Deakin University

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Embedding inclusive curriculum: working from the ground up

conference contribution
posted on 2017-06-30, 00:00 authored by Mary Dracup, Nadine Zacharias
Australian higher education students are increasingly diverse, and providers are legally and morally obliged to provide all of their students an equitable opportunity for academic success. While existing research has called for comprehensive, integrated, institution-wide approaches which are coordinated through curriculum to anticipate and respond to this diversity (Devlin et al., 2012), there are few documented cases of institutional approaches that are policy-driven and fully integrated (Hitch, Macfarlane & Nihill, 2015).

This presentation showcases an alternative approach to addressing increasing student diversity in a university that did not take a top-down, policy-driven approach. We report on the last three years of an initiative led ‘from the ground up’ by the university’s Equity and Diversity Unit (EDU) and funded by the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), to transform curriculum and develop a university-wide culture of inclusive teaching and learning practice.

Entitled the ‘Inclusive Curriculum Capacity Building’ (ICCB) program, this initiative has been framed as an ongoing participatory action research project, with a view to ensuring that achievements over the three years are highlighted, continuously improved and sustained into the future. EDU brought together academic and professional staff to work closely on a wide range of initiatives identified by the partners themselves, which aimed to embed into curricula at course level a) inclusive teaching practice, b) digital literacy, and c) academic skills and literacies. Program leaders had to operate from the periphery (Burke, 2012) to enact practical and structural changes to course design and delivery and work within the short-term funding model.

Two case studies will demonstrate the process and outcomes of the ICCB approach. Evaluation of the projects has utilised quantitative and qualitative methods to identify impacts of the initiated changes on student outcomes (in particular outcomes for those students identified as ‘low socio-economic status’), and on staff capacity to develop and deliver inclusive curriculum. Data analysis has revealed some significant improvements to student retention and success in target groups.

Burke, P.J. (2012). The right to higher education. New York: Routledge.
Devlin, M., Kift, S., Nelson, K., Smith, L. & McKay, J. (2012). Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, Office for Learning and Teaching, DISRTE. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from LSES Final Report 2012.pdf
Hitch, D., Macfarlane, S. & Nihill, C. (2015). Inclusive pedagogy in Australian universities: A review of current policies and professional development activities. International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 6(1), 135-145.



Curriculum Transformation, HERDSA Annual Conference


Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Inc



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Curriculum Transformation, HERDSA Annual Conference

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