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Trinity College Dublin Inclusive Curriculum Project – Trinity-INC

view of front square during freshers fair from regent house

Trinity’s student population is increasingly diverse, with growing numbers from different socio-economic, ethnic, cultural and learning backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and mature students. To celebrate this diversity and continue to strengthen Trinity as a place of belonging for all students, we must ensure our curricula reflect the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.

An inclusive curriculum is one in which all students, regardless of background, personal circumstances, or learning abilities or strategies, have an equal opportunity to engage fully in their studies and achieve their learning goals. An inclusive curriculum supports Trinity’s commitment to academic freedom alongside its commitment to quality of teaching and research. Research documents that exclusionary practices prevalent in universities damage student attainment and retention and negatively impact on student experience. Curriculum design, often unwittingly, can exclude certain students in relation to class (Quinn, 2006), gender (Quinn, 2006; Francis, 2006), sexuality (Toynton, 2007), ethnicity and disability (Fuller et al., 2008, 2009). Such exclusions can occur, for example, through the lack of diversity reflected in reading materials, inaccessible teaching or assessment approaches, or lack of consideration given to individual circumstances, including unequal access to IT and the internet. These aspects should be considered when preparing courses, modules and online materials and should be reflected in learning outcomes.

The Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (Trinity-INC) project

Wordcloud derived from the overview of Trinity-INC

Commenced in October 2020, the Trinity Inclusive Curriculum (Trinity-INC) project will address these exclusionary practices and embed principles of diversity, equality and inclusion across all curricula at Trinity College Dublin. Trinity-INC is based in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit, and led by two Project Directors, Dr Rachel Hoare, who focuses on Undergraduate Inclusive Curriculum, and Dr Kumlesh Dev, who drives Postgraduate Inclusive Curriculum. The Trinity-INC project team includes a Project Manager, Dr Derina Johnson, and Communications / Student Liaison Officer, Rachel Hester.

Trinity-INC Goals

The project goals are to:
  • Create an accessible curriculum that supports the engagement, representation and action of all students, including those from diverse worldviews, cultures, and identities, and with different learning styles and abilities
  • Embed the principles of inclusion in all aspects of the academic cycle, across all courses, modules and programmes at Trinity College Dublin
  • Establish Trinity College Dublin as a community of belonging and respect for diversity, where all our students feel supported in achieving their learning goals
  • Equip students with the qualities, skills and behaviours encompassed by the Trinity Graduate attributes

Fit with College Strategy

  • The Trinity Inclusive Curriculum project closely aligns with the Trinity Strategic Plan 2020-2025, critically, Goal 1: We will foster an ever more diverse and inclusive student community, and Goal 8: We will be one Trinity community. Strategy 2020-2025 states that by 2025 underrepresented groups should be 25% of our population (1.5), that 30-35% students will come from outside Ireland (1.1), that we will empower students with disabilities (1.9), that equality, diversity and inclusion will be a cornerstone of our ethos and practice (8.2), and we will grow student numbers (9.3). The Trinity-INC project supports the cross-cutting goals of fostering an ever more diverse and inclusive student community, supporting a transformative student experience, practicing next-generation teaching and learning.
  • The Trinity-INC project promotes the qualities, skills and behaviours which are encompassed by the four Trinity Graduate Attributes: to think independently; to communicate effectively; to develop continuously; and to act responsibly. These attributes will be fostered both through the embedding of inclusivity principles into all curricula, and through the Trinity-INC Student Partner Initiative.

Project Activities

To achieve the goals of the project, project activities are focused around four (equal) pillars of initiatives: Academic, Student, Institutional and Infrastructural
  • The Academic pillar focuses on stimulating interest, debate, and engagement at School-level. Action: To appoint at least one academic teaching staff member from each of the 24 Schools across College to act as Inclusive Curriculum School Champions to raise awareness and stimulate open debate and discussion among colleagues at the School-level. The pilot of the programme was commenced in February 2021 with the recruitment of the initial cohort of School Champions. Participation involves training in the form of an Inclusive Curriculum Microcredential currently in development in consultation with Dr Jonathan Johnston, Academic Practice. The microcredential will be piloted with School Champions in April 2021, and feedback from the pilot will be integrated into the final version. After consultation with the piloting School Champsions, their Heads of School, and more broadly across College, a wider roll out of the School Champion programme will take place at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • The Student pillar seeks to raise awareness of experiences of inclusion challenges and successes among Trinity’s diverse student body. Action: To establish the Student Partner Programme as a student-as-partner initiative involving students of different communities and groups who may experience exclusion or marginalisation in College. The aim is to work with students to raise awareness of experiences of inclusion and exclusion within curricula, for these insights to support the inclusive curriculum training for academic staff and the direction of the overall project activities. A consultation phase is underway, with an initial Student Partner Working Group to be established in the summer of 2021, and a full Student Partner Programme rolled out at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • The Institutional pillar involves securing buy-in and promotion on the part of Trinity’s leaders. Action: To drive for inclusivity to be embedded in policies and discourse related to curricula development. An example is the addition of inclusivity-related questions on all new PG module proposals, currently under consideration;
  • The Infrastructure or ‘wraparound' pillar seeks to bring together key actors and services across College critical to the successful implementation of curricula and student learning, to promote the principles of inclusivity.

Trinity-INC Advisory Board

The Trinity-INC Advisory Board involves 30+ Trinity staff and student body, representing four project pillars, plus key external individuals with expertise in curriculum design and inclusive curriculum. The role of the AB is to guide the implementation of the Trinity-INC project through providing expert advice and input on the project strategy, work streams and activities.

Resources

Events

  • 29th March - 2nd April is Autism Awareness week in Trinity. Trinity Disability Service and Trinity Ability Co_op are hosting a number of events and promotional videos/articles – see programme (Contact Trinity Disability Services for more information). Neuro-diverse students now make up the largest cohort of students with disabilities in Trinity (54%) and it is growing significantly (50% increase in students with Autism in 2020). There are significant retention issues for this cohort with 24% withdrawing or taking longer to complete their degrees in Trinity (O’Reilly, 2018). Supports are being developed and improved upon yearly to support our neuro-diverse population, including a sensory project which aims to improve our campus environment. Watch this short video in which Trinity student, Ben Rowsome, discusses some of the results from a recent survey on the experience of students with Autism in Trinity, and and what we can do to support them and their learning.

Accessibility

  • Blackboard Ally: Improve the usability and accessibility of your content. Your class is full of diverse students with unique learning abilities. Blackboard Ally is integrated into Blackboard, helping lecturers by automatically scanning your original content, and performing a series of steps to make them more accessible. Learn more
  • Inclusive Online Teaching and Learning Resources - Trinity Disability Service. Creating an accessible learning environment for your students is part of an inclusive practice. Trinity Disability Service's Inclusive Learning Information contains advice and guidance on how to make your teaching and assessment more inclusive. Learn more
  • Inclusivity in Digital Learning: Hearing from Students . This EDTL webinar involves a panel of students including Mary Geraghty and Courtney McGrath from the Trinity Ability Co-op, and Jamie Twomey from UCC, who talk about what works and what doesn’t work for them with online learning. Watch now
  • Trinity Ability Co-Op: A co-operative movement by students with disabilities in Trinity College Dublin toward radical inclusion. Learn more about the meaningfulness of inclusion for students with disabilities and tips and suggestions of what works. Go to Ability Co-Op website

Supporting Diversity in Trinity

  • Dr Frédéric Fovet: Generating momentum towards inclusion across campuses: Using Universal Design for Learning to create a common discourse. This lecture provides an understanding of the importance of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the context of increasingly diverse student populations. Hosted by School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, and supported by the Ireland Canada University Foundation D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship. Chaired by Dr Joanne Banks with introductions from James Kelly, CEO Ireland Canada University Foundation, and Dr Rachel Hoare, Project Director Trinity Inclusive Curriculum. The lecture website both has video recordings and other related resources. Go to website
  • Overcoming Sexism and Racism in Higher Education This webinar explored sexism, racism and class, and how their intersections specifically affect women from ethnic minority backgrounds in higher education. Keynote speakers include Dr Ebun Joseph (Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies, Ireland) and Dr Keisha Lindsay (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) who will speak on the topic of Black and ethnic minority women in higher education in Ireland and the US. The webinar was supported by the Trinity Equality Fund and the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin. Recording coming soon