Skip to main content

Decolonising the Curriculum via Student Co-Creation


Written by Stephanie Wake (School of Psychology)

Decolonising the curriculum is an important and increasingly prevalent aspect in our role as educators. It is our duty to ensure we present a diverse and global account of academic content, teaching methods, and assessment. This blog post introduces an approach to how we might authentically and genuinely diversify our teaching delivery and methods of assessments by working alongside students on a project that designed an essay question and accompanying workshop.

Here in the School of Psychology, the Decolonisation Working Group holds regular Advisory Board meetings (similar to a focus group format) with our undergraduate students from ethnically diverse backgrounds. During these meetings, two key issues relevant to the work being presented came to light. Firstly, students raised concerns around the inclusion of sensitive content, for example about race. Though the intention from module leaders might be to diversify the content, if not done carefully, this can “shine a spotlight” on our students, rather than making them feel more included.

Secondly, students did not feel they had the opportunity to reflect on issues surrounding racial bias in the current assessment format. Moreso, they describe feeling increasingly uncomfortable to bring these issues into their writing unprompted due to fear of not achieving the highest marks.

Therefore, we decided to run a series of Advisory Board sessions that’s purpose was to co-create a decolonised workshop session (interactive, group teaching) and assessment in the form of an essay question. We carefully worked alongside students to produce an assessment and teaching session that tackled historical and contemporary accounts of systematic bias for the “Intelligence” topic in the Level 1 Biological Psychology module. The key considerations were i) does the content feel safe to engage with, both as an ethnically diverse and non-diverse student, ii) does the wording of the question clearly map onto the content delivered, the learning objectives, and is appropriate for Level 1 students understanding, and iii) ensuring the workshop session presents material in a way that opens the door for students to be critical around the historical accounts of racial and systematic bias in psychology.

Students from all backgrounds gave unprompted, positive feedback after the delivery of the co-created workshop. One student, whose background was ethnically diverse, explained how speaking about historical accounts of racial bias led her to feel “more seen” and represented by the university. Our students from non-diverse backgrounds also reported extremely positive feedback after the session, explaining how refreshing it is to learn about psychology from this perspective. They felt it gave them a wider and “more transparent understanding”. This prompts genuine and organic critical thinking skills.

When speaking with students to obtain general feedback after the essay question was set, it became apparent students felt enthusiastic to write about issues they personally felt affected by. This inspires increased engagement amongst a cohort of students who previously may have felt both unaligned and uninspired by the content and assessments set.

When attempting to diversify our content, teaching methods, and assessments- there may be more to consider that us as staff are not aware of. Therefore, co-creation with students via group sessions that foster open dialogue around important but sensitive issues can be a useful tool to help authentically and genuinely decolonise our curriculum.

This project was delivered by Stephanie Wake, Tom Muskett and Richard Harris, if you would like to know more about this work then please contact Stephanie (