Developing anti-racist pedagogies as a global collective

Jill Childs (Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy), Principal Lecturer Social Work, Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social work, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

Jill Childs explains how a Global South collectivist lens is supporting work on anti-racism after winning a number of national awards including, the silver Social Worker of the Year Award for University of the year, the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence by Advance HE and the University Alliance Innovation Award. Last year she received an HE Innovate award which recognises new and innovative ways developed by academics to teach and support students.

Initially our intention was to address the outcome and awarding gap between white students and minority ethnic students, which developed into a commitment to produce a curriculum that no longer privileges white Anglo-centric approaches to learning and practice, but draws equally on models from the Global South.

The idea being that indigenous wisdom is of value as it helps us to think about how we might transform our pedagogical approach, to one that truly values epistemic diversity and collective thought as a vehicle for change (Mbembe 2017). The aim of the work is to create not just an equitable experience but an anti-racist university experience for all our students. As such we have adopted a holistic strategy, with a focus on degree awarding gaps, theoretical models, curriculum, staffing, and research.

As a predominantly white team teaching a more diverse student body, we developed our authenticity through reverse mentoring, an approach that enables senior people to learn and understand perspectives from underrepresented groups (Rasa and Onyesoh 2020). Through this process it has helped us to  accept our privilege, journeying from defensiveness to acceptance. Addressing critique really helped us to see students as core partners. Learning has at times been painful and bruising and we have had to be open to becoming “white accomplices”.Learning it was far too easy to overestimate our understanding of issues of race and racism and to underestimate the associated complexities of our teaching and learning environment. Our discomfort and disruption when we got it wrong helped us transform the direction of the work with students.

Working in partnership with colleagues at Hope Africa University, Burundi on a buddying programme for students, we discovered the paradigms Ubuntu and Ikibiri. Ubuntu (“I am because we are”) and Ikibiri (“solidarity”) speak to collectivistic values based on the concept of coming together to succeed.  Listening to student feedback about the resonance of the MANDELA model (Tedam 2011), a method of structuring support, coupled with the need for belonging for students inspired us to draw on ideas by the political theorist Achille Mbembe around “creating a place to inhabit”. We used Mbembe’s work as a basis for developing strategies to achieve equity for our students.

We reviewed our assessment framework to decolonise assessment and ensure that it is truly anti-racist. For example, we altered marking rubrics to put more emphasis on students drawing on diverse material to support their work, and developed a range of assessments including developing opportunities for international work within one future module. We encouraged and supported work that used indigenous frameworks in practice and we awarded marks for work that sourced literature from the Global South or from indigenous viewpoints and developed transition support to ensure that we identified specific learning needs of students on entering the programme, to attempt to counter the impact of institutional racist disadvantage in the UK education system. We facilitated student empowerment by developing the creation of a student advisory group: The Global Majority Collective. This group has a fully meaningful role that extends significantly beyond current sector-wide initiatives to involve students in creating anti-racist pedagogies.

Through a unique commitment to uncomfortable learning, we have imagined and implemented an anti-racist approach in higher education as being a creative, rich space for growth and an exciting opportunity, so much more than a straight upright trajectory to success. Ideas drawn from Ubuntu, Ikibiri, and creating a “place to inhabit” have helped us to ensure all voices are heard and valued, and this in turn has helped the achievement of our aims related to the problem of attainment and experience. One student outlines the positive impact of this work on the student experience‘I want to thank the whole team […] for allowing me to have the platform to advocate on behalf of the students and standing with me on highlighting the disparities around anti-racist practice…. I feel humbled and blessed to be a student with such wonderful tutors and also be part of the team’.

You can find out more about it here

Jill takes an intersectional approach to tackle structural inequality. Her work on anti racism  has won a number of national awards including, the silver Social Worker of the Year Award for University of the year, the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence by Advance HE and the University Alliance Innovation Award,  an HE Innovate award and the Oxford Brookes award for inclusivity . You can find out more about her past work here She is a registered mental health Social Worker of 25 years previously working in both voluntary and statutory sector agencies and through this collaborating with third sector partners Shelter and Revolving Doors to influence government policy through attendance at the All Parliamentary Committee on Dual Diagnosis. She currently leads the Athena Swan award in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University (SAT chair) holding a silver award. This work focuses on initiatives related to supporting professional service staff careers, caring and the menopause.

Twitter @jchilds_jill


Bunce, L., King, N., Saran, S., & Talib, N. (2021). Experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) students in higher education: Applying self-determination theory to understand the BME attainment gap. Studies in Higher Education, 46(3), 534–547.

Bovill, C. (2019). Student–staff partnerships in learning and teaching: An overview of current practice and discourse. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 43(4), 385–398.

 Childs, J. & Clarke, L. (2022). Viewpoint: Decolonising the social work curriculum – a university’s journey. Professional Social Work.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

Hoffman, M., Richmond, J., Morrow, J., & Salomone, K. (2002). Investigating “sense of belonging” in first-year college students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 4(3), 227–256.

Mbembe, A. J. (2016). Decolonizing the university: New directions. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 15(1), 29–45.

Muchiri, S., Murekasenge, J., & Nzisabira, S. C. (2019). Ikibiri in Burundian society: An indigenous model of solidarity and collaboration. In J. M. Twikirize & H. Spitzer (Eds.), Social work practice in Africa: Indigenous and innovative approaches (pp. 213–228). Fountain Publishers.

Rasa, A & Onyesoh, K (2020) Reverse Mentoing for Senior NHS Leaders. Future Healthcare Journal. Feb; 7(1): 94–96. Swanson, D. M. (2007) Ubuntu: An African contribution to (re) search for/with a ‘humble togetherness’. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 2(2), 53–67.

Tedam, P. (2011). The MANDELA model of practice learning: An old present in new wrapping? The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 11(2), 19–33.

UUK & NUS. (2019, May). Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment in UK universities: #closingthegap.

Micro, meso and macro educational development?

Prof Jackie Potter, University of Chester

In sociology, economics and other subjects, researchers and practitioners talk about micro, meso and macro levels or approaches to describe and investigate the complexities of systems. I first came across the distinction of micro, meso and macro when I worked with a multidisciplinary team to research the scholarship of teaching and learning; we used the concept of micro, meso and macro levels to develop an audit and capacity-building tool to develop the scholarship of teaching and learning (Fanghanel et al, 2016). We used the framework to distinguish between actions taking place at the level of the individual tutors and departments (micro); at the institutional level (meso); and at national and international levels (macro). With some of the same co-authors I was subsequently involved in defining types of activity undertaken by individuals to develop their own scholarly teaching profile (Pritchard, Wisker and Potter, 2018). From winning teaching grants to engaging in peer review, we used the framework of micro, meso and macro levels to differentiate between individual activity and working with department colleagues, developing and sharing practice at the institutional level and finally developing and sharing practice nationally and internationally.

Most recently I have come across the use of the framework to describe the curriculum (Robertson, 2021, Freecours, n.d.).  The two examples use the framing a little differently to each other. Micro-curriculum is described variously as subject knowledge or classroom interactions and activities. Meso-curriculum is subject topics or organising structures and institutional context. Macro-curriculum is the balance of subjects comprising the timetable or activities outside the classroom including the sociocultural and educational systems and polices.

Notwithstanding the differences in the definitions for use of the terms, micro, meso and macro, by different authors, the nested hierarchy is a handy organising tool. Could it be useful to differentiate areas of educational development work? And if we can differentiate areas of our work using this framework, can it help us to reflect on and develop our practice and influence?

If we apply micro, meso and macro to educational development we can usefully differentiate:

  • Micro level educational development – supporting individuals to develop teaching expertise and working with department teams to develop effective ways of working, for example, supporting the development of assessment practices and curriculum design. From professional recognition schemes aligned to the PSF and SEDA PDF, to facilitated teamwork, for example curriculum design workshops like ABC, and approaches to improve assessment such as TESTA. It may also include working with multiple teams simultaneously when running sprints and sand pit events. This work improves student learning by influencing the academic practice of teaching staff and is the mainstay of educational development. 
  • Meso level educational development – working to improve institutional systems, structures, procedures, rules, and guidance that determine ‘the way we do things’ within our home institution. This can include educational developers involved in working groups and task forces, for example to support Access and Participation Plan priorities or to develop new policies or processes. This is work that leads to or contributes to the development of thought or action to make sustained, widespread educational change. 
  • Macro level educational development – becoming involved in developing and sharing practice at a national or international level.  This could include ‘going public’ and sharing our micro and meso level activity through publications that have national and international reach, and by submitting case studies of our work. It can also include citizenship work, for example acting as a reviewer for national schemes such as NTFS and CATE awards, or membership of steering groups to oversee change. Being involved in actively contributing to our professional bodies such as SEDA and HEDG, cross-institutional and inter-state collaborations with others where difference in context is noted and celebrated are all ways we can contribute at the macro-level.

How does framing educational development work in this way help us reflect on and develop our practice and influence? 

First, staff in teaching and learning centres can reflect on those areas where we lead thought and action at the micro level, and those areas where we collaborate within our institution to effect change at the meso level. We can challenge ourselves to consider the balance of our activity and influence across the two levels. How is work in these two areas of activity related, or how could it be so? What more or different work could we do in these two spheres of activity to really improve student and staff experiences of studying and working in our universities?

Second, educational developers and their senior managers can usefully discuss and determine the extent to which educational developers should and can lead meso level activity. Within a university, educational developers often hear first-hand from the individuals they work with which aspects of the wider university systems cause difficulty for students and staff. They are uniquely positioned to report this forward to senior leaders if there are open and trust-based relationships between them. They could also lead meso level workstreams, although both the educational developers and the senior leaders will need to believe that it is their business to do so. For some, this sphere of activity is considered beyond the core educational developer role as supporting academic practice at the micro level. Tensions can arise when senior leaders and educational developers hold different ideas about the extent to which educational developers should or can lead meso level activity. Negotiating involvement in this work and leading it requires skilful political and interpersonal competencies as well as senior leader sponsorship.

Third, and finally, educational developers, the people and the institutions they support, can benefit when educational developers engage in macro level activity. The publication of works, service and citizenship to professional bodies and sector bodies all support the endeavour of raising capabilities for academic practice. Contribution to the ‘what works’ literature and developing the research and evidence base for our professional activity feeds into the practice of authors and readers alike. Service and citizenship, and indeed paid roles such as external reviewers or examiners, allow educational developers to engage in continuing professional development through activity-based learning. It offers the privilege of seeing first-hand, or early in development, ways of working that would usually be hidden from view as we see across organizational boundaries. This on turn allows us to critically reflect on and appraise practice in our own organisation.

If this blog was useful or has raised any questions about the framing of educational development work, please do drop me a line or leave a comment here.

Jackie Potter is Dean of Academic Innovation at the University of Chester and Professor of Higher Education Learning and Development. She is the Vice-Chair of the Heads of Educational Development and a member of the Staff and Educational Development Association. She can be contacted at


Fanghanel, J., Pritchard, J., Potter, J. and Wisker, G. (2016). Defining and developing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL): a sector-wide study. SOTL audit and capacity-building tool. York, Higher Education Academy. 

Freecours (n.d) Curriculum development: macro-, meso- and micro curriculum.  Available at Downloaded 20.12.2022

Pritchard, J., Wisker, G. and Potter, J (2018).  Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning as part of continuing professional development. In Potter, J and Turner, R. Doing a good job well – being recognized as an experienced professional teacher in HE. SEDA Special 41. London, SEDA. 

Robertson (2021) A 5 minute guide to: curriculum planning. Macro, meso & micro. Available at Downloaded 20.12.2022

Post-pandemic world: Time for Active Listening?

Mariah Loukou, City, University of London

In the post-pandemic world, I often hear phrases like ‘Oh! That’s not what I meant…’, ‘I misunderstood, I thought you said…’, ‘I thought you knew you had to do it…’. Learning and innovating are at the forefront of the educational sector. You meet brilliant minds eager to learn and change the world, ready to bring hidden aspects of our society into the light. But, somehow, this has been shadowed by impatience, unkind communication and pointing fingers. Is it perhaps time to think and reflect deeper on the issue?

Brené Brown, in the Atlas of the Heart, writes about communicating with one another: ‘Do we have all the information we need to form an opinion and respond?’. Would not we be better off listening to what the other person is saying rather than already forming an opinion before hearing what they said?

She continues to talk about a different emotion that seems to dominate the world right now: ‘Anger can be the catalyst for change because it usually is the emotional response for witnessing injustice and expressing pain. But, it is not the change itself.’ Change can come from genuine effort and hunger for improvement.

Back to my original argument, education is not just getting a degree. Education means advancing ourselves, our societies, and our minds. There is, or should be, the space to do that in the educational sector. Can we create a space where we practice kindness, calmness, and gratitude? Allowing the next generation to have a solid academic background and a strong moral and ethical compass that allows them to showcase their brilliance. So, we do not simply point to injustices; instead, we fix them through kindness and patience and make our institutions and the people who serve them happier and more effective.

In my everyday working practice, I put kindness first. Especially in written communication. Emails can be easily mistaken for being sarcastic, passive-aggressive or emotionless. So, I consider each request from the point of you of the person that sends it. I take time to read and understand why a request may appear with urgency, disappointment, or excitement, and I reply from a place that will support and assist the other. The most satisfying feeling is reading a ‘thank you’ or ‘halleluiah, we’ve done it’ email.

Similarly, I apply gratitude in my verbal communication; I often say, ‘I appreciate your time’ because I really do. Everyone is busy, and when they take the time to sit down with me, I want them to know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. I feel that is important to express gratitude because I do not take working in a sector that allows creative intelligence for granted. And when the day gets hard and darker emotions start to take over, I take a deep breath, and another deep breath, and I remember that what upsets me is a drop in the ocean; it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And at that moment, I remember to be patient with myself and others. Because working life has its ups and downs, like everything in life, and that is okay; as long as it does not consume us.

My hope for the post-pandemic world is that we can lean towards patience and kindness, as the pandemic taught us that we could not take tomorrow for granted; because things change rapidly and unexpectedly.

Let’s start fresh; let’s start now.

Deputy Head of Doctoral College (Quality Operations) & PhD candidate in Military & Strategic Studies
City, University of London

Mariah has over a decade of experience in higher education, specialising in policy, governance and quality matters. She is currently the Deputy Head of the Doctoral College, overseeing the quality of research degrees, which includes developing programme specifications, systems and processes to support the early career researcher journey. She is also completing her PhD in Military & Strategic Studies and has published peer-reviewed articles in academic journals in the US and Canada.

Inclusive delivery: Using ‘WH’ questions to structure and orientate teaching sessions

Dr Adrian J. Wallbank, Lecturer in Educational Development, Oxford Centre for Academic Enhancement and Development, Oxford Brookes University

Inclusion has been high on the agenda for many years, but one of the most essential aspects of inclusion – the pedagogy – is often neglected in favour of more eye-catching (but no less essential) deliverables such as diversifying and decolonising the curriculum. Indeed, this aspect of inclusion has often become a site where wider culture wars are played out. Recently in the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency incorporated ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ into its subject benchmark statements – a drive which the Higher Education Minister, Robert Halfon, has branded ‘decolonising nonsense’ (THE, 2022) and which the Daily Mail newspaper suggested was a demand for universities to ‘go woke’ as a result of ‘the left-wing ideology of student activists’. This initiative is nothing of the sort, of course, but one thing that is often either overlooked or misconstrued here is the fact decolonising and diversifying a curriculum doesn’t of itself make a module inclusive. Inclusion is not just about decolonisation, diversity and celebrating individual backgrounds and experiences, it’s also about inclusive pedagogical delivery. Accommodations are often readily made for students with physical disabilities and immense progress has been made to render buildings, classrooms and timetables (to name but a few examples) accessible. But what about so-called ‘hidden’ disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD or autism? You might not be able to see them, but they are still a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act (2010), and these students are legally entitled to ‘reasonable adjustments’. Without clear, accessible, adequate scaffolding and orientation / signposting within teaching sessions, for example, many neurodiverse students can easily become ‘lost’ or cognitively overloaded – thus presenting a barrier to learning. I’d argue, however, like others have done before me (e.g. Layer 2017), that ‘reasonable adjustments’ need not necessarily be complicated or indeed implemented if we adopt an inclusive pedagogy. The ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ frameworks / networks of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I would suggest, provide an ideal platform / toolkit for rendering content pedagogically inclusive, especially in respect of structuring and orientating our sessions.

Neurodiverse students often find that orientation and a ‘roadmap’ to their learning activities help structure their ideas and enable them to get a better, more holistic handle on what is going on. They often need to see how what they are doing / learning fits in with the ‘big picture’ (Wallbank, 2018, Cooper, 2019 and Eide and Eide, 2011) and once they can see the map, the requirement to present material in linear form becomes more easily managed and navigable (Cooper, 2019, p.90). By frequently referencing learning activities in the sessions back to an overarching, preferably visual ‘roadmap’, students are less inclined to lose focus and are likely to find their learning more productive. It also saves on staff having to repeat content due to students losing focus. Models of coaching advocate the use of open questions (the ‘what’, how’ and ‘why’ principles of Universal Design for Learning) to facilitate engagement, self-reflection and learning, and the basic framework of such questions can provide a convenient and flexible framework through which ALL learning can be scaffolded, structured and delivered. For example, the content of a lecture about the Cold War could be scaffolded and orientated as follows:

Core framing question: Example content: 
What? By starting with the ‘big picture’ you can provide a clear overview and sense of orientation. All subsequent information, and delivery is then scaffolded around this core, overarching issue / topic and structure. The open question also starts to orientate the applicability of the topic / issues to the students.   What was the Cold War? What happened? What was its significance? 
Why? Gives a specific orientation, both conceptually and practically. Learners with SpLDs often need to know why something happened, needs to happen or exists so that they can see how it fits into the ‘big picture’. There can also be links here to syllabus / assessment requirements, employability etc.   Why did the Cold War happen? Why did it end? Why was it significant? 
How? This gets more specific and explores the ‘meat’ of the topic. It also acts as a convenient tool for questioning student understanding and providing a revision framework.   How was the Cold War enacted? How did it change things? How did critics, theorists, artists, scientists etc. respond? How did the general public respond? 

For additional content and orientation, further WH questions’ can be integrated such as when? where? who? and why? Signposting the structure of the session in this way provides valuable orientation, context, ‘hooks’ and direction / reference points for students with working memory problems, it aids encoding and retrieval from the long-term memory, and the key transitions between questions provide reset points for their concentration (whilst also acts as a convenient ‘map’ of the session and notetaking).  Arguably, it’s not just good pedagogy, but good for all students, and makes the materials being presented more accessible and inclusive. Inclusive pedagogy isn’t just about putting lecture slides on a VLE in advance of the session or recording the session, it’s also about clear, logically structured, scaffolded delivery. Furthermore, no aspect of the content can be accused of being ‘dumbed down’ – it’s just as complex as it always was, it’s just delineated in a clearer manner. Importantly, it requires no special skills or training to deploy. Pedagogical inclusion might not be as hard as we might think – it might just be about good teaching.

Dr Adrian J. Wallbank is Lecturer in Educational Development at the Oxford Centre for Academic Enhancement and Development, Oxford Brookes University, where he leads the General Teaching Associates course, teaches across the EXPLORE staff development programme, leads on assessment for the core IDEAS Inclusive Curriculum Development model, and convenes the Brookes International HE Reading Group.  Adrian has research and teaching interests in academic writing, dyslexia and inclusion, neurodiversity, transition pedagogies, Universal Design for Learning, one-to-one pedagogies, and the philosophy of Higher Education. As a successful academic with dyslexia, Adrian is passionate about inclusion and works tirelessly to help enable both students and staff to achieve their full academic and professional potential. Adrian is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is currently working on two new books relating to academic writing, assessment and inclusion, and Foundation Year pedagogies.


CAST. (2018) Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, version 2.2. 

Cooper, R. (2019). ‘Specific Learning Difficulties’. In K. Krčmář (Ed.), The Inclusivity Gap (pp.80-95) Aberdeen: Inspired by Learning. 

Eide, B. L., and Eide, F. F. (2011) The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. London: Hay House. 

Harding, Eleanor, (2022), ‘Universities Ordered to go Woke: Courses from Computing to Classics are told to ‘Decolonise’ by Degrees Watchdog and Teach about Impact of Colonialism and ‘White Supremacy”, Daily Mail, 15th November, 2022. Available at: 

Layer, G. Department for Education, (2017), Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence. Available from: GOV.UK. 

Morgan, John, (2022) ‘New Minister Halfon Criticises QAA’s ‘Decolonisation Nonsense”, Times Higher Education, 16th November, 2022. Available from:  Wallbank, A. J. (2018). Academic Writing and Dyslexia: A Visual Guide to Writing at University. London: Routledge. 

Values, hot-desks and trust: Barriers and enablers in academic wellbeing 

Professor Kate Lister, Head of Academic Professional Development, Arden University

In 2018, Ribeiro et al said ‘psychological suffering is inherent in academic life’ (Ribeiro et al., 2018). But does it have to be? During my years in academia I’ve lived through budget cuts, leadership debacles, not-so-voluntary redundancies, harrowing curriculum reviews, toxic cultures, unmanageable workloads and some of the highest workplace stress I’ve never known. But academia can also be a place of joy; teaching can be incredibly rewarding, research can be utterly enlightening, academics are amazing people and I’d never want to work anywhere else. So why is it so hard?   

In my research on student mental wellbeing, I found that there are barriers and enablers inherent within university cultures, systems and practices for students, and that almost anything can be a barrier or an enabler to wellbeing, depending on how it’s designed and how the student experiences it (Lister, Seale and Douce, 2021). I classified these barriers and enablers into a taxonomy, below.  

The studies I’ve been doing at Arden University indicate that the barriers/enablers model of wellbeing might also hold true for academic staff as well as students. So, I put a call out on social media, to find out what the fabulous academic hivemind of Twitter thought.  
“Hey academic Twitter. 🙂 I’m doing some work on barriers and enablers of academic staff wellbeing and would love your help! I’m finding extrinsic factors (workload, institutional culture, perm/temp contract, colleagues…) and intrinsic ones (confidence, sense of belonging, feeling valued by the institution, feeling like the institution supports their growth and development, etc.) all contribute to academic wellbeing. I’d love to hear your thoughts! What am I missing?”
I got a fantastic response from academics around the world (thank you everyone!), and I found three key themes in the responses. 

Culture, values and being valued 
Institutional culture, a sense of being valued, and the feeling of institutional values being aligned with one’s own, were clearly enablers to wellbeing. Positive examples included when “you really believe that your institution values and demonstrates equity” (@KMBorto) and “Feeling like what you do makes a real difference to the lives of others” (@ResearcherDot). However, barriers to wellbeing were also identified in this area: @motheroftheses said “Feeling like the institution’s values and actions aren’t aligned has made me unwell in past positions”, and @DrSchniff highlighted the harm of “Well-being and/or resilience being used as a stick to beat people with (if you were more resilient you’d cope better) rather than addressing systemic issues”. One response highlighted the need for “a happy medium. Overt treatment as replaceable cog: truly demoralizing. Treated as *so* essential that you’re unable to take your holiday (or weekend) because everything will collapse: also corrosive” (@a_m_alcorn0131). 

Leadership, practices and environments 
Hot desking and open plan offices were definite barriers! @MichellePyer talked about “Open plan offices with no spaces for time out (in an ‘I just need a minute’ way!)” and @RachaelEllen_ said “I have to book my own desk via an app, a process which sends me 3 separate emails, including one the night before reminding me I have booked the desk…including on a Sunday night.” Other barriers included, unsurprisingly, “Salary Compression” (@MulfordTweets), “centralisation of, and cutbacks to, professional and support services” (@DrStellaCoyle), and “allowing [post-graduate research] students to fall into a gap between staff and student” (@WromanticHistry). Meanwhile, positive or enabling circumstances were “Having some flexibility to work from home/hybrid” (@dremilyrichard) and “Having control over one’s capacity, workload and time” (@Stefedu123) “opportunities for advancement” (@dapati), “academic development” (@jennywahwah), “management that really listens to people (@Carita_Eklund), and, the ultimate dream, “efficient meetings that actually achieve things” (@Maureen473). 

Confidence, self-awareness and trust 
Imposter syndrome was seen as a common barrier to wellbeing, with some seeing no end to this in sight; for example, @ChloeinHE said “The imposter syndrome I thought would go away once I was on a perm contract is still very much here! Maybe when I finish my PhD? (doubt it)”. Self-awareness was also a theme; @LindaGreening4 said “I think one of the main barriers is self-realisation for some – actually realising your wellbeing is suffering rather than finding a way to adapt and move on because the latter is a rewarded strategy and thus stretching the normal to unachievable for others”. Finally, a crucial enabler was seen to be trust: having trust in your institution and feeling that your institution has trust in you. As @Carita_Eklund said, “without trust there is nothing”.

In summary 
Institutions can clearly do much more to promote staff wellbeing than provide the odd mindfulness workshop (Leigh, 2019). My taxonomy of barriers and enablers for students identifies that all the themes that could be barriers could also be enablers, depending on how they were designed and experienced by students. The Twitter responses seem to suggest a similar duality. Being valued by the institution could be a barrier or an enabler; development (versus lack of) confidence and skills are important factors in wellbeing (Dinu et al., 2021), and the potential impact of leadership and environments on wellbeing, both positive and negative, is well recognised in the literature (e.g. McGuire and McLaren, 2009; Donaldson-Feilder, Munir and Lewis, 2013). Finally, a factor in wellbeing is the complex and multi-layered nature of ‘different kinds of trust’ (Tallant, 2022); academics may trust institutions’ academic rigour or quality but may not trust them to look after staff wellbeing needs, and they may not feel the institution has trust in them.

This article is a call to action for institutions to take time to embed a positive culture where staff feel valued, create positive environments where staff have flexibility and development opportunities, and ensure that they trust, and can be trusted by, their academic staff. And, of course, where the policy on hot desks is carefully considered.

Professor Kate Lister is Head of Academic Professional Development at Arden University, a researcher in accessibility and inclusion at the Open University, and an expert associate at Advance HE. Kate’s research focuses on disability, accessibility, equity, inclusion and mental wellbeing in higher education; it encompasses academic development and innovative practice in inclusive pedagogy, curricula and assessment, and leadership to facilitate inclusivity and positive change in higher education.


Dinu, L.M. et al. (2021) ‘A Case Study Investigating Mental Wellbeing of University Academics during the COVID-19 Pandemic’, Education Sciences, 11(11), p. 702. Available at:
Donaldson-Feilder, E., Munir, F. and Lewis, R. (2013) ‘Leadership and Employee Well-being’, in The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, pp. 155–173. Available at:
Leigh, J. (2019) ‘An Embodied Approach in a Cognitive Discipline’, in M. Breeze, Y. Taylor, and C. Costa (eds) Time and Space in the Neoliberal University. Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 221–248. Available at:
Lister, K., Seale, J. and Douce, C. (2021) ‘Mental health in distance learning: a taxonomy of barriers and enablers to student mental wellbeing’, Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 36(2). Available at: (Accessed: 8 March 2021).
McGuire, D. and McLaren, L. (2009) ‘The impact of physical environment on employee commitment in call centres: The mediating role of employee well‐being’, Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 15(1/2), pp. 35–48. Available at:
Ribeiro, Í.J.S. et al. (2018) ‘Stress and Quality of Life Among University Students: A Systematic Literature Review’, Health Professions Education, 4(2), pp. 70–77. Available at:  Tallant, J. (2022) ‘Trusting What Ought to Happen’, Erkenntnis [Preprint]. Available at: 

Perspectives on the use of ChatGPT for PGCert courses

Virna Rossi – Ravensbourne University London 

In collaboration with:
John Baird – Reykjavik University – Iceland 
Maha Bali – American University in Cairo – Egypt 
Mari Cruz García Vallejo – Digital Learning Consultant – Spain
Shalini Dukhan – University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg – South Africa
Olivia Yiqun Sun – Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University – China 

With thanks to the over 50 colleagues who have contributed to the Padlet and to the wider SEDA community.

Following a few days of intense discussion around uses and abuses of the ChatGPT software on the SEDA jiscmail list, on Monday 30th January about 50 colleagues in educational developer or similar roles, from all the continents, met online to share ideas about the use of ChatGPT in the specific context of staff development courses such as the PGCert (in the UK).  

Ideas were shared synchronously during the live session and asynchronously after the live session had ended via a Padlet – a digital, real-time collaborative platform in which users can upload and respond to posts on a virtual bulletin board. This event was part of a series called ‘Padlet Forum’ initiated by Virna Rossi and hosted on the Educational Developers Thinking Allowed (EDTA) website. 

The synchronous Padlet discussion was structured around 9 questions, focusing on the affordances and limitations of ChatGPT for teaching, learning and assessment in PGCert courses. The quality and quantity of responses shared on the Padlet is impressive with each question receiving about 15 responses during the live event. This resource remains live and, we hope, will continue to be added to. 

During the live event, Virna intentionally posted on the Padlet the answers that ChatGPT gave to each of the questions above, but only after about 10 replies had been received by colleagues during the live forum. She did this firstly to highlight ChatGPT´s text generation capabilities relative to human responses. We observed that ChatGPT responses were standard and generic, while human contributions to the Padlet were much more context-driven and included aspects that ChatGPT did not. Secondly, she wanted to provide an example of how ChatGPT can be used to support teaching and learning as this type of Padlet activity can be done in class and can lead to interesting discussions about ChatGPT potential and limitations. 

This blog post, in collaboration with colleagues from Iceland, Egypt, China, Spain and South Africa, summarises the ideas shared on the Padlet and points to further ways in which this conversation could continue.  

The general feedback shared by participants during the live event was that ChatGPT and other AI tools and platforms are not something that the HE academic and professional community should fear or restrict per se, but an opportunity to engage with our students in new educational paradigms that promote a more equal and creative relationship between the educator and the learner: AI can be the key to start considering our students as equal partners not only when it comes to content creation but assessment literacy as well by transforming the ways that we assess our students. As AI continues to evolve and proliferate, and it will probably be very difficult to restrict student access to this technology, it is necessary to consider how student learning opportunities could benefit by the integration of AI in teaching approach and practice so that academic integrity and the quality of student learning development is maintained.  It is also necessary to extend the conversation to potential inequalities that could emerge if applications such as ChatGPT became paid resources. 

1.What do you think are the affordances and limitations of ChatGPT (in relation to PGCert courses)? 

On the one hand, ChatGPT can act as a 24/7 assistant, providing immediate feedback to natural language queries. It can also help students get an overview of the main themes and troublesome concepts in their courses. On the other hand, ChatGPT lacks emotional intelligence and empathy, and has limited understanding of context and nuances in language. It also has the potential to generate biased or inaccurate information and has difficulty in evaluating subjective or complex information. 

It can be a useful learning and writing assistant for staff-students who are not familiar with reflective writing or have difficulty writing in English. However, it is important to keep in mind its limitations when it comes to critical analysis and source credibility. 

PGCert programmes should also include discussion of creative learning to draw out the human dimensions of assessment and invite participants to look at assessment from a human perspective, to counterbalance the limitations of ChatGPT and its lack of ‘voice’. 

2. What are your concerns about the use of ChatGPT within PGCert courses? 

 The use of ChatGPT within PGCert courses raises a number of concerns. Firstly, issues with attribution arise as the work produced by ChatGPT cannot be reliably detected by existing anti-plagiarism software as the model´s outputs are ‘original’, simply not human generated. Secondly, students’ digital literacy levels vary greatly and it may be difficult to accommodate everyone’s needs and comfort levels with the technology. There is also the potential for students to become overly reliant on the technology and/or to use it inappropriately, to the detriment of their own critical thinking and problem-solving skill development. Furthermore, ethical concerns around privacy and data security; the use of AI tools to grade and provide feedback on student work; and academic integrity policies specifically addressing the issue of AI-generated content need to be addressed. While the advent of Chat GPT has resulted in welcomed renewed scrutiny of current practices, the on-going twin issues of content and assessment overload, may in fact push students into ChatGPTs arms in search of ‘shortcuts’ and a means of cheating. 

Overall, what came to the fore is the difficulty in reconciling the exciting teaching, learning and assessment possibilities of ChatGPT with its technical and ethical limitations and shortcomings. 

3. How could ChatGPT enhance learning on PGCert courses? How can these tools allow us to achieve our PGCert intended outcomes differently and perhaps better? 

 ChatGPT can provide students with a more interactive and personalized learning experience, freeing up time for instructors to focus on other tasks. Additionally, it can spark discussions about the nature of academic integrity, and the role of AI in assessment design. ChatGPT can be used to support students in thinking creatively and critically in assessment, encouraging a move away from content-driven learning to activity-driven learning. It can also facilitate discussions about the relationships between learning and the wider world, such as citizenship and critical thinking. There is potential for ChatGPT to be used in co-authoring academic papers and for exploring the accuracy of subject-specific knowledge generated by the technology. However, it is important to consider the potential for AI to reproduce bias and reinforce stereotypes, which may limit innovation. The use of ChatGPT in PGCert programs could prompt reflection on the nature of teaching and assessment, and provide a catalyst for positive change in education. 

4. Inclusivity: What’s the added value of ChatGPT for staff-students with learning difficulties or disabilities? 

Note: ChatGPT is currently blocked in a number of countries e.g. Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, it is reported that ChatGPT is moving to a paid subscription/licensing model which may limit accessibility and/or functionality to any free version that remains available. 

ChatGPT has the potential to provide a number of benefits for staff and students who are working through English as a second or other language or who have learning difficulties or disabilities. Chat GPT is browser-based and so is an “always on” assistant that only requires an internet connection to access. Once accessed, the interface is simple and intuitive to use. ChatGPT can provide real-time, personalized learning support in a range of ways e.g. answering questions, summarising and/or paraphrasing course content, generating samples of work for comparative or review purposes etc. Used appropriately, the model has the potential to build confidence and stimulate thinking in all students. 

5. Critical AI: what ethical considerations matter in the use of ChatGPT within PGCert and beyond? How can we include critical AI literacy on PGCert courses? 

In the use of ChatGPT within PGCert and beyond, there are several ethical considerations that must be taken into account. These include bias and fairness in its training data, privacy and security of sensitive information, issues of attribution in generated content as well as ownership of same and responsibility and accountability for its actions and decisions. To address these ethical considerations, it is important to include critical AI literacy in PGCert courses. This can be achieved by encouraging students to discuss the ethical implications of AI, analysing AI systems and their design, data, and algorithms, and developing ethical decision-making skills to evaluate AI systems based on principles of fairness, privacy, and accountability. It is important to acknowledge that ChatGPT is multilingual but monocultural, which can impact its responses and raise questions about its limitations – ‘algorithmic justice’ can be used to address tech bias and promote fairness.  

Plagiarism is a significant issue. New knowledge invariably builds on the knowledge of others. Attribution and referencing are corner-stones of our existing knowledge-creation process and it is vital that our students understand and respect this. It is also important to note the reported exploitation of Global South labour in the process of training ChatGPT so as not to produce offensive and/or unlawful content. 

 Overall, the posts pointed to the need to consider the extent to which PGCert programmes are teaching critical digital pedagogy more broadly, beyond just ChatGPT. 

6. Assuming ChatGPT is here to stay, are new rubrics and assignment descriptions needed on PGCert? Should we create an AI writing code of conduct for PGCert participants? 

The integration of ChatGPT in particular into PGCert courses may require the development of new rubrics and assignment descriptions that reflect the capabilities and limitations of the technology. A code of conduct for AI writing could also be created to set clear guidelines for ethical, responsible and appropriate use. These could include principles such as fairness, transparency, and privacy, and would help students to understand their responsibilities when using AI tools. Of course, this should be in place for all courses, not simply for PGCerts. 

The curriculum should encourage students to use ChatGPT to enhance their own practice, rather than simply repeating or replicating the work of others. For instance PGCerts could emphasise the learning process rather than the outcome and students’ ability to effectively evaluate the technology, rather than just use it towards their submission. Students should be encouraged to critically evaluate AI generated text and use their knowledge and voice to improve it. Assessment rubrics could also incorporate aspects of interpretation and the role of the “reflective practitioner” where students reflect on their own practice. 

7. How can we plan for more human-centric assessment forms to counter the excessive/unethical use of ChatGPT on PGCert? How can we (re)focus the PGCert course/assessment on the learning process rather than the (summative) performance? 

 Planning for more human-centric assessment forms to counter excessive/unethical use of ChatGPT on PGCert requires a shift in focus from performance to the learning process. The following ideas were shared on the Padlet: 

  • Encourage collaboration and active learning pedagogies 
  • Emphasize formative assessments such as in-class discussions and presentations 
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning process and their use of technology including ChatGPT 
  • Incorporate discussions and activities promoting ethical and responsible use of technology 
  • Foster authenticity in assessment by incorporating real-world and personal experiences 
  • Promote anonymous assessments to build trust between students and staff 
  • Offer choice in media to demonstrate learning 
  • Focus on skills-based rather than knowledge-based assessments 
  • Consider implementing ‘Live+’ exams for offshore and online students or increased use of pen and paper exams. 

In short: we are challenged to design inclusive and authentic assessments that are ‘ChatGPT proof’. 

8. Students as partners: How can we invite/involve PGCert participants in the decision-making process regarding the use of ChatGPT on the PGCert course? 

Students can be involved in the design of the PGCert curriculum at various points and in various ways, and this should include shared decisions about the potential uses of ChatGPT. 

To gather feedback and perspectives, surveys and feedback from students can be collected and used to inform decisions. Discussions and debates facilitated by students themselves can also provide a platform for them to share their opinions. Student representatives can be appointed to serve on committees or task forces responsible for decisions about ChatGPT and other technology in the classroom. Students can be involved in co-creating a code of conduct and acceptable use policy, considering the ethical use of ChatGPT in different subject areas. This approach not only helps to create a more inclusive and collaborative educational environment but also values students as partners in their own learning journey. 

During the PGCert learning, the introduction of moral dilemmas and case studies about the use of AI resources and AI-generated content  in assessments can encourage students to think critically about its use. By encouraging students to create projects and initiatives that explore the use of ChatGPT and other AI technologies, they will have the opportunity to shape their own learning experiences and contribute to the overall direction of the PGCert program. 

 9. Any other relevant questions? 

Some further fascinating ideas and challenges that colleagues contributed to the Padlet and that could be further explored by the sector are: 

  • The broader historical context of technological innovation and the unease that often accompanies new technology in education. 
  • The possibility of fuelling a moral panic around the use of AI in education. The potential for over-emphasizing the use of ChatGPT, at the expense of more traditional learning processes and the development of critical thinking skills. 
  • The potential double standards in the use of AI in education, as compared to their use in other areas such as digital transactions. 
  • The need to consider the role of race, social class, and AI code and bias, especially in the context of countries with low social mobility. 
  • The uncertainty about when AI will get too good, and how this will impact education coupled with the concern that the cost of ChatGPT (once it is no longer free) may widen the digital divide and perpetuate inequality. 

We hope that the Padlet and this blog post can be valuable resources that colleagues can use to further the ChatGPT/AI conversation. 

A note about the way this blog post was written: Virna wanted to experiment with using ChatGPT to support academic writing. She used ChatGPT to collate the responses to each of the 9 questions, but then the six of us collaboratively reviewed and improved the text through a shared Google document. We credited ChatGPT as second author of this blogpost. 

Virna Rossi is the course Leader of the PGCert for Creative Courses at Ravensbourne University London. A passionate teacher since 1998, she has worked in all educational sectors: Primary, Secondary, College (FE), Adult Education, Higher Education. She is the author of the forthcoming book on ‘Inclusive Learning Design in Higher Education’ (May 2023 by Routledge). 


Dispatches: Recent activity from SEDA’s Professional Development Framework

Dr Giles Martin FSEDA; SEDA-PDF Co-Chair; Bath Spa University

SEDA’s Professional Development Framework enables institutions to accredit courses against 14 named awards, with institutions in UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific islands, and the Americas. It’s been a busy period with a number of initiatives and this post aims to provide a brief update for this area of SEDA’s activity. To start with, here are a few examples to provide a taste of recent accreditations and their experiences:

Lingnan University, Hong Kong, recently accredited three programmes: Supporting Learning and Teaching (SLT@LU), a foundation for well-informed, reflective practice in a Liberal Arts higher education environment; Approaches to Learning Teaching and Assessment (ALTA@LU), developing course design and assessment using a Problem Based Learning approach; Active and Blended Learning Enhancement (ABLE@LU), employing an experiential and action learning approach to develop this priority area of teaching practice.

Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia has two new courses accredited with SEDA under the Supporting Learning award: Innovative teaching that inspires good learning and Effective teaching for internationalisation.“We have enjoyed very much working with SEDA accreditors and highly appreciate how they helped us do design both courses as well as feedback they provided us with. The courses have had over 30 graduates so far and we continue offering them for new cohort of participants. Innovative teaching course got particularly popular with an enrolment of 22 participants (we had 14 for the first year).”

SEDA Supporting Learning Award recipients from Comenius University in Bratislava.

University of Wolverhampton, UK, recently re-accredited their Digital Transformations and Learning to Tutor Online programmes. As with initial accreditations, this process is supported by mentoring, and aimed to be developmental:

Our recent reaccreditation offered us the opportunity to reflect upon our successes over the previous 5 years and the impact our SEDA-PDFs have had on the practice of over 150 colleagues. It also enabled us to reassess our offer and ensure its relevance in a rapidly evolving sector in which access and inclusion remain paramount.”

SEDA is also a partner in two other projects, providing new PDF accredited educational development opportunities:

Partnerships for Enhanced and Blended Learning West Africa
SEDA is a partner with the Association of Commonwealth Universities in both East and West Africa PEBL project. Recently 30 participants in the West Africa project gained recognition for completing SEDA accredited programmes, supported by 6 graduates from the East Africa project’s accredited programmes (in turn as part of their own development for a further accredited award).

Erasmus project

SEDA is a partner in a 36 month Erasmus projectcordinated by University of Economics in Bratislava (EUBA), partnered with Comenius University, Lund University, and the University of Tartu and aimed at designing a holistic plan for educational development at a university relatively new to ED practice, in order to encourage professional formation of university teachers. One component of the project is a SEDA accredited course, which is already making awards to successful participants.

Supporting Learning Award Recipients from University of Economics in Bratislava (EUBA)

Finally, two further developments for SEDA PDF award graduates:

Recognition Titles
In order to enhance recognition of those who complete accredited programmes, SEDA recently agreed a set of approved recognition titles for nine of the PDF awards. Graduates are entitled to use titles (such as SEDA Recognised Teacher) based on the theme of the specific PDF named award (see the named awards pages for details).  

Recently SEDA and the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) have worked together to agree a mapping between two technology related PDF awards (STEL and LETEL) and ALT’s CMALT recognition. This means that those who complete these PDF accredited programmes are provided with guidance on how to use their learning and evidence for outcomes towards a future application for CMALT status.   With thanks to project partners, leads, PDF committee members, accreditors and mentors, and all the PDF accredited programme leaders and participants!

Dr Giles Martin is Co-Chair of SEDA’s PDF Committee and the Programme Leader for Higher Education Practice at Bath Spa University.


Do we really know how to take digital education forward?

As we emerge from the pandemic, how are HE Institutions dealing with digital education? The Covid years showed that staff can use a range of technologies, but they also showed that the teaching practice developed with such technologies is not necessarily of high pedagogical standard/quality – as discussed in March 2022 at the webinar organised by the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE), called “Experiences in Digital Learning: The Year Ahead for the Practitioner”. Clearly, teaching staff are still unfamiliar with principles of digital education despite these having been around for years, such as those articulated by Professor Gilly Salmon (2011, 2013). Just to give an example, Salmon’s renowned scaffolding model for designing online activities – based on ideas of access and motivation, team building, information exchange, knowledge construction and development – was first published twenty years ago.

The pandemic proved that, contrary to what is sometimes believed, it’s not enough to simply have the technologies and accompanying technical/educational support at hand for people to be able to delivery pedagogically sound digital education. The adoption and implementation of digital education is complex as the keynote speaker, Professor Justin Reich, talked about at the 2022 SEDA Winter Event. By positioning the discipline in a new theoretical Foucauldian context, I argue in a recent paper that the implementation of digital education requires more academic digital education leadership at School and Faculty level (Visintini, 2022).

There is often an institutional assumption that investing in training and technologies is enough for good digital education practice to spread organically. There is also an assumption within the digital education literature that by simply discussing cases of good practice, this will lead to widespread implementation. I believe that both assumptions fail to understand that substantial social change is required to adopt digital education – which is why I’m arguing needs academic digital education leadership to support and often even trigger digital education practice in the first place.

At the University of Bristol, for example, the Faculty of Arts has been investing in academic positions to lead on the digital agenda (and to work alongside the more conventional education leadership). This investment has paid off as it has been able to: address academic misconceptions around technology, change the language about innovation, develop implementation strategies, upskill staff, take care of the barriers that can prevent innovative practices and so on (Visintini, 2022).

So, moving forward, if we are serious about digital education — being in a blended, hybrid or distance learning format — and understand the value it brings to student learning, I am advocating that universities should look at academic digital education leadership. But how we support the HE sector moving in that direction given the current financial environment, is now the question I am interested in exploring. How can we help institutions understand the importance of academic digital education leadership and spend on it? What’s your view on this? I will be very interested in hearing your ideas and thoughts on this topic.

Author biographies: I have been Senior Lecturer in Digital Education in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Bristol since 2017. In this role, I provide leadership and strategic direction in relation to digital education, as well as training and support. Prior to this role, I worked in the School of Modern Languages as Language Tutor of Italian (2006-11) and Language Director, Technology Enhanced Learning (2011-17).

Author social media handles: Twitter @gloriavisi

Further notes: Conference Experiences in Digital Learning: The Year Ahead for the Practitioner. Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE), 03 March 2022.

Reich, J. 2022. Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education at the SEDA Winter Event Post-Pandemic Learning and Teaching: How Well Are We Coping?, 01 December 2022.

Salmon, G. 2011. E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online, 3rd ed.; Routledge: New York.

Salmon, G. 2013. E-Tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, 2nd ed.; Routledge: London, UK.

Visintini, G. 2022. Reflections on an Academic Leadership Approach to Implementing Digital Education in Higher Education, Education Sciences, 12(12), 904

Reflecting on the contribution educational developers can make to decolonising curricular 

Jennie Winter, Rebecca Turner & Oliver Webb

Decolonisation is one of the most talked about social justice agendas in Higher Education (Liyanage, 2020). Decolonisation is a socio-political movement which challenges Eurocentrism and post-colonial notions of power. This has multiple implications for HE institutions, where the content and delivery of curricula are often the products of colonial legacy and therefore legitimise certain world views and social norms over others (Arday et al., 2020).  This can result in emphasising European and Caucasian belonging over other groups nationalities and ethnicities, suggesting that some students belong in HE more than others.

Educational Developers have a lot to offer in support of this agenda, we are aware of decolonisation pedagogic literatures, how these processes impact on students, and how academics can struggle to make sense of this and make informed changes to their practice (Liyanage, 2020).  In our institution the educational development team were asked to develop and deliver an audit of current practice in (de) colonised curricula as a condition of our Access and Participation Plan.  We used this as a mechanism of change across the institution framing it as both supporting the APP, but also to progress the OFS requirement to eliminate attainment gaps by emphasising the links between decolonisation, belonging and attainment.

We wanted to create an initial discussion amongst academics and students about characteristics of a (de) colonised curriculum to help establish what student perceptions of current curriculum practices were, and to understand what a decolonised curriculum might look like. To do this the research team developed a survey, based on existing open access resources, which was completed by 99 staff and 290 students across four schools creating a benchmark of current practice. Our findings suggest differences in how aspects of curricula are perceived by staff and students, and between White and Minority Ethnic (ME) student groups and these are detailed in the publication.

For us as educational developers this provided a valuable evidence base on which we could build and laid the foundations for subsequent work.  This evidence base stimulated conversations across academic departments, professional services (including Careers and the Library), and with students and the Student Union, to identify meaningful actions that could be taken to further efforts to decolonise practice.  We adopted a multi-pronged approach, both developing resources as well as working with people, dedicating substantial time to sharing ideas and local expertise.  We developed a guidance for decolonising assessment and reading lists which could be used independently by staff to reflect on, and enhance that practice.  Students were integral to this work; we hosted micro-internships where students undertook discrete pieces of work, capturing local good practice and explore national practice, to ensure the student voice underpinned the changes that were implemented.  Taking a systematic approach to decolonisation, by building an evidence base and implementing change in collaboration with staff and students, enabled to provide a cross institutional response.  Though this marks the beginning of the journey to decolonise practice at Plymouth, it was a valuable first step on which we continue to build.


Arday, J., Belluigi, D., & Thomas, D. (2020). Attempting to break the chain: Reimaging inclusive pedagogy and decolonising the curriculum within the academy. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 53(3), 298–313.

Liyanage, M. (2020). Miseducation: Decolonising curricula, culture and pedagogy in UK universities (Debate Paper 23). Higher Education Policy Institute.

Jennie Winter is a Professor of Academic Development at Plymouth Marjon University. She is interested in a broad range of academic development themes including education for sustainable development, decolonisation of the curriculum, evaluating teaching development and evaluation methodologies. You can find out more about Jennie’s work here.


Rebecca Turner is an Associate Professor in Educational Development at the University of Plymouth and a Principal Fellow of the HEA.  Rebecca’s work addresses areas including widening participation, student voice and curriculum change.  Rebecca also is the chair of SEDA Papers Committee.


Oliver Webb is an Educational Developer at the University of Plymouth. He is interested in the intersection between demographic factors, curriculum design, and students’ experiences and outcomes in Higher Education.

Building Student Mental Wellbeing through Curriculum Design

Whilst we are all familiar with the term “curriculum”, how much thought do we put into its impact on student mental wellbeing, both positive and negative?

As Hughes et al (2018) point out, the curriculum is the one guaranteed point of contact a student has with the university. So, clearly a curriculum designed to support student wellbeing would be of benefit. Indeed, you may already think/believe your curriculum incorporates all aspects of student wellbeing, because it demonstrates:

  • Coherent, structured and scaffolded curriculum which makes clear links with future learning
  • Modes of assessment and methods of assessment which help students develop a learning focused approach to study – Assessment for Learning, no less!
  • Development of safe classroom environments, where errors are not punished or mocked.

But, and there is always a but… the story doesn’t end there.   
Even if we get all the above right, the risk is that without curriculum coherence across modules, student wellbeing may still be jeopardised. For example, poor planning can lead to assessment bunching, which can quickly counteract any benefit to students. This can lead to learning environments which foster unhealthy behaviours; lack of sleep, unhealthy eating and long hours in front of a screen. 

We have been talking about this for many years and we know that these issues can be overcome with sound pedagogy and good curriculum design. The toolkit offers a timely reminder and sense check.

The Education for Mental Health toolkit can help new colleagues, and experienced colleagues, consider their curriculum.  It unravels the terminology around mental wellbeing and breaks down the myths which cause barriers to curriculum change. It provides accessible, straight talking, evidence informed guidance on developing curriculum which stimulates learning.

Meanwhile, for those supporting curriculum design, the ”Curriculum design for mental health and wellbeing” offers tried and tested activities which can be used to help colleagues consider changes to their curriculum which will in turn help student mental wellbeing.

Utilising the resources, and considering the student perspective, can transform the curriculum; ensuring our HE institutions are safe, nurturing and encouraging places to learn, and work. So, let us continue to strive to design curriculum which enables students to thrive and flourish.


Hughes G, Panjwani M, Tulcidas P, Byrom N. (2018) Student mental health: The role and responsibilities of academics. Oxford: Student Minds.

Hughes, G, Upsher, R, Nobili, A, Kirkman, A, Wilson, C, Bowers Brown, T, Foster, J, Bradley, S and Byrom, N (2022) Education for Mental Health. Online: Advance HE

For more information and resources to support student mental wellbeing and the curriculum go to  “Education for Mental Health: Enhancing Student Mental Health through Curriculum and Pedagogy”. and “Curriculum design for mental health and wellbeing: guidance and resources for learning and teaching development programmes in higher education”.  This project was developed as a partnership between the University of Derby, King’s College London, Aston University, Student Minds and Advance HE. It was funded by the Office for Students via a Challenge Competition.

Professor Sally Bradley is an Honorary Professor at Sheffield Hallam University where she worked for 15 years prior to joining Advance HE (formerly the HEA). She recently retired from Advance HE , where she was a Senior Adviser (Professional Learning and Development), having initially been appointed as Academic Lead for Fellowships and UKPSF at the HEA. She is a motivational speaker and qualified Executive Coach. She continues to work as an Associate for Advance HE, primarily working with strategic leaders of learning and teaching. She is also an Advisor to the Joint Training Requirements Authority, Defence Academy of the UK and a member of the Steering Committee of the Technician Commitment.  She holds a Senior Fellowship of SEDA (SFSEDA) and a Principal Fellowship (PFHEA).

With acknowledgement to Elizabeth Mullenger, reading Public Health and Community Studies and Coventry University Curriculum Change Intern, for her invaluable comments.