March 3, 2021, by mszrm4
Inclusive Practice in Curriculum Design
At the close of LGBT+ History Month 2021, Dr Stevie Agius reflects upon diversity and inclusion in medical education curriculae.
“Inclusivity is not about being all things to all people all of the time but about continually reflecting on teaching practice and asking, how can I do better?”
Scholars in the first year of the MMedSci Medical Education and its constituent programmes at The University of Nottingham are now working on the Curriculum Design and Education Environment module, one of the core foundational pillars of the whole course. A good working knowledge of effective curriculum design is paramount for all educators, not least in the medical and healthcare professions with their expansive syllabi, multi-modality teaching and learning strategies and high-stakes assessment which must comply with the requirements of national regulatory bodies.
The beginning of the module coincides with the culmination of the University’s annual celebration of LGBT+ History Month and the launch of its Diversity Festival, a timely reminder of the importance of inclusive practice in curriculum design. Inclusion in an educational context may be defined as the facilitation of learning through pedagogy which allows for the differences between all learners. It is based on an assumption that when we educate, we are aiming to assist learners to achieve to the best of their abilities, without the curriculum acting as an impediment to learning.
The Curriculum Design module at Nottingham devotes a full third of its content to EDI, a testament to the importance we attach to inclusive practice. As educators, we must be mindful of engaging more effectively with the learning needs of all students by adopting inclusive pedagogies. Our practices should be centred around valuing the contribution of students regardless of their backgrounds and identities, avoiding stereotyping and appreciating the contributions of different value systems. Curricula that do not take sufficient account of student diversity can lead to unintentional exclusion.
A typical student body will include individuals with a wide variety of characteristics relating to their educational background, their personality, their current and previous circumstances, and their cultural experience and references. When curriculum subject matter does not reflect this diversity in the content, examples, case studies, and supporting literature, some individuals can be disadvantaged. Curriculum content, therefore, should be designed in such a way as to maximise inclusion and mitigate any disadvantage that arises from difference. Student engagement is known to improve when content has personal relevance. For this reason, the content of a module or individual teaching session should reflect as wide a range of perspectives as possible, including material and examples that encompass the breadth of human diversity (e.g. social background, motivation, disability, age, language, religion, beliefs, and sexuality).
Inclusivity is not about being all things to all people all of the time but about continually reflecting on teaching practice and asking, how can I do better? Teaching inclusively can be seen as just good teaching. It is about considering the needs of your audience; communicating knowledge clearly; giving students/trainees a voice to discuss ideas; and treating all students and colleagues with respect. It is important not to make assumptions about students based on simple categorisations. It is crucial to remember that students/trainees’ identities are complex and intersectional – for example, a BAME student is unlikely to feel defined by their race alone and this is likely to intersect with other factors such as age, gender and socio-economic background.
To read more about inclusive practice in Higher Education, a good place to start is the Advance HE sector-wide report: Inclusive curriculum design in higher education | Advance HE (advance-he.ac.uk)
Dr Steven Agius is Assistant Professor in Medical Education at University of Nottingham and Module convener for the MMedSci in Medication Education modules:
- Principles and Practice of Curriculum Design and the Educational Environment
- Introduction to Research Methods in Medical Education
- Medical Education Research and Dissertation.
To read Stevie’s blog to celebrate LGBT+ History Month and 50 years of medicine in UoN: https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/medschoollife/2021/02/05/50-at-50-lgbt-history-month/
If you are interested in joining us to complete your PGCert, PGDip, MMedSci in Medical Education, click here for more information: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/pgstudy/course/taught/medical-education-mmedsci
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