Ensuring diversity in learning materials: "whose W.O.R.D.D counts"?

SHW Director of Education Julie Langan-Martin reports back on a project led by Ailsa Foley aimed at improving learning resources to enhance the experience of Global Mental Health students. 

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Over the last six years, the Global Mental Health (GMH) teaching materials have undergone extensive iterative review. This scrutiny process has ensured continuity and consistency across courses, and constructive alignment with assessments. The multi-disciplinary team (of staff, a range of whom are alumni) have improved the learning resources to enhance student experiences. Diverse teaching materials have been created, which are accessible, organised, and representative of the field of GMH. A wide range of case-studies and expert opinions from various backgrounds have been embedded into the learning materials. 

Although the learning materials were developed with diversity and inclusivity in mind, the GMH team felt a formal review of diversity and decolonisation checks across all learning resources was needed. This diversity review aimed to ensure teaching materials were accessible to students, and cognisant of their diverse backgrounds and experiences.

In 2021, Ms Alisa Foley (GMH alumnus) led the review using the tool "whose W.O.R.D.D counts?". This tool aims to encourage staff to critically consider the extent to which diversity has been embedded within course content. The resources asks a series of associated questions covering the following topics:

  • Writing with the audience in mind;
  • Opportunity for exchange of experiences;
  • Representation through different lenses;
  • Drawing on different student experiences;
  • Diversity as the subject matter.

Every week of online teaching materials for all six of our ten-week GMH courses was read and carefully considered in the context of the above target questions. Examples of good working practice and any issues requiring further development were documented and developed by the team.

Overall, the course materials were found to be diverse and accessible. Appropriate language was used, with no assumptions made regarding the background or experiences of the intended learner. A wide-range of case-studies and real-life examples from a mixture of high-income (HIC) and low- and middle-income (LMIC) contexts were included in the resources. Course materials acknowledge and explore the nuance and complexity of scaling-up and designing mental health care in different cultural, economic, and environmental contexts.

Several areas for improvement were identified and changes were made to the learning materials as a direct result of this review. Additional self-care prompts for students were incorporated when potentially distressing topics were discussed. New tasks encouraging students to reflect on the topic, reflect on their previous learning and share their thoughts with peers were included. Where appropriate, students are encouraged to introduce their own cultural/background experiences or expertise, to facilitate peer-led learning. The “whose W.O.R.D.D count” review resulted in new sections of learning content being created. For example, a new section on the experiences of informal carers that explores the impact of caring on social, economic, and health factors. In addition, it was noted that limiting case studies to LMIC contexts to illustrate health-care inadequacies may lead to unfair and inaccurate conclusions that global challenges belong only to LMIC countries. To address this, effort has been made to include case-studies where health-care systems were failing to meet patient needs in HICs.

Overall, this important project for the GMH team has led to important changes and improvements in our curriculum. I would like to thank Ailsa who led the project, and Laura Sharp, Mia Wilson and Laura McNaughton who supported the project, which we presented at the 15th Annual University of Glasgow Learning and Teaching Conference, on 29 March 2022.

Julie Langan-Martin
Clinical Senior Lecturer (Mental Health and Wellbeing) 
Director of Education (School of Health and Wellbeing)

Find out more about this project

First published: 15 September 2022

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