Co-creation of curriculum content is a growing priority across Higher Education and, while many projects stress the market benefits to institutions and students, this research instead focussed on promoting inclusion, social justice and anti-oppressive practice, with theoretical underpinnings in the social model of disability. This joint research project between staff and students at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, led to the co-creation of a Level 6 SEND module on the BA Education Studies programme. The co-designed research explores how the experiences of neurodivergent people, those with SEND, their families and practitioners, can inform teaching practices and module specifications at undergraduate level in Education Studies. Qualitative data, collected via questionnaires, focus groups and interviews with students, parents, practitioners and academics, revealed rich, diverse perspectives on the knowledge and understanding that future educators need, as well as the most inclusive methods for teaching and assessing that knowledge. The practice-based implications of the research included co-creation of a Level 6 SEND module which recognises value in ‘non-professional’ voices and embeds anti-oppressive practice in its design, delivery and assessment.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Educators need to know more about neurodiversity and developing inclusive environments for disabled and neurodivergent learners - but this does not necessarily mean needing to know more about individual SEND.
  2. Stigma, especially around mental health, can mean appropriate support is not put in place for learners and the language used to talk to, and about, learners with SEND is often negative.
  3. Collaborative research projects where students and staff can be candid and honest around their learning and communication styles, in order to meet each other’s accessibility needs while co-producing, can improve the educational experience for both future educators and learners.
  4. Inclusive (research) projects are essential to create inclusive curricula.
  5. Widening the parameters, and departing from the traditional university submission formats for assessments, enables students to present their work in a way that showcases their strengths, while still being held to high standards for criticality and creativity.