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Decolonising and diversifying the curriculum - reflective questions


This set of reflective questions are designed to support University of York staff to explore, discuss and reflect on ways in which they can approach decolonising and diversifying the curriculum as part of programme and module design.

The principles and understandings underpinning the toolkit are set out in the University’s Statement of approach - decolonising and diversifying the curriculum.

In summary, decolonising and diversifying the curriculum:

  • aims to reflect in the curriculum wider global and historical perspectives;
  • aims to develop a diverse, inclusive curriculum;
  • acknowledges and challenges the power dynamics in knowledge production;
  • develops critical self-reflection;
  • is centred on co-construction with both staff and students;
  • promotes a holistic approach that takes place at all levels of the University;
  • creates and maintains inclusive and safe spaces, helping to foster honest feedback and reflexive practice.
  • is an ongoing process, enabling the work to have a lasting impact.

Reflective questions

To what extent is the programme and module design informed by the diverse identities of the students, and the diversity of their educational, social and cultural backgrounds and experiences?

  • When designing a programme/module, how do you take into account and anticipate the diverse backgrounds and lived experiences of your students?
  • To what extent does the curriculum presume a particular background and set of prior experience/learning of your students?
  • To what extent does the curriculum reflect the diverse entry points and prior experience of current and prospective students? 
  • Is the curriculum content relevant for all students? Is the content contextualised so that students can make links with prior learning and experience?
  • How does the programme and module design process make provision for co-construction with students, working with students as partners? How do you ensure a wide range of students are included in these processes? 
  • When creating an assessment, are you taking into account the diversity of your student cohort, their prior learning experiences and preferences?

To what extent is the curriculum content informed by diverse global perspectives?

  • In what ways does the curriculum allow for discussion and understanding of the historical context and origins of the disciplinary field of study?
  • Are there any perspectives, theories or intellectual traditions that are presented as universal or dominant by the curriculum? Are there any perspectives, theories or intellectual traditions that are omitted or presented as alternative, partial or even deviant by the curriculum? Are there ways in which the material could be re-organised to address this?
  • To what extent are critical perspectives presented as integral to the module/programme or as ‘add ons’?
  • In what ways are critical analysis and discussion regarding the positions and identities of the authors/sources included in the curriculum promoted among students?
  • Are there significant efforts to incorporate bibliography and scholars from marginalised positions and minority identities? To what extent does the programme/module reading lists include authors/sources from different backgrounds (eg regarding ethnicity, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, nationality)?
  • In what way is consideration given to including a more diverse/global range of topics, examples or case studies in the curriculum? When using case studies, problem-based learning scenarios and examples, do these reflect a diverse range of experiences and perspectives? Has consideration been given to whether examples might perpetuate stereotypes or stigmatise certain groups?
  • What routes are there for students and staff to suggest other authors and case studies, reflecting their different perspectives and experiences?

To what extent does teaching and learning develop inclusive learning communities?

  • How can you and other staff regularly connect with your students to find out about their diverse backgrounds, learning needs and preferences, and encourage the creation of an inclusive learning environment?
  • How do your different methods for delivering teaching support students to engage and participate in different ways?
  • How are students encouraged to draw on and relate content to their own experience? Are there opportunities for students to explore content or topics that they have identified as significant or of interest?
  • To what extent is group work used to promote inclusion, for instance, mixing students from different social and cultural backgrounds to support cultural exchange?  
  • Have you considered how the content of the curriculum might potentially affect students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse lived experience? Are there aspects of the programme/module where it would be useful to consider the use of content/trigger warnings?

In what ways are students engaged as partners in all stages of their learning experience?

  • What opportunities are there for students to bring their different perspectives and experiences for co-construction of curriculum content, including programme and module objectives, reading lists and case studies? How do you ensure a wide range of students are included?