Students and staff co-produce the curriculum through new educational justice project
By: Molly Whyte
Last updated: Thursday, 18 July 2019
Sussex students recently led and participated in a project designed to ensure that the curriculum is critical, inclusive and evolving.
Spearheaded by Ella Asheri, USSU’s Undergraduate Education Officer for 2018-19, the Co-producing the Curriculum pilot saw a diverse group of students, module convenors and associate tutors work together to revise modules from the Schools of Global Studies and English. The pilot was supported and facilitated by Dr Althea-Maria Rivas, Lecturer in Development Studies, Helen Dixon, guest lecturer and practitioner in feminist participatory methodology, and Dyuti Ailawadi, Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Anthropology.
A series of workshops involved activities relating to:
- curriculum and assessment
- pedagogy and relationships
- institutional obstacles and hiring practices
- moving forward.
Participants used an anti-racist and feminist framework to analyse and revise teaching content and approaches.
The project encourages undergraduate and postgraduate students to become active participants in their education, by offering an opportunity to discuss their experiences and what happens in the classroom from different viewpoints.
After the completion of the pilot Ella commented: “It's hard to put into words how rewarding it feels to start a project from scratch that I feel so passionately about. The positive response to the pilot was overwhelming, which has given me hope of an education that actively dismantles inequalities.”
Chris Harding, Undergraduate Education Officer for 2019-20, continued: “The Co-producing the Curriculum project is so important because it allows students and teachers to work together to create courses which work for all. The project helps forge a closer academic community in which students are put at the centre and issues such as the BAME attainment gap and equality and diversity are tackled.”
Pilot feedback showed a high level of commitment from the students and staff involved and highlighted important lessons learned which will be incorporated into future workshops.
Khadija Hossain, a first-year English student and member of Decolonise Sussex, said: “I feel so lucky to have been part of this project. The faculty have been so open to our suggestions, and I feel confident that they care about our experiences with our courses as well as being committed to start making the changes that will create an inclusive curriculum. Students need to feel like they have a say in what they learn and how they learn and this project has enabled such a conversation.”
Third-year Anthropology and International Development student Yuvinka Ribera Hurtado spoke in support of the initiative: "Personally, the project has been a great opportunity to get to know some of my professors and educational practitioners. I see this project as a great step forward to decolonise the curriculum by forging stronger relationships between University staff members and students, and I invite others to actively become part of its continuation.”
Staff also gave positive feedback, with Dr Pamela Thurschwell, Reader in the Department of English, commenting: "The workshop let us bring to the foreground questions about the politics of selection that always go into constructing any curriculum, although they often do so in an unspoken way. Which works are included? Which get left out? Which texts have an easy route to becoming “classics” and which texts might be lost unless we work hard to make sure they are not? The module I worked on looks and feels different because of the process. It was great to be in a room with a group of people so committed to thinking about the best possibilities for what teaching can be."
Dr Lyndsay McLean, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and International Development, added: “This was a fantastic collaborative process resulting in a more inclusive and challenging module, which incorporates a wider diversity of knowledges, new exciting pedagogies and a strong focus on reflective practice.”
The team behind the project – the first of its type at Sussex – hope to reach more students and staff in the upcoming academic year, and that the success of the pilot will encourage institutional and departmental support.