaborative or experimental ways.  
  • Gaps you perceive to be in the curriculum: make note of these while a module is running with a view to making improvements for the next year’s teaching.  
  • Comments made by students either on an ongoing basis or in MEQs: these can be extremely helpful for ensuring you make your curriculum in subsequent years as inclusive as possible.

Further Resources

Developing Inclusive Learning Communities

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change. Advance HE.

Further Reading

Meyer J, Land R. Overcoming barriers to student understanding threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge; 2006.

Land R, Meyer J, Baillie C. Threshold concepts and transformational learning. Land R, Meyer J, Baillie C, editors. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers; 2010.