February 1, 2017 in Teaching & Learning

  1. In what ways are students shaping institutional policies and practices around inclusivity?
  2. What progress has been made in terms of inclusivity and ‘liberating the curriculum’ since the NUS report was published in 2011?
  3. How might a diversity audit enhance inclusivity on the course(s) you are involved with?

Page 12-14 of NUS (2011) Liberation, Equality, and Diversity in the Curriculum. Available at:

The Higher Education Association (HEA) has recently undertaken a programme of work on Developing and Embedding Inclusive Policy and Practice in Higher Education; its work found that “students were found to be key agents of change and their experiences and input helped to convince staff of the need for change”.18

The Higher Education Academy has developed a self-evaluation framework to allow institutions, programmes, or individuals to evaluate the extent to which they have ‘embedded’ liberation, equality, and diversity into their structures and cultures. This consists of a series of statements, which the user can rate on a scale of how much has been achieved on the different elements of the programme. The user also identifies what evidence there is to support this rating. Several strands of the framework relate to creating an inclusive curriculum, and the statements provide an idea about the types of actions that institutions could take to move towards an inclusive curriculum. The box to the right gives some examples (see further resources for more).19


Strand 3: Curriculum Design

• Learning outcomes and/or competence standards do not adversely impact upon or discriminate against particular students or groups

• Curriculum content is sensitive and varied, informed by different social and cultural perspectives and builds on students’ educational interests, experiences, and aspirations

• Programmes provide a range of learning and teaching approaches that take account of the diversity of students and build effective working relationships.

• Curriculum is designed to provide a range of assessment and feedback approaches. The institution provides sufficient organizational flexibility in all programmes to accommodate student diversity and individual pathways.

• Programmes are routinely assessed to ensure that equality groups are not adversely affected.

• Staff have access to information, advice, and guidance in order to design an inclusive curriculum.

Strand 4: Curriculum Delivery

• Learning is student-centred and interactive, engaging all students through a range of methods.

• The materials, resources, and examples provided positively embrace the diversity of students’ backgrounds, interests, experiences, and aspirations.

• Learning materials are available in sufficient time and in different formats.

• Staff offer flexibility in curriculum delivery to enable all students to participate.

• Staff review incorporates inclusive curriculum delivery.

Page 10-11 of Finnigan, T and Richards, A. (2016) Retention and attainment in the disciplines: Art and Design. HEA. Available at: gl/OIsaFg

5.1. Staff development

The following case studies set out to offer some evidence as to activities within strategic staff development within Art and Design education institutions. This takes the form of planned organisational processes and activities to pursue a direction, ethos, and/or practice that will contribute to an evolved future. This needs to provide opportunities to reflect on inclusive practices as pointed out below:

The implementation of inclusive learning in art and design higher education is a work in progress. It needs to have a strategic focus across all aspects of the institution and a targeted approach at curriculum and pedagogic level. (Richards and Finnigan 2015, p. 12)

The case studies take into account the role and power of the academic and the potential impact on retention and attainment through pedagogy and assessment, curriculum design and advantage/disadvantage of cultural competency and currency through the presence of diversity.

The work that is undertaken by students is not usually done for the good of the group of learners or other community, but in order to satisfy the requirements of the teacher and the institution. (Mann 2001, p. 13).

With this said, review, training and development of staff is imperative.

5.1.1 Case study 1: curriculum audit (Ravensbourne)

…statistics which might seem to suggest that representation of BME students in HE is not a matter for concern in fact mask huge problems … This means that BME students are less likely to find role models among faculty staff than in north American universities. They are also less likely to find diversity tackled as part of their intellectual experience of university. (Bhagat and O’Neill 2011a, p. 31)

Attainment focus

Strategic inclusive teaching and learning practice through a culturally democratic framework


James Ward, Dr Deborah Gabriel, Aisha Richards,


Staff and student ambassador workshops. Inclusive practice evaluation (handbooks, briefs, and resources)


The objectives of all activities were to support the staff teams in the further education (FE) programmes in the ever-changing context in Art and Design education, the expectations of the ever-growing diverse student population, and the broader situations in society as students of globalised environments (including the physical and virtual world). The activities agreed were workshops (termly for staff and a 11 day session for students), and an audit/review of all handbooks, briefs and resources lists. These were delivered by Black British Academics founder and CEO Dr Deborah Gabriel and Shades of Noir founder Aisha Richards.

The evaluation that was undertaken reviewed handbooks, briefs and resources that are a pedagogy in and of themselves. These materials move beyond the walls of the institution while still embodying elements of the ethos, rituals and expectations of a given institution. The evaluation considered inclusivity through language, examples, resources used and content, seeking examples of good practice that could be shared and inform further development within the context of a culturally democratic framework.

Key areas covered in the activities included: unconscious bias and stereotyping; pedagogies of social justice; inclusive practice; universal design.

Moving forward, the curriculum audit has resulted in:

1. Reviewing and starting to update all course/curriculum material to reflect findings. 2. Reviewing FE quality procedures to identify and monitor greater inclusive practices within course materials. 3. Discussing cross institution how the FE findings can be considered within the broader college (such as higher education programmes). A paper for internal boards will be written. 4. Revising student ambassador training to reflect their workshops.

Lessons learnt. This work has shown the importance of:

diversity in the representation of staff taking part including the grades and or roles within academic practices; making sure that training needs are relevant to that particular institution and then supported by the UK context; auditing of written content is best developed with staff training to offer support and context to change.

5.1.2 Case study 2: The inclusive learning and teaching in higher education unit, Teaching and Learning Exchange (UAL)

Most college and university instructors continue to teach in culturally neutral ways. Faculty socialisation is conceivably the most salient explanatory factor. More often than not faculty members have not been trained to seek out and infuse diverse readings and pedagogical methods into their courses. (Quaye and Harper 2007, p.36)

Attainment focus

Inclusive learning and teaching. Strategic staff training


Siobhan Clay, Terry Finnigan, Aisha Richards,


Staff training on inclusive practices – ‘Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education’


Hosted at University of the Arts London (UAL) within the MA Academic Practice Provision and the Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert), a unit entitled ‘Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education’ (ILTHE) has been created. It was initially developed by Terry Finnigan and Aisha Richards with contributions from Ellen Sims.

This programme aims to encourage participants (who are academic members of staff already in role within an institution) to reflect on themselves and their practice. This allows discourses on the ‘individual’ to emerge and creates opportunities to unpack the predominantly white female cohort (a variety of age groups) positions. The reflection time supports and contextualises the rest of the course and the learning of inclusiveness within their own practice. They are required to discuss a range of diversity and equality issues through a blog, write an essay illustrating their understanding of these topics (with reference to literature), and then undertake a curriculum innovation linked to their professional teaching context. All activities build upon the students’ knowledge base, and the confidence to develop practices that support pedagogies of social justice.

The key outcomes of this course is to transform teaching practices and demystify any assumptions, level the playing field for disadvantaged students, and create cultural currency and value that benefits all students and teachers.

The impact of the course so far includes:

the pilot of blind marking; transformational teaching both for our students and the students they teach; the support of critical thinking including critical race theory; the creation of pedagogical interventions; the support of innovation through collaborative working practices; the benefits of peer-to-peer feedback.

Moving forward

The most notable development since the 2015 case study is that this course is now stand-alone as well as part of the MA Academic Practice and PG Cert teaching qualifications. The strategic decision to allow the course to be a stand-alone unit aims to allow inclusive access and greater opportunities for staff within Art and Design HE and FE to contribute without committing to the full teaching qualifications.

Lessons learnt. This work has shown the importance of:

making the small changes linked to inclusive learning within teachers own practice, giving them choice, is motivational, transformational and leads to creative interventions; 13 building on the interventions and sharing them more widely across the institution leads to lasting institutional change; exploring ways for all staff to access this module in its existing format or in a more condensed form needs to have institutional backing and support.

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