An investigation into science students' views on decolonising the curriculum

Williams, N.A. and Benjamin, A. (2020) An investigation into science students' views on decolonising the curriculum. In: Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference: Making Connections, Innovating and Sharing Pedagogy; 01 - 02 Jul 2020, Nottingham, U.K. (Held Online). (Unpublished)


The “decolonising the curriculum” agenda has gained momentum in the UK, led by the National Union of Students’ ”Why is my curriculum white?” campaign (Hussain, 2015). There are diverse views of what “decolonising the curriculum“ means, but most agree it involves a reconsideration of the subject content, who is teaching it, and how it’s being taught. To date much of the focus of this initiative has been on disciplines in the Arts and Humanities. One view is that STEM students have been less animated about the agenda and therefore less attention has been paid to it when reviewing the STEM curricula. Nonetheless, if we only teach the work of white men in STEM we marginalise the contributions of others. This can lead to BME students feeling excluded, possibly contributing to the BME attainment gap. The aim of this project was to explore Science students understanding and views of the decolonising the curriculum agenda. A questionnaire was used to ask the students about whether they had heard of the initiative and whether they thought it is relevant to their science education. Students were then be asked to rate their level of agreement on ten potential actions for decolonising the curriculum based on Schwartz’s “theses” (Schwartz, 2018). Students (n >300) on Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Science, Pharmacy, Biomedical Science, Pharmacology, Nutrition and Biological science were surveyed. The presentation will highlight which actions students thought would be the best way to decolonise the curriculum. The results will be analysed for any trends in the responses of students from different ethnic and subject backgrounds. It is hoped that the results will inform the work of curriculum developers.

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