Staff and students at Leeds Trinity engaging in panel discussion on race

The ongoing work at Leeds Trinity University to achieve the Race Equality Charter Bronze award continues and part of this broader plan is our development of the curriculum and evidencing how we embed race equality within our learning, teaching and work to address differential outcomes.

I have been incredibly fortunate to steer the Race Equality Curriculum Group this year and we have developed a Level 4 curriculum outline that works to embed race equality through a series of lectures, seminars, presentations, and most importantly our teaching approach to opening up seemingly challenging discussions with our students.

Embedding race equality in the curriculum

The Level 4 curriculum outline applies to all Level 4 students and works to both induct and settle them into life at Leeds Trinity. An inclusive community where everyone, both staff and students alike, are accepted and respected regardless of their background, religion, race, disability and so on.

The outline begins with the general welcome introductions during INTRO, including a screening of award-winning film Re:Tension –  written, directed and produced by Senior Lecturer in TV Production Ricardo Barker, which explores racism in Higher Education.

After the film screening, during the first three weeks of teaching, academics who teach at Level 4 will enable students to have the opportunity to participate in informal discussions on:

  • Getting to know each other and sharing identities
  • Dispelling myths around stereotypes
  • Using the correct language

In October, during Black History Month, Joe Williams from Heritage Corner and Leeds Black History Walk will deliver African Stories in Yorkshire, a seminar exploring African and Caribbean histories connected to Yorkshire. Later on in the year, there will be a follow-up interactive workshop on Re:Tension with Syra Shakir and Ricardo Barker which involves the Aftermath Debate, followed by individual academics who can use the ideas that emerge from the workshop to continue the debate with their students respectively.

It is these open debates and discussions which empower both staff and students to discuss difficult subjects and to share ideas and thoughts, building trust and respect for one another and breaking down barriers.

Top five tips for initiating conversation about race in the classroom

I know some of us may not feel comfortable initiating these debates and I would therefore like to share my top five tips to facilitate discussion in the classroom:

  • Be open and honest with students that you yourself have found/or find it challenging to talk about racism or discrimination. You or they may feel this is more difficult if you have no direct experience of this; that is ok and we need to be understanding about this. Open acknowledgement is the first step in the debate.
  • If you do not know or are unsure about something; go find it out first! Do not be afraid to tell students you do not know or say that you will get back to them with a response once you have clarified/researched. Better still get your students to find out and then share with the group! Getting the terminology correct is a MUST.
  • No subject or topic should be off the table. In Higher Education, we need to be open and flexible to differing viewpoints and perspectives.
  • If you feel uncomfortable directly explaining/demonstrating certain scenarios or words then use online resources, videos, documentaries and handouts that can do some of this for you initially. Once the ice is broken here you can get students to begin talking within their own small groups, then you can build on this to facilitate further discussion.
  • Access the newly created Moodle page Race Equality in the Curriculum, which houses a plethora of materials to be used, read and referred to. Members of the Race Equality Curriculum Group (representation from all subject areas across the University) all have teacher access to this as well so new materials can be added and shared regularly. Please do make the most of this and talk to your colleagues, share your ideas and experiences, and pass on.

Finally, to anyone who is interested in joining the think tank of staff in the Race Equality Curriculum Group please get in touch with me, you would be most welcome!


Syra Shakir is Senior Teaching Fellow in the Institute of Childhood and Education, Co-Chair of the University’s BAME network, a member of the Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team and leads on the Race Equality Curriculum Group. Find out more about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Leeds Trinity University.

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