Having the freedom to challenge: decolonising the curriculum through academic skills


  • Rhian Wyn-Williams Liverpool John Moores University, Library Services




Responding to calls to decolonise the curriculum is a natural extension of the inclusive aims and emancipatory practice that underpin academic skills teaching. Since 2019, some members of LJMU’s Academic Achievement Team have therefore been developing iterations of a decolonised academic skills curriculum and, more recently, provided a range of asynchronous resources based on this. A core aim has been to go beyond the representation of diverse students and scholars to avoid the tokenism that can perpetuate a deficit approach to marginalised groups. This has included the use of teaching resources that explicitly deal with structural racism and the inequalities of class, gender, and sexuality, encouraging students to bring their own lived experiences into the classroom. We believe this fosters a sense of belonging and validation whilst simultaneously challenging assumptions and preconceptions. In this, we have undoubtedly benefited from being free from the confines of subject content and disciplinary canons as we can introduce students to concepts and voices they may otherwise not encounter. This can involve, for example, evaluating articles on the removal of slave owner statues in critical writing classes, or using material on the effects of racism and classism on a community’s access to biodiverse environments when teaching note-making. Despite positive informal student feedback, to more fully evaluate this approach, we engaged two interns on a Curriculum Enhancement Project to capture the student voice. The interns’ objective was to evaluate the extent to which our teaching practices were inclusive and decolonised, and to conduct focus groups to assess how far students welcome the explicit inclusion of topics and debates that aim to foster inclusivity. Therefore, this session will not only expand on the curriculum’s design, exemplified with sample resources, but will report on the student interns’ findings.