Helping Learners See Themselves In The Curriculum

3.3 Helping learners see themselves in the curriculum

Welcome back. I’d like to begin this lesson by introducing you to some of my heroes, these people are giants in the world of teaching and learning. First, there’s Plato, who viewed education as a way of achieving individual and social justice. Then there’s John Dewey, who argued that experience was integral to learning. We have Jerome Bruner, who developed the theory of discovery learning and the value of designing learning experiences that enable learners to learn through exploration and discovery. There’s Paolo Friere, who highlighted the problem of power in teaching and learning, Carl Rogers who put forward the theory of facilitation, Etienne Wenger and his Communities of Practice theory… goodness, there are so many!

But… have you spotted a problem here? All these educational theorists are male. And they’re all white males. Where are the theories developed by people of colour, and by women? Where are the non-white, non-western theorists? When I was doing my teacher training, I didn’t notice this lack of diversity. It was only several years later that I noticed the whiteness in the accepted body of knowledge in education.

The White Curriculum

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, one big problem with a lack of diversity in the curriculum is that it creates a large barrier to engagement. To help you appreciate this, I’d like you to watch the first few minutes of a video called Why Is My Curriculum White? This powerful video was developed by students at University College London to highlight the problem of whiteness in education. 


I hope the White Curriculum video has helped to make the point that we must strive to present multiple perspectives on a topic. The realisation that much of our own education might not have presented a balanced view can be powerful. If you’d like to talk about it, please share your thoughts in the Module 3 slack channel, or if you’d prefer to talk privately please post a private message with us in your hotline channel.

What can we do about it?

The challenge for learning designers is this: we must do everything we can to help learners see themselves in the content and curriculum they’re learning. As learning designers, we have a lot of power to make one view of a topic more visible than others. We do this in the words we use, the images we choose, the case studies we create, and the references we provide. We must make sure we use this power wisely, and make deliberate choices in each area to include what we call ‘diverse perspectives on a topic’. 

For example, when we’re creating slide decks we must include images of people from a range of cultural backgrounds. This enables learners from different backgrounds to literally ‘see themselves’ in the content because there are images of people from different cultures. When we create case studies, we should seek out examples from a range of countries, not just western countries. And when we provide references, we must actively search for female authors, and non-white, non-western authors to ensure we’re providing a balanced view of expertise about the topic and not unconsciously discriminating against particular groups of learners.

In the next lesson, we’re going to look more closely at the practical strategies for developing inclusive content I mentioned in the previous video. This will give you the tools you need for your second activity, which will involve creating an inclusive slide deck. So head on over to the next lesson, and let’s start building your toolkit.