What does an inclusive STEM curriculum look like in an online learning context?

Butler, Diane; Potter, Andrew and Wood, Peter R H (2023). What does an inclusive STEM curriculum look like in an online learning context? In: ISSOTL23: Context Matters, 8-11 Nov 2023, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Creating and maintaining an inclusive curriculum is a key priority for any institution, but what are the key considerations within a distance teaching and learning context, and within the disciplinary context of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)? Many institutions have used ‘toolkits’, ‘healthchecks’ and ‘frameworks’ to audit curriculum for inclusivity, influenced by sector-wide approaches such as: diversifying the curriculum, decolonising the curriculum, queering curriculum, anti-racist curriculum and mental wellbeing in the curriculum.

At the STEM Faculty at the UK’s Open University, we present the findings of a SoTL project which applied an Inclusive Curriculum Tool to a range of our STEM modules. We recruited a diverse team of Associate Lecturers from across STEM to use the tool to scrutinise our distance learning material to identify changes to improve inclusivity. Through qualitative analysis of reflective diaries of and interviews with reviewers, we identify themes relating to context-specific issues in distance teaching and learning, and discipline-specific challenges in STEM teaching and learning.

In particular, we present critical perspectives on the efficacy of inclusivity auditing tools, questioning the extent to which they bring about a truly inclusive curriculum. We also discuss current debates on how far approaches to inclusivity (such as decolonisation) apply to STEM disciplines, and suggest that subject-experts need to go further in challenging positivistic claims of objectivity in STEM. Finally, we present an unintended consequence of using the tool: the transformative effect that conducting reviews had on the teaching and learning practices of the individual practitioner. Not only did engaging with Inclusive Curriculum reviews open the eyes of reviewers to issues they had not considered before, leading to an impact on their teaching and learning practice, but also gave them ‘permission’ to question and challenge power hierarchies within the institution itself.

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