Represent student diversity in curriculum

Prepared by Ramon Martinez Mendoza and Mary Dracup.

Learning resources and activities should reflect the diversity of the wider community in positive and non-stereotypical ways. This helps ensure a relevant and authentic educational experience, and gives students a sense that their diverse identities are valid and valued. This is the fourth of Deakin’s Inclusive Education Principles. Here are some strategies.

  • Make students’ reality visible in the curriculum, including material that they read, discuss, write about and are assessed on. Develop curriculum to include examples, images, case studies, texts and assessments that represent and give legitimacy to a wide range of people with a wide range of cultures, ethnic groups, religions, abilities, geographical locations, genders and sexual orientations. Avoid stereotypical representations and ensure diverse groups are presented in a positive light. The concept of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is very real for students who are in a stage of developing their future identity. For more information, see the Inclusive images guide (PDF, 654kb).
  • Work towards embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and perspectives in courses in and units in which you teach. The Teaching Indigenous Australian Students pages of this website provide a starting point on how to go about this. Also see the exemplar Creating Aboriginal curriculum in partnership.
  • Invite students to contribute readings and topics that reflect their lived experience.
  • Make classrooms and discussion forums safe places for critical discussion of diversity issues that arise in the context. See Enjoy group work for further information on this.
  • It is preferable to embed a diverse view of society across whole courses, but a first step may be to introduce weekly topics on diversity issues (though this needs to be done in a way that avoids overt tokenism, which will result in reinforcing the assumption that the male, white, middle-class person is the norm and other identities are ‘other’).
  • Use gender-inclusive pronouns (‘they’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘she’) in written and spoken language, to reflect and validate gender diversity.
  • When incorporating perspectives of LGBTIQ+ community in your teaching, familiarise yourself with the LGBTIQ+ inclusive practices guide and the Teaching LGBTIQ+ students pages of this website. When representing relationships in case studies, incorporate different type of families such as rainbow families, cross-cultural families and families with members living with a disability.
  • When incorporating perspectives of people with financial disadvantage background, familiarise yourself with the Low socioeconomic status students pages of this website.
  • When referring to the body of an individual in learning resources, it is important to consider that there are people living with a physical disability. Incorporating the disability perspective sensitively into an example or case study could bring this into the conversation and develop students’ understanding of disability issues. Also consider ways to incorporate perspectives of people living with a mental disability.
  • When presenting data to students or collecting research data, consider how gender is represented. If the data presented to students is gender binary (male/female), an acknowledgement of this to students will demonstrate that you recognise that not all genders are represented in the data. When planning to collect research data check the Guide to data collection (PDF, 174kb) from the Inclusive practice guide.

Case studies

The following case studies were prepared by Ramon Martinez Mendoza and Faculty of Health staff.

Inclusive forms in the School of Nursing and Midwifery

Lauren McTier and other staff in the School of Nursing and Midwifery's Centre for Simulation reviewed 26 forms currently used as part of the school's learning activities to ensure the forms were inclusive of intersex and gender diverse people and people with other protected attributes in the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.  The recommendations included:

  • The patient names could represent non-binary and gender diverse names (eg Sam, Jude, Skye and Robbi).
  • It is best practice to ask for Family Namerather than Surname and Given Name(s)rather than First name/Christian name as this is more culturally inclusive.
  • It is rarely necessary to ask for someone's relationship status. However if this is necessary, ensure you ask marital or relationship status rather than marital status as per the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013.
  • Intersex should never be included as an option for sex or gender, as many people with intersex variations do not identify their sex or gender as intersex. When asking the question use this format: Do you have an intersex variation? Yes/No/Don't know, Prefer not to say.
  • Ask Sex as ‘Sex assigned at birth' to ensure that this question refers to biological characteristics and is not conflated with gender.
  • When asking someone's Sex assigned at birth you must always ask Gender to acknowledge that there is a difference between sex and gender. Ask gender as a multiple choice question Gender: Female/ Male/ Gender Diverse/Prefer to self-describe.
  • To ask about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background of a patient, ask:  Are you of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent? Yes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander/ Yes, Aboriginal/ Yes, Torres Strait Islander/ No, neither Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
  • When using titles, ensure that Mx is provided as an option for those who do not identify with the other titles provided. For example, if someone's gender identity is non-binary they may not feel that ‘Ms' or ‘Mr' is appropriate for their gender identity.
  • Many people who speak multiple languages will have a language that they are most comfortable communicating in depending on the situation. Therefore, ask for ‘Preferred language' rather than ‘language spoken'.
  • In some instances, consider using patient rather than woman or mother, in order to be more inclusive of people who give birth but may not necessarily identify as a mother, such as in the case of surrogates and people whose child will be adopted, as well as gender diverse people.

Inclusive images in functional anatomy

As part of the unit HSE102 Functional human anatomy, Simon Feros and his colleagues in the School of Exercises and Nutrition Science have incorporated a video in a practical activity on functional anatomy of the elbow, wrist and hand from the Physitrack platform that features a man with a physical disability, where his legs have been amputated below his knees. The video shows the man doing the exercise being helped by leg straps to fasten his body to the bench.

A man with his legs amputated below his knees doing exercise on a weight bench being held by straps to keep his body stable on the bench.

Students are encouraged to watch the 1-minute video and discuss what they notice in relation to the client performing the exercise, and how they might manage a similar situation in their work environment in the future. This approach represents an authentic learning/assessment activity because students will be working in professions and helping clients or athletes of varying ability, age, gender and cultural backgrounds.

In addition, the weekly cloud-based learning content including images and video is being enhanced with more inclusive resources such as featuring paralympians. This unit is taught in multiple disciplines and courses in the Faculty of Health.

Representation of diverse groups in a medical case study

Bryony Mcneill and Candice McKenzie made a series of changes to the case study ‘Endocrine and Life Cycle 7: Claire Jamieson’ in the Bachelor of Medicine to represent more diverse groups in the curriculum than were visible previously. This case uses the 6-week infant check as a vehicle to discuss normal developmental milestones and develop awareness of warning signs in infant development. The case also covers the physiology of breastfeeding, and the pathophysiology and management of mastitis and breast abscess. Relevant changes into the case study included:

  • Claire Jamieson has a female partner Zahra.
  • Claire and Zahra’s first baby has an Aboriginal background.
  • In the factors that can affect developmental growth of the baby the following question was included: ‘Is the baby of Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander descent?’ (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to experience adverse outcomes during pregnancy, such as pre-term birth and low birth weight. It is important that the appropriate support is provided to address the risk factors associated with these poorer health outcomes.)
  • In the Patient History, the baby is described in the following way: ‘… as are the majority of Indigenous babies, the baby is fully breastfed, and has been gaining weight since her birth’.
  • In the physical examination of the baby, any reference to the skin colour was changed and described as: ‘She is healthy in colour’.

Psychology inclusive curriculum checklist

Jaclyn Broadbent and her colleagues in the School of Psychology developed the ‘Psychology inclusive curriculum checklist' to ensure all students will have opportunities to see people like themselves reflected in the curriculum. This tool is to be used from 2021 onwards by unit teams initially in psychology units within the Bachelor and Honours degrees and Graduate Diploma.

Download checklist:


Dreamson, N, Thomas, G, Lee Hong, A & Kim, S 2016, Culturally inclusive learning for Indigenous students in a learning management system (LMS), Report submitted to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Curtin University, Perth, retrieved 10 September 2020.

Morgan, H & Houghton, A-M 2011, Generic considerations of inclusive curriculum design, Higher Education Academy, York, UK, retrieved 10 September 2020.

Ward, NK & Gale N 2016, LGBTQ-inclusivity in the higher education curriculum: a best practice guide, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, retrieved 21 January 2019.


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