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Inclusive curriculum design

There is substantial evidence of negative retention and success patterns that correlate with many characteristics of students at the University of Reading, and both nationally and internationally. Although the factor that correlates most strongly with retention and degree outcome is previous educational attainment, when this is controlled for there remain strong patterns that correlate with gender, disability, socio-economic background, ethnicity, nationality and type of entry qualification. A weight of quantitative evidence and qualitative research concludes that teaching and learning pedagogy and curriculum design in higher education advantages students from backgrounds that have a long tradition of attending university, and that other groups of students are disadvantaged. Some key issues that arise for these students include:

  • understanding the academic values and expectations of higher education;
  • being equipped with the appropriate academic skills;
  • having access to the same level of assets as other students, e.g. money to buy books or to undertake unpaid placements, time to study and engage in extra-curricular activity, personal support networks to provide informal words of encouragement or guidance when things are tough, or access to work experience opportunities;
  • developing a strong sense of belonging - feeling isolated, different or that they have no 'right' to be at university;
  • shared social or cultural capital, i.e. not being able to recognise or decode the implicit codes of behaviour.

An inclusive approach to curriculum design and pedagogy takes all of these factors into account and is proactive in:

  • recognising the challenges that different students experience;
  • fostering a sense of belonging amongst all students;
  • clearly articulating academic values and expectations;
  • explicitly equipping students with academic skills they will need for successful study.

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